This approach encourages progress, and Canada is making big steps forward, said Glover.
Nanotechnology has tremendous potential, and the role of Canadian government is to produce a lasting social change and economic benefits to the country, said Glover. However, new technologies pose risks to the environment and human health and are not well understood, noted Glover. Because Canadian consumers are very proactive in the management of their own health and health-related information, the government needs to know the downsides of the new technologies and also how to manage the risks. Informing people about nanotechnology is critical and challenging, said Glover. Nanomaterials involve multiple chemicals and mixtures used over varying periods of time with varying levels of intensity. Therefore, a chemical-by-chemical risk assessment approach will not be effective. Thus, there is a need for government to update risk assessment methodologies via multidisciplinary approach with industry, different levels of government, and broad scientific input.
The U.S. government coordinates work on nanotechnology by 19 government agencies through the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). The goal of the NNI, which was enacted into legislation in 2003, is to use government funding and coordinate funding across all government agencies in order to enrich our nation’s economy, security, and quality of life by advancing the technology while protecting public health and the environment, said Clayton Teague of National Science Foundation and head of NNI. The NNI is coordinating the effort through a number of strategies and working groups. Some basic strategies are:
Encouraging basic research to achieve fundamental knowledge and understanding of nanoscale phenomena and processes.
Promoting applied research in specific “grand challenge” areas to accelerate transition of scientific discovery into innovative technologies.
Providing mechanisms to facilitate transfer of technology into commercial applications and to support basic and applied research.
Establishing research programs to understand the social, ethical, health, and environmental implications of the technology.
To accomplish theses goals, the NNI is encouraging inter- and multidisciplinary research through 16 centers of excellence located across the United States. These centers, either in university or governmental laboratories, provide best-in-the-world instrumentation and facilities available to researchers. In conjunction with the broad support of academic research, the NNI is also achieving the applied research goals through