As I mentioned on Wednesday, the UK government took the opportunity of Thursday’s nano-summit organised by the consumer advocate group Which? to release a statement about nanotechnology. The Science Minister’s speech didn’t announce anything new or dramatic – the minister did “confirm our commitment to keep nanotechnology as a Government priority”, though as the event’s chair, Nick Ross, observed, the Government has a great many priorities. The full statement (1.3 MB PDF) is at least a handy summary of what otherwise would be a rather disjointed set of measures and activities.
The other news from the Which? event was the release of the report from their Citizen’s Panel. Some summaries, as well as a complete report, are available from the Which? website. Some flavour of the results can be seen in this summary: “Panellists were generally excited about the potential that nanotechnologies offer and were keen to move ahead with developing them. However, they also recognised the need to balance this with the potential risks. Panellists identified many opportunities for nanotechnologies. They appreciated the range of possible applications and certain specific applications, particularly for health and medicine. The potential to increase consumer choice and to help the environment were also highlighted, along with the opportunity to ‘start again’ by designing new materials with more useful properties. Other opportunities they highlighted were potential economic developments for the UK (and the jobs this might create) and the potential to help developing countries (with food or cheaper energy).” Balanced against this generally positive attitude were concerns about safety, regulation, information, questions about the accessibility of the technology to the poor and the developing world, and worries about possible long-term environmental impacts.
The subject of nanotechnology was introduced at the meeting with this short film.