Meeting the Nano-United Nations

Peace & Security28 Jun 2010Ineke Malsch

Earlier this month, Beijing hosted the second annual ICPC NanoNet workshop dedicated to international cooperation between European nanoscientists and their colleagues in emerging economies and developing countries. The event was hosted by the Chinese Society of Micro-Nano Technology at Tsinghua University. Participants from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe presented the state of the art of nanotechnology in their country and showed their eagerness to cooperate in new projects funded by the European Union and other funding bodies. The next calls for proposals under the EU Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) will be published at the end of July, and Dr Kamal Hossain of the UK’s National Physical Laboratory urged participants to join consortia and submit proposals.

‘Iconic nanoscience’ (in the words of Prof. Ishenkumba Kahwa of the University of the West Indies, Jamaica), in which strong, enthusiastic individual scientists have managed to build up a research programme, is still predominant in many countries, especially in the Caribbean and Africa. These scientists were keen on exploring ways to convince their governments to get involved and incorporate nanotechnology into their national development plans. In other states in Asia, Latin America and Europe, governments have already included nanotechnology and other new technologies in their national strategies for science, technology and innovation.

The lack of telecommunication infrastructure in Africa severely restricts the participation of African nanoscientists in live teleconferences via the Internet. Prof. Malik Maaza of NanoAfNet, the African nanotechnology network, therefore proposed sending DVDs with webinars and conference videos to academic groups for state-of-the-art e-learning.

Of the three planned small discussion groups, the one on potential international cooperation and collaborations was most popular and gave rise to new initiatives. The other two small discussion groups on the EC code of conduct for responsible nanoresearch and on standardization were combined. This meant the discussion focused on differences and similarities between standardization and voluntary regulations as instruments for responsible nanotechnology development.

To facilitate international cooperation, project leader Lesley Tobin of the ICPC NanoNet project offered free tools, including online webinars on demand and an online discussion forum where nanoscientists can present and discuss their research with peers in other parts of the world.