Science and Technology Innovation Program

Nanotechnology Development Suffers from Lack of Risk Research Plan, Inadequate Funding & Leadership

Sep 21, 2006


* Downlad Dr. Maynard's Full Testimony
* Download a statement by DEFRA on the Maynard report
* Download Dr. Maynard's Nanotechnology: A Research Strategy for Addressing Risk.
* View an archived Webcast of the hearing - requires Real Player





WASHINGTON—The successful development of nanotechnology—with its potential to help provide new medical treatments, sustainable energy, and 21st century jobs—is being jeopardized by the lack of a clear federal strategy for examining possible environmental, health and safety risks and by inadequate funding for this work.

This was the message delivered by Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies Chief Science Advisor Dr. Andrew Maynard, testifying today before a U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science hearing entitled Research on Environmental and Safety Impacts of Nanotechnology: What are the Federal Agencies Doing? According to Dr. Maynard: "Nanotechnology is no longer a scientific curiosity. It is in the workplace, the environment and the home. But if people are to realize nanotechnology's benefits, the federal government needs a master plan for identifying and reducing potential risks. This plan should include a top-down risk research strategy, sufficient funding to do the job, and the mechanisms to ensure that resources are used effectively. "

In his testimony, Maynard proposes that "The federal government needs to invest a minimum of $100 million over two years in targeted risk research in order to lay a strong, science-based foundation for safe nanotechnology." According to Maynard's analysis, despite investing more than $1 billion annually on nanotechnology research, U.S. government spending on highly relevant nanotechnology risk research is only $11 million per year.

Maynard's testimony draws heavily from his new report, Nanotechnology: A Research Strategy for Addressing Risk. His report has been widely praised by science professionals and policymakers, including Britain's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in London, England. In a statement, DEFRA described Maynard's report as "a very helpful contribution to international discussions on research needs in this [nanotechnology risk] area."

DEFRA will launch a Voluntary Reporting Scheme for engineered nanoscale materials on Friday, September 22. Alongside government scientific research, the purpose of this program is to gather data to better understand the properties and characteristics of different engineered nanoscale materials and to allow for a more informed debate about the nature of appropriate controls. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering a similar program.

About Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology is the ability to measure, see, manipulate and manufacture things usually between 1 and 100 nanometers. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter; a human hair is roughly 100,000 nanometers wide. More than $32 billion in products containing nano-materials were sold globally last year. But 2014, Lux Research projects that $2.6 trillion in manufactured goods will incorporate nanotechnology.


Despite rapid commercialization, the majority of the American public has heard little or nothing about nanotechnology. A new poll, released this week by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, shows that while public awareness of nanotechnology is increasing, fully 69% of Americans have heard little or nothing about the technology. Poll results are available here.

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