Friday, January 07, 2005

Europe fires its nano-engines, aims at America

NANOSCIENCE, NANOTECHNOLOGY: State of play in the Union’s NMP priority (Europa)

    The results of the Commission’s poll of European attitudes towards all aspects of nanosciences and nanotechnology are out! Some surprises, but the ‘consultation’ – for the most part – confirmed what many close to the subject already believed. Europe needs to fire the engines to compete with the USA in this cutting-edge field, but human resources and infrastructure will need bolstering to achieve this, the survey reveals.

    It’s a mouthful but NMP stands for ‘Nanotechnology and nanosciences, knowledge-based multifunctional materials and new production processes and devices’. This is the third thematic priority in the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) for research. Nanotechnology, for instance, is a new approach to research and development controlling the fundamental structure and behaviour of matter at the atomic and molecular level, according to the NMP website.

    Applications for this are emerging in many areas, including healthcare, information technologies, materials sciences, manufacturing, instrumentation, energy, security or space. Nanotech has huge potential for improving our quality of life, as well as European industrial competitiveness and sustainable development. And it has been touted as a possible linchpin for the next Industrial Revolution.

    With a view to improving governance and information exchange, the Commission regularly launches public ‘consultations’ on its official policy-making mechanisms to help shape future initiatives. For example, following up on the release of its communication (on 12 May last year) entitled ‘Towards a European Strategy for Nanotechnology’ – in which it proposes integrated and responsible approaches to developing nanosciences and nanotechnologies (N&N) in Europe – the Commission asked stakeholders to take part in an open consultation on this important subject.

    Between August and October 2004, the EU-funded thematic network ‘Nanoforum’ hosted an on-line survey, in co-operation with the Commission, to find out what citizens thought about developments in N&N. Over 700 people, mainly from 32 European countries, filled out the questionnaire. Responses were recorded from the R&D community, but also from journalists, lecturers and the business community. More here

Update: Over at The Foresight Institute's Nanodot, they're about talking world domination!

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