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September 17, 2013

NNI Posts Report on Symposium on Assessing the Economic Impact of Nanotechnology

Lynn L. Bergeson

The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) has posted a report on its March 2012 international “Symposium on Assessing the Economic Impact of Nanotechnology.” NNI held the symposium in conjunction with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) hosted it. Participants included scientists, engineers, policy analysts, private investors, technology leaders, and the general public from both OECD and emerging economies.  Participants reported on initiatives for assessing the impact of nanotechnology and other technological fields.  There was a consensus that more pilot initiatives and trials are needed to gain experience and knowledge and to aid in the development of good practices or guidelines for impact assessment.  The report states that the data obtained would facilitate efforts to develop robust international documentary standards, which are critical to the broad commercialization and adoption of nanotechnology. According to the report, participants drew attention to the need to obtain information about impact without greatly increasing the burden on respondents.  The report notes that the symposium emphasized the importance of measuring the full range of nanotechnology’s impacts, addressing risks, costs, and benefits.  Impact analyses need to be on a sound footing in order to be undertaken on a global scale and comparable, the report states, and internationally agreed upon definitions of nanotechnology are needed. The participants concluded that nanotechnology “is sufficiently mature to justify the collecting of data to support the performance of economic impact assessments.” The report provides the reasoning behind the conclusion and identifies potential challenges involved.