Responses to questionnaire on nanotechnology





Ursula Roos
Research & Technology Officer
British Embassy, Berlin

1. Hooman Nouruzi from the FCO’s S&T Network has forwarded your enquiry on nanotechnology funding and policies abroad. I have set out below the latest information on funding levels, research initiatives, public acceptance issues, regulations, and media interest.

Nanotechnology funding

2. Public sector investments in nanotechnology amounted to Euro 153 million in 2001. This included Euro 93 million in the form of institutional funding channelled through Germany’s main research organisations, Euro 54 million from the Federal Research Ministry (BMBF) for collaborative nanotechnology projects, and Euro 6 million from the Federal Economics Ministry (BMWA). Industry contributed Euro 64 million to collaborative R&D projects in 2001. Overall figures on industry investments are at present not available.

3. BMBF allocations to nanotechnology R&D projects doubled from Euro 54 million in 2001 to an estimated Euro 112 million in 2003 (see also table below). Equivalent figures for 2002 and 2003 for BMWA and industry funding are not available. Precise forecasts for public-sector funding for the next ten years is not available. It is expected, however, that the Federal Government will spend at least some Euro 100 million per year on nanotechnology.

4. The table below sets out the amount of project funding provided by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in the period 1998-2003 for collaborative nanotechnology projects and the establishment of virtual centres of competence in nanotechnology.

BMBF funding for nanotechnology in Euro million* 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
Collaborative projects 27.6 31.1 32.7 52.0 86.7 110.6
110.6 0.6 1.6 2.1 2.1 1.8 1.5
Total 28.2 32.7 34.8 54.1 88.5 112.1

*Source: BMBF 2002

5. The table below sets out a breakdown of project funding provided by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in 2001 to 2003 for individual areas of nanotechnology applications. One area that stands out in terms of funding increases and the overall level of funding is nanoelectronics, which accounts for a third of the total nanotechnology project funding. This area is seen has having the largest commercial potential. The Federal Government announced additional funding for nanoelectronics in March 2003 (see below).

BMBF funding for nanotechnology in Euro million* 2001 2002 2003
Nanomaterials 23.5 23.9 29.1
Optical technologies 12.6 17.0 17.6
Nanobiotechnology 1.3 8.5 9.6
Nanoelectronics 8.6 27.5 42.0**
Communications Technology 2.9 4.0 4.0
Manufacturing technologies 0.2 0.6 1.3
Microsystems engineering 5.0 7.0 8.5
Total 54.1 88.5 112.1

*Source: BMBF 2002
** In March 2003, the BMBF announced that a total of Euro 78 million had been allocated to support nanoelectronics projects in 2003

The Federal Government’s Nanotechnology Initiative (launched in May 2002)

6. The Federal Government presented its framework strategy for nanotechnology in May 2002. I have listed the main points below. The Federal Government recognises the importance of nanotechnology as key enabling technologies for a wide range of technological sectors, including electronics, optical sciences and engineering, manufacturing, chemistry, materials, and biotechnology. It has therefore made nanotechnology a key research policy priority and supports the exploitation of its commercial and job creating potential and a wider dialogue on the opportunities and risks. The ten key elements of the Federal Government’s strategy for nanotechnology include:

a) Strengthening the scientific and technological basis of nanotechnology and promoting strategic research with regard to the use of nanotechnology in a range of areas, such as materials science, information technology or optical engineering. Priority is given to funding areas where Germany has already build up considerable expertise, i.e. Euro 29 million for nanomaterials projects and over Euro 42 million – according to a BMBF announcement of March 2003 up to Euro 78 million ? for nanoelectronics projects.

b) Establishing networks involving the best public-sector research facilities, universities and commercial companies and continued support for Germany’s six virtual nanotechnology competence clusters through to the end of 2003 (see list at nanonet). This aims to improve the collaboration within the clusters and between representatives of different disciplines and research organisations. The Federal Research Ministry and the Fraunhofer Society will explore the potential of nanotechnology and its implications as the basis for a new research strategy.

c) Exploring and supporting potential applications of nanotechnology by means of specific "beacon“ projects that highlight the potential uses and benefits of nanotechnology: As part of this, the development of standards for nano-scale manufacturing and characterisation of nanoscale materials will be supported.

d) Facilitating and promoting the establishment of new companies in high technology areas, including nanotechnology by means of existing programmes (e.g. EXIST spinout initiative, BioChance biotech start-up programme): priority will be given to grant applications for projects with commercial or start-up potential.

e) Strengthening the role of SMEs. Some 130 SMEs are involved in Germany’s six virtual nanotechnology competence centres. Measures will include training and qualification issues, initiatives to enable SMEs to gain better access to nanotechnology and their potential uses, and a revision of the current funding guidelines for SMEs. This seeks to encourage their participation in priority research programmes.

f) Exploiting the opportunities of European and international collaborations within the framework of EUREKA, COST, the OECD and bilateral collaborations, but particularly within FP6: The Federal Government seeks to encourage German research institutes and companies to collaborate within international network of excellence and in European nanotechnology competence clusters. The Federal Research Ministry will encourage German participation in integrated projects focusing on nanotechnology.

g) Promoting young scientists and interdisciplinary study and research: In addition to existing programmes to promote early independent research, such as the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft’s Emmy Noether Programme and the BMBF’s BioFuture programme, the Federal Government has earmarked € 75 million for five years to support up to 20 research teams to carry out independent research in Germany. The programme is open for applicants from Germany and abroad.

h) Identifying skills requirements at a very early stage and promoting the development of the necessary qualifications to exploit the commercial potential of nanotechnology: The Federal Research Ministry seeks to encourage higher education institutes to offer individual study and training modules that are relevant for nanotechnology.

i) Initiating a wide debate on the opportunities, perspectives and risks of nanotechnology, their potential uses and their implications for society.

j) Exploring the need for a legal framework: The Federal Government does not see a need at present to review relevant legislation. However, it will address possible legislative issues with regard to nanotechnology once the results of nanotechnology assessment project have been published.

Nanoelectronics funding initiative (Euro 395 million in 2003-2006)

7. In March 2003 the Federal Government announced its nanoelectronics funding strategy. This forms part of its research programme to promote information and communications technology (ICT) in the period 2002-2006, IT Research 2006. Out of the Euro 1.4 billion budget for this programme, the Federal Government has earmarked Euro 395 million for nanoelectronics research for a five-year period. In the strategy paper, nanoelectronics has been defined as silicon-based technologies with lateral dimensions of 100 nm and below. It also encompasses non-silicon materials such as magneto or spin electronics. The German nanoelectronics funding strategy is based on three priorities. These are innovative manufacturing technologies for electronic devices, innovative integrated circuits (ICs) and devices, as well as chip design and manufacturing.

8. Germany’s nanoelectronics strategy is based on the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS), which is regularly updated by the Silicon Industries Association in the US. The German nanoelectronics strategy aims to support priority research and development projects. However, there are no firm commitments as to how the budget for nanoelectronics activities under the IT Research 2006 programme will be allocated to different areas of R&D. Instead the budget will be used flexibly in order to respond to the latest scientific and technological developments. Projects are supported on the basis of collaboration between universities, research institutes, manufacturers, suppliers and users.

Promotion of young scientists in the area of nanotechnology

9. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in Germany has launched an international competition in the area of nanotechnology. The ministry has earmarked € 75 million for a five-year period to support up to 20 junior research groups. The programme aims to promote the early independence of young scientists. It is open to applications from researchers in Germany and abroad who would like to carry out interdisciplinary research relating to nanotechnology at a university or non-university research institute based in Germany.

Nanobiotechnology Initiative (Euro 50 Million in 2000-2006)

10. The Federal Research Ministry (BMBF) launched a nanobiotechnology initiative in March 1999, a second round of this was launched in April 2000. This supports interdisciplinary and collaborative R&D projects in the area of nano-scale biological systems and biochemical systems with analogous functions. The Federal Government also commissioned a prospective technology study into nanobiotechnology, which was published in early 2002. Examples of topics funded under the initiative include:

Nanotechnology Competence Centres (Euro 7.7 million for networking in 1998-2003, additional project funding)

11. The then Federal Government launched a competition in 1998 to establish six Nanotechnology Competence Centres. This supported the establishment of collaborative networks specialising in individual areas of nanotechnology. The aim of the initiative was to promote the division of labour, the exploitation of R&D synergies, and the shared use of research infrastructures and expensive equipment. The Federal Government spent Euro 7.7 million in 1998-2003 for the establishment of the centres. A seventh Nanotechnology Competence Centre was established later. The centres received additional project funding:

Social, ethical, health, safety and environmental issues

12. The Federal Government has commissioned three studies which may be of interest: nanotechnology and sustainability (published recently), the commercial potential of nanotechnology (to be published in early 2004), and nanotechnology and health (to be published in spring 2004). Additionally, the Office of Technology Assessment of the German Bundestag (TAB)– Germany’s POST equivalent – has completed a project on nanotechnology. The final report will be presented to the public on 20 October 2003.

13. The TAB project addresses the expected developments in research and applications in the medium term, and the conditions required to promote useful applications. It looks at the societal need for nanotechnology applications and at how German education and research need to be structured in order to develop the potential of nanotechnology. The study considers societal, ecological and health risks as well as military applications and how far these might endanger the system of international security and arms control efforts. The study also investigates whether nanotechnology can contribute to sustainable development (e.g. by conserving resources, substituting toxins).

Regulations covering applications of nanotechnology

14. Germany’s regulatory framework in the area of biomedicine, ethics, environmental protection and health and safety issues covers some aspects of nanotechnology. The Federal Government has announced its intention to review relevant laws and regulations, which cover chemicals, emissions as well as health and safety at work for their effectiveness with regard to nanotechnology. At present the Federal Government does not see the need for specific regulations in the area of nanotechnology. However, it may review this position in the light of the results of the TAB nanotechnology project (see above).

Media, public and NGO interest in nanotechnology

15. We are not aware of a controversial debate on nanotechnology in the media and the wider public. Broad sheets such as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) and the Financial Times Deutschland (FTD) recently reported the debates in the US and the UK. A recent article in FAZ notes the absence of a public debate in Germany and criticises the reluctance by government, research and industry to engage in a wider debate on nanotechnology. The same article mentions the Royal Society enquiry as a good model to address a wide range of issues and concerns at an early stage. The publication of the TAB nanotechnology report may trigger public debate, as it will be presented at a public hearing in the German Bundestag.


Note number: 041.0010 May 2000

Biotechnology, Medical & Life Sciences

New Federal Initiative Promotes Nano-scale Biotechnology


The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) recently announced a new initiative in the area of nano-biotechnology. This will support collaborative projects at the interface between biotechnology and nanotechnology. The new initiative will be funded from the Federal Government’s priority research programmes in the area of biotechnology (“Biotechnologie 2000”) and chemical and physical technologies (“Schluesseltechnologien Chemischer und Physikalischer Forschung”).

Aims of the Nanobiotechnology Initiative

The new initiative will support interdisciplinary R&D projects in the area of nano-scale biological systems and biochemical systems with analogous functions. Projects funded under this scheme are required to involve collaborators from industry, universities and non-university research institutes. The initiative will support projects focusing on the research and development of:

Eligibility and Selection Criteria

The new scheme will be open to universities, non-university research institutes and companies ? particularly small and medium-sized companies ? based in Germany. Applications for funding under this scheme are required to include relevant collaboration and patent agreements, which set out the division of labour between collaborators and the financial contributions of companies towards the cost of intellectual property developed at government-funded institutes.

Project proposals will be evaluated by expert reviewers every six months. On the basis of these expert opinions, the Federal Research Ministry will make final decisions on funding. Projects will be selected according to the novelty of the approach, the scientific and technical quality, the involvement of other disciplines and sectors, and the expertise of collaborators. Further selection criteria include the social relevance of the project (e.g. ecological and health aspects), the project management and whether high scientific and economic risk is involved. Once projects have been selected for funding, applicants will be asked to submit detailed project descriptions.

International Dimension

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research explicitly encourages German collaborators to carry out projects supported by the new nano-biotechnology scheme within European and international collaborations. German grant applicants are thus required to investigate whether the proposed project would be suitable for European collaboration and thus also be eligible for EU funding. The outcome of this analysis needs to be submitted as part of the application for funding under the nano-biotechnology initiative.

Further Information

Further information may be obtained from the project management organisations responsible for co-ordinating the initiative under the priority research programmes in biotechnology and physical technologies respectively: