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Europe-wide dialogue launched on benefits, risks and social, ethical and legal implications of nanotechnology

 

A new European Commissioned-funded project, Nanologue (www.nanologue.net), is launched this week, bringing together leading researchers from across Europe to facilitate an international dialogue on the social, ethical and legal benefits and potential impacts of nanoscience and nanotechnologies.

In the aftermath of the controversy and debate on genetically modified organisms
it has become abundantly clear that in order to harness new technologies for
economic and social benefit, governments and businesses will have to address a
wide range of social, ethical and regulatory concerns. Nanologue will bring
together current leading research on the social, ethical and legal implications of
nanotechnology, facilitate dialogue and produce guidance for stakeholders,
developers of nanotechnology in particular, on how to address the issues
uncovered to the wider benefit of both society and the economy.

This 6th Framework Programme project is led by Wuppertal Institute in Germany
and features consortium partners EMPA (the Swiss Federal Laboratories for
Materials Testing and Research) in Switzerland, Forum for the Future in the UK
and triple innova of Germany. The project will last 18 months.

Volker Türk of Wuppertal Institute says:
“As nanotechnologies are still at an early stage of development, by facilitating a
dialogue we are providing a unique opportunity to involve marketers and
developers as well as users and representatives from the civil society in the
process of shaping the course of the technology. Providing a neutral ground for
discussion will help creating a transparent und trust-based processes for
nanotechnology research in the near future.”

Hans Kastenholz of EMPA says:
“Consumer acceptance will be key for nanotechnology’s future development and
thus key for financial markets and venture capitalists. Engaging society in a
dialogue about the opportunities and potential risks will address and help to
mitigate some of these uncertainties surrounding the issue.”

Tim Aldrich of Forum for the Future says:
“Research into nanotechnology and nanoscience in the EU is currently worth
over €250m per year1. It is very important that representatives of all stakeholders
1 European Commission data.
engage in dialogue to ensure that development of this critical area of research is
in their wider interests. ”

Michael Kuhndt of triple innova says:
“Nanotechnology could have a radical impact across many fields, from drug
delivery to textile manufacture, environmental monitoring to microprocessing.
With potential social and economic benefits will come responsibilities for ensuring
social, ethical and legal concerns are met while enabling competitive advantage
for European business.”

Specifically Nanologue will:
1. Draw from international scientific expertise, to identify benefits and potential
ethical, legal and social impacts of nanotechnology applications and
processes likely to be rolled out by 2010;

2. Promote a dialogue between researchers, businesses and the civil society
based upon the potential of nanoscience and nanotechnology applications to
improve the quality of life, create wealth through novel knowledge-based and
sustainable processes, and their potential societal impacts;

3. Produce a comprehensive communication and dissemination strategy on the
above mentioned benefits and potential impacts, targeting a wide range of
actors including researchers, educational institutions, businesses, public
institutions and regulatory agencies, civil society (including consumer and
religious groups), financial markets, and the media;

4. Disseminate Nanologue’s findings by means of media workshops, publicity
materials, news articles accompanied by press releases to media closely
related to nanotechnology articles, foresight studies, conferences and the
cooperation with a major existing internet-platform on nanotechnology;

5. Support public research funds, researchers and businesses with an
interactive tool to consider the short- and long-term ethical, legal and social
aspects of their activities during the proposal, research and development
phases, thus addressing societal preferences and stimulating innovation;

6. Ultimately, facilitate the translation of civil society’s ethical, legal and social
requirements on nanotechnology research into a real competitive advantage
for the European industry.

For further information contact:
Volker Türk (project coordinator)
Wuppertal Institute (Germany)
volker.tuerk@wupperinst.org
Tel.: +49-202-2492-152 Fax.: -138

Tim Aldrich
Forum for the Future (UK)
T.Aldrich@forumforthefuture.org.uk
Tel: +44 (0)20 7324 3618 Fax: -
3635

Hans Kastenholz
Swiss Federal Laboratories of
Material Testing and Research
(Switzerland)
Hans.Kastenholz@empa.ch
Tel.: +41-71-274-7859

Michael Kuhndt
triple innova (Germany)
michael.kuhndt@triple-innova.de
Tel: +49 (0) 202.429 95-11 Fax: -
05

Notes

1. Project definitions:
Nanoscience is a convergence of physics, chemistry, materials science and
biology, which deals with the manipulation and characterisation of matter on
length scales between the molecular and the micron size (scale of 0.1 nm to
100 nm).Nanotechnology is an emerging engineering discipline that applies methods
from nanoscience to create products and control processes on the nanometre
scale.

2. The Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy,
(www.wupperinst.org) founded in 1991, is committed to application-oriented
sustainability research and has long-term experience in assessing
opportunities and challenges of technologies. Based on interdisciplinary
research results and scientists’ professional know-how, the institute
possesses large experience in developing methods and shaping new
research fields in networks and across disciplines and institutions. By
researching for politics, economy and society the institute plays a wide
reaching meditative role. As member of the interdisciplinary Science Centre
North Rhine-Westphalia, including the Institute for Work and Technology it is
part of a larger international network of institutes focusing on the
(sustainability) assessment of technologies.

3. EMPA (www.empa.ch) is the ETH (Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology)
domain’s institution for multidisciplinary research into sustainable materials
and systems engineering. As an independent, neutral research institution,
EMPA solves selected tasks and problems of a scientific and technical
nature. EMPA is most active in nanotechnology and is generating new
knowledge, new materials and new applications and is transferring this knowhow
to potential users. Nanotechnological reliability factors play a major part
in EMPA’s research.

4. Founded in 1996 the UK’s Forum for the Future
(www.forumforthefuture.org.uk) is a sustainable development charity working
to accelerate the transition to a sustainable way of life through a positivesolutions
orientated approach. The Forum works through partnerships with
leading companies, local authorities, regional bodies and universities, to
deliver a shared commitment to sustainability.

5. triple Innova (www.triple-innova.de) founded in 2002, is a Pan-European
applied research and training organisation on triple bottom line (TBL) tools,
methods and innovation concepts for enhanced global product network
management. It works on awareness raising about the importance of an
integrated understanding of social, cultural, environmental and related legal
aspects among decision maker in business, academia and politics. It
develops solution-oriented concepts to investigate in technical and
organisational TBL improvement opportunities in a single organisation and in
a network of organisations. It helps to facilitate communication and
information sharing in interdisciplinary and intercultural networks.

 


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