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Standardization related to Research and Development for Nanotechnologies

Final Report Summary - NANO-STRAND (Standardization related to Research and Development for Nanotechnologies)

Nanoscience and nanotechnologies have huge potential for the EU to improve competitiveness and sustainable development across a wide range of industrial sectors. Nanometrology is a key enabler for the advancement of nanoscience and for development and exploitation of nanotechnologies. In the present climate, public perception of nanotechnology is a critical factor to be addressed, and nanometrology must enable industry to meet regulations to protect the workforce and demonstrate that nanotechnologies are safe with regard to human health and the environment.

The grand challenge for nanometrology is to be able to measure any physical or chemical property of structures and devices in three dimensions at the nanometre scale. At present many measurements are effective in two dimensions (or 2.5 dimensions) and there is often a trade-off between measurement sensitivity and spatial resolution.

The project aimed at road mapping European standardisation, metrology and pre-normative research work for nanotechnologies and at enabling Europe to play an active role internationally regarding standardisation and nanotechnologies.

The objectives of the project were to:
1. facilitate the European industrial development and exploitation;
2. enhance integration between research and production fields;
3. bridge the different aspects of industrial safety;
4. provide appropriate organisations and structures with information related to the needs of the different stakeholders.

The roadmaps developed under the project do not cover semiconductor and electronic applications of nanotechnologies, as an excellent nanoelectronics standards roadmap has already been published by IEEE, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (See online). The project fostered collaboration between national ministries, European and international standardisation bodies, European research organisations and industries in numerous nanotechnology sectors.

A consortium composed of five national organisations with complementary skills has carried out the project. A wide range of other organisations has also contributed; a project advisory committee, composed of several European and international experts reviewed and advised on project progress, a number of stakeholders has attended three project workshops to assess industry needs and potential solutions and thousands of organisations were invited to respond a pan-European questionnaire.

These activities have ensured an inclusive and consultative approach to the study and also provided a platform for experts and interested parties to enable the European industries and citizens to bring their respective needs at worldwide level in the global standardisation drafting process. The project management and decision making process has regularly reviewed the work plan, milestones, deliverables, progress reports and technology roadmaps. To widen and consolidate the potential impact of the project, knowledge developed during the project has been collated for dissemination. All results have been published on a restricted area of the project website and directly sent to the project advisory committee members and to the project officer of the European Commission.

Nanotechnologies are predicted to have giant market potential and need standards and metrology to support safe and sustainable development and trade. In nanotechnology standardisation activities started at international and European level in 2005. By 2015, it is expected that nearly every area of industry will be affected by nanotechnologies. The areas which are estimated to be affected most are chemistry (including materials), life sciences and electronics, followed by environment technologies, energy and transport and automotive. These areas have to create new standards for nanotechnology-based products in addition to existing standards covering traditional technologies.

Standardisation has a significant impact on the economy. In society as a whole, standards create transparency for consumers and increase their confidence in products and services. In new technologies, like nanotechnologies, an early start to standardisation activities helps to prepare new products for the market. The technical development of the last decades show, that standardisation has to cover complex system technologies in global competition. Technology suppliers have to provide solutions to be compatible to existing processes and systems at the customer.

The results of the project impacted standardisation work and normative research in nanotechnologies. The wide diffusion of the outcomes of the project to any interested group of people was the main goal of the project. The interested and aimed parties were mainly the national, European and international standardisation bodies, nanotechnologies related companies, researchers and networks. The dissemination of the project findings promoted standardisation in this field and thus helped to develop the European and international nanotechnologies market.

For European industry and citizens one of the dissemination routes beside the project website and direct forwarding to the stakeholders was the European Commission and particularly the directorate generals (DGs) concerned by such as e.g. DG Research and DG Enterprise which drafted the commission mandate M/409 addressed to European Committee for Standardisation (CEN), European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation (CENELEC) and European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) for the elaboration programme of standards to take into account the specific properties of nanotechnology and nanomaterials. The partners were active in the development of the European nanotechnology standards infrastructure through CEN/TC 352 Nanotechnologies that issued a report in response to this mandate in April 2008 based on the relevant results given by the project.

One of the main findings of the CEN report concerns directly or indirectly health and safety of human beings. There is a huge need to ensure the confidence on products from consumers, end-users, operators at work place and even from the top management of enterprises regarding the staff safety. Only standards, sound test methods and eventually dedicated certification can demonstrate and reinforce the confidence in products and processes. European industries and citizens must be able to bring their respective needs at worldwide level in due time with all the necessary information and data to be discussed in the global standardisation drafting process. It is not a competition at this stage but much more an international collaboration to speed up the standardisation process and the associated pre-normative research work and furthermore to give to the industry the comprehensive and suitable tools for them to produce in safe and secure conditions the best products the European citizens are expecting from now onwards.

The roadmaps developed in this project have been used so far to steer standardisation programmes in Europe and also as an input for defining priorities for research in the next European Framework Programme, the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). Thus the project enables very important integration of European objectives on competitiveness with social dimensions covering public health, safety, environmental and consumer protection as well as international cooperation.