Oral evidence –Tim Harper, Cientifica

This evidence was taken on November 5th 2003 at the World Nano-economic Congress, London, in the presence of Professor Ray Oliver, Nanotechnology Working Group member, and Dr Andrew Dunn of the Royal Society. The evidence was written up by the secretariat and has been approved by Tim Harper

Definition of Nanoscience and nanotechnology

Mr Harper defined nanotechnology as the control of matter at the atomic or molecular scale, however felt that the term was probably not very useful. He believed that the evolution of nanoscience would lead to many new benefits due to its widely disciplinary nature.

Nanotechnology industry?

Mr Harper did not believe in the existence of a single distinct nanotechnology industry as nanotechnology can affect a wide variety of product platforms.

Regulatory issues

Mr Harper felt that many of the issues surrounding toxicity and the environmental impacts of nanotechnology were already covered by current regulation, although further study is required to identify and understand those areas which may pose a risk. He made the point that a properly balanced regulatory system can be very positive in the evolution of a new technology.

Long term view of nanotechnology

Mr Harper predicted that in ten years time, nanoscience would still be very evident, however the term nanotechnology would probably have disappeared as its meaning loses value. Mr Harper envisaged future nanotechnology products in the healthcare sector utilising enhanced drug delivery mechanisms, which may for example allow the delivery of previously failed drugs in a new manner.

Societal implications

Mr Harper saw the potential for nanotechnology to address pressing global issues, and local problems of developing countries-clean water supply being an example.

Health impacts

Mr Harper was keen to discover what effects nanoparticles may have on the body, in particular whether certain nanoparticles become concentrated in specific areas of the body.

Communication

The issue of communication and public understanding of nanotechnology was discussed, and Mr Harper felt that there would be benefits all round if companies engaged in nanotechnology research and development were more open, and hence could be seen as being responsible. In a similar vein, he felt that the earlier that the public, and interested groups were involved in the debate, the lower the likelihood that false impressions of nanotechnology may become fixed in the publics mind.