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Home > Nanotechnology Columns > Steffi Friedrichs > Deciphering Nanotechnology Codes

Steffi Friedrichs
Director
Nanotechnology Industries Association

Abstract:
The Nanotechnology Industries Association( http://www.nanotechia.co.uk ) has started the development of a Code of Conduct for organisations working with nanotechnologies ( http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/news.asp?id=6841 ), as part of a large multi-stakeholder Code working group, which includes the chemical company BASF, Unilever, Smith & Nephew, the consumer group Which?, development NGO Practical Action and Amicus. The Founding Partners of this so-called ‘Responsible NanoCode' represent major players in the area of nanotechnologies and -technologies, including The Royal Society ( http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk ), a authority in science and technology, Insight Investment ( http://www.insightinvestment.com/ ), one of the UK's largest asset managers, and the Nanotechnology Industries Association ( http://www.nanotechia.co.uk ), globally the largest nanotechnology trade association, and the only one with an exclusive focus on the nanotechnology industries.

August 7th, 2007

Deciphering Nanotechnology Codes

The Nanotechnology Industries Association ( http://www.nanotechia.co.uk ) has started the development of a Code of Conduct for organisations working with nanotechnologies ( http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/news.asp?id=6841 ), as part of a large multi-stakeholder Code working group, which includes the chemical company BASF, Unilever, Smith & Nephew, the consumer group Which?, development NGO Practical Action and Amicus. The Founding Partners of this so-called ‘Responsible NanoCode' represent major players in the area of nanotechnologies and -technologies, including The Royal Society ( http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk ), a authority in science and technology, Insight Investment ( http://www.insightinvestment.com/ ), one of the UK's largest asset managers, and the Nanotechnology Industries Association ( http://www.nanotechia.co.uk ), globally the largest nanotechnology trade association, and the only one with an exclusive focus on the nanotechnology industries (the three organisations were joined by the Nanotechnology Knowledge Transfer Network - an initiative sponsored by the UK government's former Department of Trade and Industry). The demand amongst businesses for such a Code became obvious during a workshop, which aimed to engage businesses in discussion on the technical, social and commercial uncertainties relating to nanotechnologies. More than 30 businesses from all stages of the nanotechnology supply chain took part in the workshop and unanimously agreed that the future advancement of nanotechnology commercialisation required a voluntary code of conduct for businesses involved in nanotechnologies.

This requirement seems to have been identified around the world, as a significant number of other organisations and coalitions announced the development of ‘Nanotechnology Codes of Conduct' within the last month. The working party of the abovementioned ‘Responsible NanoCode' engages closely with the following code initiatives, in order to support each other's work and to ensure maximum benefits from all codes through global harmonisation from the onset:
- In Germany, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and the VCI/DECHEMA nano-initiative (VCI: Chemical Industries Association; DECHEMA: Society for Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology) have formed a NanoComission, that currently runs 3 projects on nanomaterials: (a) Opportunities for Health and Environment, (b) Evaluation of Risks and Safety, and (c) Guidance for the responsible use of nanomaterials. The latter of these projects will provide a Code-like set of recommendations to the nanomaterials industry.
- A similar initiative has been launched in the Netherlands.
- The European Commission just launched a consultation on responsible research in nanoscience and nanotechnologies, with the view to obtain input for a recommendation to the EC member states on a possible ‘Code of Conduct for Nanotechnologies', which the Commission will put forward later this year ( http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?...40&type=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en ).

The latest press release on this topic reports on a much more radical, and - ironically - less inclusively consulted, approach to a code-like set of recommendations for the responsible development of nanotechnologies: a joint civil society coalition of consumer, public health, environmental, labor, and civil society organizations spanning six continents published a paper entitled ‘Principles for the Oversight of Nanotechnologies and Nanomaterials' ( http://www.icta.org/press/release.cfm?news_id=26 ); the paper calls upon all governmental bodies, policymakers, industries, organizations, and all other relevant actors to endorse and take actions to incorporate a set of eight principles, believed to ‘provide the foundation for adequate and effective oversight and assessment of the emerging field of nanotechnology, including those nanomaterials that are already in widespread commercial use.'

In contrast to the set of principles published by the joint civil society coalition, the ‘Responsible NanoCode' will undergo a thorough global consultation with all nanotechnology stakeholders, in order to jointly develop a practical Code of Conduct that can be adopted by all organizations working with nanotechnologies.

Watch this space for your chance to give us your opinion on the ‘Responsible NanoCode' ( http://www.responsiblenanocode.org/ ).

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