Nanotechnology: the societal impact of the invisible

In this report we highlight the enormous potential for nanotechnology and look at how engineers are developing the technology.

We call on the UK government to increase funding into nanotechnology so UK manufacturers can exploit what is already a $1.6 trillion emerging market.

Nanotechnology is the manipulation of matter at an atomic level (a tennis ball, for example, is 100,000,000 nanometres across). Many have heralded the technology as the new Industrial Revolution.

Key recommendations

  1. The government revises its existing strategic plan on nanotechnology immediately, to reflect the significant changes that have taken place in nanotechnology regulation in the past five years, and commits to match the current EU funding of £36.5 million for a further three years.
  2. The profession must work with the government and non-technical sectors such as the media to create a well-defined forum for public awareness and open dialogue on emerging technologies.
  3. Industry must create a number of ‘Industry Champions’ whose aim is to pull the research through to the commercial product. These high-profile nanotechnology advocates would act as a catalyst to bring together fundamental research and commerce and identify high value markets where technical demonstrators and proof-of-concept could be developed.

In the report we also profile a new medical device combining nanotechnology with a pregnancy tester, which could help diagnose and treat the one million people in the UK who don’t know they have kidney disease.

Created by Bio Nano Consulting, the device – called quantitative electrochemical lateral flow assay (QELFA) – uses nanoparticles to test the patient’s urine, giving results in seconds. It is linked to their surgery via mobile technology so doctors can track how the disease is developing.

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