Nanosciences and nanotechnologies (N&N) are new approaches to research and development (R&D) that concern the study of phenomena and manipulation of materials at atomic, molecular and macromolecular
scales, where properties differ significantly from those at a larger scale.
On 12 May 2004 the Commission adopted the Communication Towards a European Strategy for Nanotechnology2 in which a safe, integrated and responsible strategy was proposed. This aims to reinforce he Union’s leading position in N&N R&D and innovation while addressing any environmental, health, safety and societal concerns upfront. In this context, several needs were highlighted:
– increase investment and coordination of R&D to reinforce scientific excellence,interdisciplinarity and competition in N&N together with industrial exploitation;
– develop world-class competitive R&D infrastructure (‘poles of excellence’) that take into account the needs of both industry and R&D organisations;
– promote the interdisciplinary education and training of R&D personnel together with a stronger entrepreneurial mindset;
– provide favourable conditions for industrial innovation to ensure that R&D is translated into affordable and safe wealth-generating products and processes;
– respect ethical principles, integrate societal considerations into the R&D process at an early stage and encourage a dialogue with citizens;
– address public health,occupational health and safety, environmental and consumer risks of N&N-based products at the earliest possible stage;
– complement the above actions with appropriate cooperation and initiatives at the international level.
In its conclusions of 24 September 20043, the Competitiveness Council welcomed the proposed integrated nd responsible approach and the Commission’s intention to draw up an Action Plan for nanotechnology.The European Economic and Social Committee subsequently adopted an opinion on the 10 November 2004 that supported the Commission’s proposed approach4.
All stakeholders were invited to provide their opinion on the Commission’s proposal via an extensive open consultation that closed on the 15 October 2004. Over 750 responses were received supporting the elements of the Commission’s proposal.The outcome of this survey, the largest of its kind in Europe, is described elsewhere5.
Taking into account the above, the Commission has prepared this Action Plan, which defines a series of articulated and interconnected actions for the immediate implementation of a safe, integrated and responsible strategy for N&N based on the priority areas identified in the above-mentioned Communication. As far as nanobiotechnology is concerned, this Action Plan complements the Commission’s Strategy for Europe on Life Sciences and Biotechnology.