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Technological roadmaps till 2014 in nanoscience and nanotechnologies in materials, health and medical systems, energy fields

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Forecasting the future of nanotechnology

A European initiative created a plan to forecast potential nanotechnology applications up to 2014.

Industrial Technologies

Nanotechnology is a rapidly growing field with applications in multiple disciplines including medicine, energy and materials science. As with most technological applications, advances in the field from current to future state-of-the-art technology require understanding of the application needs and careful mapping of the process to maximise benefits. The main aim of the EU-funded project ‘Technological roadmaps till 2014 in nanoscience and nanotechnologies in materials, health and medical systems, energy fields’ (Nanoroadmap) was to forecast and identify the opportunities for nanotechnology applications in the sectors of materials science, medicine and energy. This objective was met by constructing technology roadmaps for each applications sector that will cover the years ahead until 2014. The first part of the project was dedicated to assessing the current situation in terms of technology and potential applications, identifying the experts in the field and defining the instruments to conduct the roadmap exercise. Project partners analysed all available information to draw a worldwide picture of the activity in the field of nanotechnology. The survey data demonstrated that nanotechnology action was mainly concentrated in public research institutions, but industry, both large enterprises and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), were increasingly involved. During the second phase of the Nanoroadmap project, the consortium prepared the road maps, dissemination activities, discussions and feedback. The consortium partners relied on criteria such as degree of innovation, expected technological improvement, relevance and positive impact on human life to choose the future requirements that were included in each roadmap. These included fundamental research on nanoscience, computer modelling and online tools, production development, collaboration potential and education. A panel of 230 experts in the field used a Delphi-like approach to finally construct 4 roadmaps for each sector that were summarised in a synthesis report. Project results indicated that there were still quite a few more years before the benefits of nanotechnology could be fully exploited. Overall, the Nanoroadmap project identified the current situation in the nanotechnology field across Europe and forecasted its potential applications in the near future. Based on the project’s results, many of the applications considered will take until 2014 before they are brought to the market.

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