Creating solutions in collaboration Annual report 2013

Environmental Risks programme given bigger role 

Positive mid-term review of NanoNextNL

12 December 2013Networks Research

The mid-term review of NanoNextNL at the end of 2013 is very positive and stresses the importance of the research into environmental risks. NanoNextNL is a consortium of more than 100 universities, research institutes, medical centres and businesses which collaborate in conducting research into nanotechnology. Adriënne Sips from RIVM is coordinating the Risk Analysis and Technology Assessment (RATA) research theme. This rubric includes the Environmental Risks programme, of which Annemarie van Wezel, Principal Scientist at KWR, is the programme director.

An increasing number of consumer products – pharmaceuticals, textiles, sunscreens – contain nanoparticles: particles of a size that is smaller than 100 nanometres and therefore have different properties from “normal” chemical substances.

An increasing number of consumer products – pharmaceuticals, textiles, sunscreens – contain nanoparticles: particles of a size that is smaller than 100 nanometres and therefore have different properties from “normal” chemical substances.

The collaboration got under way in 2011. Since it runs until the end of 2016, in December 2013 it was time for a mid-term review: Where do we stand and what can we do better? The International Advisory Committee (IAC) of NanoNextNL spoke to many researchers in the programme and then produced a laudatory report. Here’s an extract: “We expected wonderful science; and it was! Most programmes contain science that can stand any international benchmark test.” The committee also compliments the collaboration between the parties, the attention to practical applications (“surpassed expectations”), and the high level of the scientists and developers. “It confirmed my belief that the Netherlands is a world-class player in the development of nanotechnology,” says Sips. “What makes us unique is that we build attention to safety into the innovation to such an extent that investment in safety research is seen as a bonus rather than an obstacle.

More attention to risk assessment

It is precisely with regard to this point that the advisory committee supports the work in which Sips and KWR are active. The committee instructs the RATA programme to give environmental risks even more prominence in the other programmes. “We are, in what we do, a little bit of the odd man out, but we are making more and more headway,” says Van Wezel. “The committee also believes this is important and values our work.” And Sips adds: “We are now shifting from exploration to true collaboration. In cases where the risk assessors often work at the end of the chain, we must bring them forward. And most developers must still learn to think in terms of looking at their products from a risk perspective. This not only means paying attention to the safety aspects earlier, but also being sensitive to new safety aspects that might emerge as a result of nanotechnology.”

© 2017 KWR Watercycle Research Institute

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