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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

Policy Environments and Governance for Innovation and Sustainable Growth through Nanotechnology
This report on policy environments and governance for innovation and sustainable growth through nanotechnology considers work by intergovernmental organisations and national governments. The report highlights the range of work currently undertaken by intergovernmental organisations (mainly focused on Environmental and Human Safety (EHS) issues); notes that the supporting networks and platforms for this activity are well established; and that efforts in this area are likely to continue in the foreseeable future. 

Nanotechnology in the Context of Technology Convergence
This report explores the characteristics of nanotechnology as it relates to technology convergence, i.e. actual instances of the convergence of different technology streams in the research and innovation environments within laboratories and companies. It examines four application areas in which nanotechnology plays a strong role (green packaging, food safety and security, pharmaceuticals and medical devices).

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.

More reports