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Volume 468: debated on Wednesday 28 November 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills if his Department will assess the potential effect of nanotechnology on the high technology industry; and if his Department will fund (a) relevant skills training and (b) public engagement campaigns to support the development of nanotechnology. (167530)

We have recognised that nanotechnology underpins a number of key technology areas where the UK has a strong industrial base, including in the areas of advanced materials, bioscience and healthcare, electronics, and advanced manufacturing. The Technology Strategy Board is currently reviewing its strategies for these technology areas as well as for emerging technologies.

DTI funded two public engagement activities, Nanodialogues and the Nanotechnology Engagement Group (NEG), the final reports of which were launched in June 2007. The cross-Departmental Nanotechnology Research Coordination Group (NRCG) is evaluating the findings from that work to determine what further public engagement is needed.

DIUS and GO-Science are also taking forward the activities begun by the DTI to gain expert, stakeholder and public views on future scenarios for science and technology development, including elements related to nanotechnology. The results of this work are now being assessed with a view to prioritising areas for future public engagement work.

Additionally, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is implementing a programme in nanoscience through engineering to application, in order to build on the platform of earlier investments and to realise the benefits of the technology for society and the economy. The programme has identified doctoral training centres as a key way of enhancing the skills base in this area. EPSRC is also in the process of changing its collaborative training accounts into knowledge transfer accounts and it is possible that these will support training in the nanotechnology area aimed at users.