Brussels, 20 Dec 2004
The results of an online survey on 'a European strategy for nanotechnology' illustrate the areas that Europe's researchers consider should be a priority. Respondents overwhelmingly called for more European funding, new infrastructure, further nanotechnology education and training, increased international cooperation and a dialogue with society. The survey was conducted by Nanoforum, a thematic network funded under the EU's Fifth Framework Programme (FP5), in collaboration with the European Commission.
Over 90 per cent of respondents agreed that nanotechnology will have a strong impact on European industry within ten years, while 80 per cent thought the same was true for European citizens. In terms of sectors, those responding to the survey expect the greatest impact to be on chemistry and materials, followed by biotechnology, information and communication technologies (ICT), healthcare, and security and defence.
Opinions on areas that should be a priority for EU research funding are evenly divided. 'Nanotechnology for sensor applications' received the most votes at just over 16 per cent, but seven other fields were selected by only marginally fewer participants. Some respondents selected all of the fields put forward. 'It is impossible to prioritise the R&D [research and development] issues,' stated one participant. 'If we are to be competitive, ALL these things have to be investigated in a balanced manner. Furthermore, neglecting some areas can have unpredictable influence on others,' wrote another.
Some 79 per cent of respondents called for a considerable increase in EU funding for nanotechnology research, with 25 per cent wanting a doubling of the budget or more. Opinions on whether funding should focus on basic or applied research were evenly divided.
Collaboration with developed countries was deemed important by 96 per cent of respondents, while collaboration with less developed countries received support from 87 per cent of those responding. The concept of an international code of good conduct received widespread support.
Within Europe, respondents suggested that collaboration could be strengthened through new bodies, such as a European Research Council or a European research centre for nanotechnology. Technology Platforms were also welcomed as a step in the right direction.
Commenting on the current framework programme, FP6, several respondents claimed that there is too much emphasis on nanoscience for consumers and everyday applications, as well as on high profile topics such as electronics and medicine. Research in other fields, such as food, personal care and textiles are ignored in calls for proposals but can affect daily quality of life, a number of respondents wrote.
The survey also generated a number of calls for a decrease in the size of EU research projects and for a clearer focus on nanotechnology. Respondents with experience of participating in EU projects pointed to burdensome bureaucracy and a negative cost-benefit balance.
A total of 720 people participated in the survey, and an additional 29 wrote directly to the European Commission. The majority of respondents were based in Europe (93 per cent), with one third coming from either Germany or the UK.
To access the results of the survey, please consult the following web address:
For further information on nanotechnology at EU level, please visit: