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Nanotechnology is the set of technologies that enables the manipulation, study or exploitation of very small (typically less than 100 nanometres) structures and systems. Nanotechnology contributes to novel materials, devices and products that have qualitatively different properties. Its advances have the potential to affect virtually every area of economic activity and aspect of daily life.

Nanotechnologies pose new opportunities and challenges to governments. Nanotechnologies are likely to offer a wide range of benefits, including in helping address a range of societal and environmental challenges, e.g. in providing renewable energy and clean water, and in improving health and longevity, as well as the environment. However, unlocking this potential will require a responsible and co-coordinated approach to ensure that potential challenges are being addressed at the same time as the technology is developing.

The OECD Working Party on Nanotechnology (WPN) was established in March 2007 to advise upon emerging policy issues of science, technology and innovation related to the responsible development of nanotechnology. It is a subsidiary group of, and receives its mandate from, the Committee for Scientific and Technological Policy (CSTP).

The WPN works co-operatively with other OECD groups, including the Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials (WPMN, subsidiary to the Chemicals Committee); the Working Party on Biotechnology (WPB); the group of National Experts for Scientific and Technological Indicators (NESTI) and their parent committees.

Recent reports

Nanotechnology and Tyres: Greening Industry and Transport
The use of new nanomaterials in tyre production could help foster the sustainability of the tyre industry and reduce the environmental impact of vehicles if the potential environmental, health and safety risks of the technology are managed carefully. This report provides a risk management framework to enable site-specific or company-specific risk assessments or risk management strategies for using nanomaterials as additives in tyres.

Considerations in Moving toward a Statistical Framework for Nanotechnology: Findings from a Working Party on Nanotechnology Pilot Survey of Business Activity in Nanotechnology
This report presents findings from a pilot survey and discusses methodological and practical issues (e.g. the use of definitions) for on-going consideration in work on statistics and indicators for nanotechnology. It identifies how work in this area may support the assessment of other emerging technologies via an integrated framework.

Responsible Development of Nanotechnology: Results of a Survey Activity
This paper presents the findings of a survey of 25 countries. It provides a snapshot of current national or regional policy and research programmes designed to stimulate the growth of nanotechnology applications in diverse sectors of the economy while addressing the potential risks and the ethical and social challenges the technology might raise.

Report of the International Symposium on Assessing the Economic Impact of Nanotechnology
The conclusion of the symposium was that the technology is sufficiently mature to justify the collecting of data to support the performance of economic impact assessments. This report provides some of the reasoning behind this conclusion and identifies some of the potential challenges involved.

Regulatory Frameworks for Nanotechnology in Foods and Medical Products: Summary Results of a Survey Activity
Countries and regions have begun to develop and refine regulatory approaches for foods and medical products and invest in regulatory science and other research efforts to support the responsible development of nanotechnology in these areas. This paper inventories and analyses regulatory approaches, legislative regimes and government-sponsored regulatory science research and other research programmes, institutions, and infrastructure in foods and medical products that involve the application of nanotechnology.

Planning Guide for Public Engagement and Outreach in Nanotechnology
This guide comprises eight key points for planning public engagement activities. It contains a set of questions to help policy makers develop a plan from start to finish, as well as practical case studies from countries that have used the guide in their communication activities.