Overall, this report appears to accurately represent the current state and expected applications of nanoscience and nanotechnology, and the health, safety and environmental benefits and risks of nanotechnology.
The disparate definitions of nanoscience and nanotechnology arrived at by the four working groups only serve to emphasise the difficulty of arriving at a consensus definition and simply add to the confusion about what nanoscience and nanotechnology are. It might be better to agree on a broad definition such as that in the 2002 DTI report ‘New Dimensions for Manufacturing: A UK Strategy for Nanotechnology’ and keep to it.
We fully endorse the need for a better communications strategy for nanotechnology to inform the public debate (see p23) – not only in schools and universities (as suggested in this section of the report) but with the public at large. Moreover, MRC would be very supportive of the proposed (p24 (d)) national strategy to encourage more open discussion with, and between, peers in industry. With regard to public perception, better/more judicious use of language might help to allay some of their concerns; for example, the use of the more positive - and accurate - term ‘tissue regeneration’ rather than ‘tissue engineering’. In the same vein, is it really necessary to analyse ‘grey goo’ on the basis of known physical laws (p7) to allay the public’s concerns? Surely it would be sufficient to demonstrate that these concerns are unfounded.
MRC supports the suggestion that a roadmap would be a very valuable resource. Since it would be essential to involve industry, the DTI National Strategy Group on Nanotechnology – which brings together all interested parties (Government, Research Councils and stakeholders) – could perhaps take on such a task.
It would appear from this report that the ‘nano’ community perceives the Research Councils as lacking cohesion in their approach to funding – unjustly so. The Research Councils have long recognised the need to work collaboratively to support nanoscience and nanotechnology. This is evidenced by:
Some of the comments/concerns about funding (p21) are not specific to nanotechnology. While the point about speed of funding decisions (p20) is taken, it is worth noting that the Council funding decision about the two nanotechnology IRCs was made on the day that they were peer reviewed!