N-A-N-O, the four letters that have conjured up much excitement, hope and even fear for the past few years, were the theme of discussion for a recent two-day conference in Brussels that brought together some 400 experts, including concerned groups, policy makers and researchers from across Europe. The purpose of the conference was to delve into how the continent could take the lead in all things 'nano.'
The two-day (19 - 20 October) conference 'European Forum on Nanosciences' was organised by the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) with the support of the European Commission (EC), the European Parliament (EP), the ESF and the ERA-NET Consortium on Nanoscience in the European Research Area.
A few challenges and issues were highlighted but one underlying theme remained: nanotechnology has the power to transform healthcare and everyday lives but Europe will lose out to countries such as the US and Japan unless it can mount a coherent approach.
Instead of the usual self-congratulatory rhetoric and gushing about the blue-sky potential of nanotechnology, participants were treated to several topics by experts to deconstruct the myths, the challenges, and the future of the field with a European focus.
"The take-home message is: we really, really need a pan-European approach," stressed Ruth Duncan of the Centre for Polymer Therapeutics at Cardiff University, UK. "If we compare what we are doing here in Europe with Japan and the US we are somewhat fragmented."
In 2003 Duncan was working with the European Medical Research Councils (EMRC) one of the scientific unit of the European Science Foundation (ESF) to create a Forward Look programme on nanomedicines. Around the same time the National Cancer Institute in the US started to review treating cancer with nanotechnology. By September 2004 this had become a $144 million five-year plan to apply nanotechnology to cancer the
Contact: Thomas Lau
European Science Foundation