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Volume 456: debated on Tuesday 6 February 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how often the Nanotechnology Issues Dialogue Group meets; and what advice it has given the Government on the strategic direction of Government policy on nanotechnology. (118031)

The Nanotechnology Issues Dialogue Group meets approximately every three months. It is not an advisory body. Its primary role is to co-ordinate and monitor the delivery of Government policy and activities on nanotechnology described in the Government's response to the report by the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering: “Nanoscience and nanotechnologies: opportunities and uncertainties”.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps the Government are taking to encourage universities (a) to engage in the nanotechnology debate and (b) to carry out nanotechnology research activities. (118032)

The Government are committed to addressing the science and society agenda as it relates to nanotechnologies. A substantial programme of public engagement on nanotechnologies has involved universities, scientists and research councils. Beyond this, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser has developed “Rigour, respect and responsibility: a universal ethical code for scientists” that includes guidance on engagement and communication. Similarly, the research councils provide their PhD students with a range of training modules to enhance their research skills. Social and ethical reflection and science communication are part of these research training requirements.

Research councils fund fundamental nanoscience and nanotechnology research and encourage applicants to submit research proposals, for example by issuing subject-specific highlight notices such as the one the Medical Research Council is currently finalising for nanotoxicology. Research councils, Government Departments and their agencies are working together to encourage the development of nanotechnology research capacity in university departments, for example, through the Environmental Nanoscience Initiative, which is funded by Defra, the Natural Environment Research Council and the Environment Agency and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s future strategy for nanotechnology. There is representation from academia on the task forces set up under the cross-Government Nanotechnology Research Coordination Group to take forward health, safety and environment-related nanotechnology research objectives. DTI and the research councils encourage the participation of universities in science-to-business collaborative R and D projects under the DTI Technology Programme. The Government also encourage UK researchers to take full advantage of the significant nanotechnology funding opportunities in the EU Framework Programme 7.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in what ways the independent regulatory review the Department commissioned to identify regulatory gaps has informed the Government’s approach to nanotechnology. (118034)

On 21 December 2006 this Department published on its website the report: “An Overview of the Framework of Current Regulation Affecting the Development and Marketing of Nanomaterials” (at: This was produced by the Economic and Social Research Council Centre for Business Relationships Accountability Sustainability and Society (BRASS) at Cardiff university. The Government are currently considering the conclusions of this recent report.