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OECD forms nanotechnology unit

Governments around the world spend about $4 billion a year on research into nanotechnology - the science of the small - and Japan, China, South Korea and several European countries have made leadership in the fledgling field national priorities.

As an indication of nanotechnology’s growing importance, the first official meeting of the Working Party on Nanotechnology, held May 8-9 in Leuven, Belgium, addressed research cooperation, technology impacts, policy dialogues and public outreach. The working party, proposed by the US delegation during an October 2005 meeting in Paris, was formed in March by the 30-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The party is part of the OECD Committee for Scientific and Technological Policy, which addresses issues such as research financing, innovation, intellectual property rights and international science cooperation. The party’s mission is to advise the OECD on nanotech issues and promote cooperation among participating countries on policy issues of science, technology and innovation related to responsible nanotechnology development.

According to Robert Rudnitsky, a physicist in the Office of Space and Advanced Technology at the US Department of State and chair of the working party, the initial program of work targets specific activities: Studying the impacts of nanotechnology and emerging business environments; Promoting research and research cooperation among OECD members and nonmembers; Establishing a forum for discussion among policymakers; and Engaging the public on nanotechnology.

OECD members are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Rudnitsky said the newly formed group also would seek to include countries that are not OECD members in its activities. Some nonmember countries, he said in a recent USINFO interview, "have very active nanotechnology programs or are developing active nanotechnology programs, and we think it’s important that they be involved." Nonmembers South Africa, Israel and Russia already are involved in working party activities, he added. Other countries with substantial nanotechnology programs include Brazil, China and India. Attending the meeting were 50 delegates from 24 countries and observer organizations, Rudnitsky said. (nanotech-now.com)