The Royal Society(1) and Royal Academy of Engineering(2) have backed the key findings of the Council for Science and Technology’s (CST) report Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies Review published today (Wednesday 28 March 2007).

The CST report evaluates the Government’s progress on commitments it made in response to the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering’s 2004 report, Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies: Opportunities and Uncertainties.

Professor Ann Dowling, chair of the academies’ nanotechnologies working group which produced this report said:

“This report reinforces the academies’ serious concerns about the Government’s lack of progress on ensuring that these exciting technologies develop in a way that maximises their benefits while minimising any potential risks.

“In particular, more targeted research to reduce the uncertainties around the health and environmental effects of nanomaterials must be funded – especially in light of the growing number of products on the market containing these manufactured ultra small materials. This is a vital step to ensuring that nanotechnologies are well regulated and inspire the confidence of the public and investors.

“At the end of 2005 the Government identified sound priorities for the research needed to inform the development of appropriate safety regulations. However, we can see that the ad hoc approach to funding this research has clearly not worked. This is something the Government must address, by signalling it will set aside earmarked money, when it formally responds to CST’s report.

“Although the UK Government was fast out of the stalls on identifying the critical importance of ensuring that nanotechnologies develop responsibly, its current track record could leaving us trailing other countries. The UK is putting itself in a position where it will be unable to take part in international collaborations because very little research is being done on these issues at home.”

The Royal Society and Royal Academy’s report  Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies: Opportunities and Uncertainties (419.99 KB)  found that most nanotechnologies pose no new safety risks. However, it highlighted uncertainties concerning the potential effects on human health and the environment of manufactured ‘nanoparticles’ and ‘nanotubes’.

Notes for editors

  1. The Royal Society is an independent academy promoting the natural and applied sciences. Founded in 1660, the Society has three roles, as the UK academy of science, as a learned Society, and as a funding agency. It responds to individual demand with selection by merit, not by field. The Society’s objectives are to:

    • strengthen UK science by providing support to excellent individuals
    • fund excellent research to push back the frontiers of knowledge
    • attract and retain the best scientists
    • ensure the UK engages with the best science around the world
    • support science communication and education; and communicate and encourage dialogue with the public
    • provide the best independent advice nationally and internationally
    • promote scholarship and encourage research into the history of science
  2. Founded in 1976, the Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship - comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers - provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.
  3. The Office of Science and Technology commissioned the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering in July 2003 to carry out a study to:

    • define what is meant by nanoscience and nanotechnology;
    • summarise the current scientific knowledge on nanotechnology;
    • identify applications of nanotechnology, both currently and potentially, with indications of when they might be developed;
    • consider environmental, health and safety, ethical and social implications of the technology, both now and in the future; and
    • suggest areas where additional regulation should be considered.
  4. The academies’ joint submission to the Council for Science and Technology’s review is available at  www.nanotec.org.uk

For more information please contact

Sue Windebank
Press and Public Relations
The Royal Society, London
Tel: 020 7451 2514/2516

or

Jane Sutton/Tonia Page
Communications
The Royal Academy of Engineering