Commission starts public dialogue on nanotechnologies

Nanotechnologies have enormous potential benefits for manufacturers, consumers, employees, patients and the environment. They will bring more energy and resource efficient processes, improve computer memories and processors and could usher in a new age of customized pharmaceuticals and medical procedures.

Important economic, social and environmental potential

Nanotechnologies process materials are at the atomic, molecular and macromolecular scale, where properties may differ from those seen at a larger scale. Products based on nanotechnologies are already in use and analysts are predicting explosive economic growth in the sector over the coming decade. Nanotechnologies will boost innovation in areas such as public health, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), the manufacturing industry, environmental protection, energy, transport, security and space. Forecasts for the world market for nanotechnologies span between 750 to 2000 billion € up to 2015, and the potential for the creation of jobs is estimated to 10 million nano-related jobs by 2014, i.e. 10% of all manufacturing jobs world-wide.

Nanotechnologies are covered by existing legislation such as REACH, the current legislative framework for chemicals, and other specific-sector legislation for food, cosmetics, medicine and etc.,

Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry policy, said: “A reliable and stable regulatory framework is essential for enabling the EU’s industry to fully exploit the advances of nanotechnologies. With the right structures in place they will boost innovation and contribute to growth, employment creation and competitiveness.”

While current EU legislation covers in principle the challenges for health, safety and environment with regards to nanomaterials, there is further need for research and international cooperation. As more and more products involving nanomaterials are reaching the market, the European Commission will start a consultation with stakeholders and Member States in order to increase knowledge and awareness about the potential of nanotechnologies and to continue to ensure an adequate protection of nature, environment and health.