European Commission reports on nano action plan progress

A report published last month by the European Commission details the progress made over the past two years in the implementation of its nanoscience and technology action plan.

From the report we learn that the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) accounts for around one third of total European public spending in nanoscience and nanotechnology, and during the first two years of the programme the number of nanotechnology patents more than doubled. The same period also saw a significant increase in private sector participation.

On the downside, the commission identifies a number of weaknesses, including a shortage of private investment and a lack of interdisciplinary infrastructure. The commission also sees a risk of duplication of effort due to rising EU member state involvement in nanotech R&D.

Nicholas Deliyanakis, who is responsible for policy development and research programme follow-up within the commission’s research directorate, explains that the purpose of the action plan is to guide the development of nanoscience and technology in ways that benefit the European public through applications in medicine, energy and the environment.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Deliyanakis adds: “There are some clear indications that the large amount of public funding invested in Europe is leading to greater industrial interest and more patents. That said, more needs to be done to encourage private investment, which remains relatively low in Europe.

“With regard to safe and responsible development and use, a solid foundation has been put in place, through safety-related research, analysis of current regulation, provision of an ethical framework and so on. We now need to ensure that current regulation can be effectively implemented, and identify any regulatory changes that may be needed.”

The commission plans to support the commercialisation of new technologies through its Competitiveness and Innovation Programme, the Risk Sharing Finance Facility, and access to nanotechnology-based pilot lines. It will also adopt a voluntary code of conduct for responsible nanoscience and technology research.

Further reading: Nanosciences and Nanotechnologies: An action plan for Europe 2005-2009. First Implementation Report 2005-2007, European Commission, September 2007.

Article first published in Nanomaterials News.