Nanotechnology is expected to help push forward innovative developments in a diverse range of technology fields and social applications. However, a practical and transparent debate on the safety of nanotechnology applications is essential. Possible risks to health and the environment must be identified beforehand. Therefore, Austria has decided to make nanotechnology one of its top priorities.
The Austrian Nanotechnology Action Plan was adopted by the Austrian Government on February 2nd 2010. To develop it, no fewer than 20 different organisations cooperated in a series of working groups: health and employee protection, environment, business as well as science, research and development. The process was led by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Agriculture, Environment, Forestry and Water. Ensuring that information flowed between the various groups and stakeholders and facilitating cross-disciplinary and/or conflicting matters constituted a particular challenge. To draft the action plan, a 3-week public online consultation process was launched by five Austrian federal ministries, the Austrian Economic Chamber and the Environment Agency Austria.
The core of the action plan consists of 50 recommendations for specific measures to be taken at national, European and international level, and will be implemented by the end of 2012 at the latest. It includes measures intended to bring research and business more closely together, intensify international cooperation, step up basic research as a foundation for applied research and clarify the general requirements under patent law. Broad scope will also be given to measures intended to facilitate funding and enhance the incentives for investment and research activities.
A broad scope of action is devoted to filling the knowledge gaps in evaluating the safety of nanotechnology. Recommended measures include the bundling of resources in order to evaluate environmental, health and safety risks. A key package of measures in the action plan is devoted to reinforcing the dialogue and transparency among all stakeholders, including the general public. In doing so, existing structures and best practices should be used as much as possible. The creation of an Austrian Nanotechnology Information Platform, in particular, will bring together experts from a wide variety of fields, allowing synergies to be created, as well as practical, high-quality, group-oriented knowledge. This includes plans for establishing a public website for nanotechnology information.
The Austrian Nanotechnology Action Plan is an example of how stakeholders with different expectations and interests can work together to develop common concrete measures for a very complex subject area. The path Austria has taken in the field of nanotechnology goes hand in hand with recommendations and developments at European and international level which clearly call for improved dialogue and more cooperation among the decision-makers in public institutions, science, business and other stakeholders.
|Award category:||opening up the public sector|
|Sector:||Science, research, innovation|
|Type of activity:|
|Keywords:||Nanotechnology, key enabling technology, public administration, nanomaterials, innovation, stakeholder participation, environment and health safety, SME, chemicals, food safety|
|Short English description:||The Austrian Nanotechnology Action Plan is an example of how stakeholders with different expectations and interests can work together to develop common concrete measures for a very complex subject area.|
|Organisation:||Austrian Federal Ministry for Environment|
|Level of government:||national level|
|Size of organisation:||>100|
|Number of people involved:||>15|
|EU membership:||EU member|