Meeting the needs of Nanotechnology

Gov4Nano was a Horizon2020 project with over 30 partners from Europe, the Republic of Korea, South Africa and the United States. Gov4Nano was launched on 1 January 2019 and ended in February 2023. The project investigated how to manage the potential risks of existing and new nanomaterials efficiently and effectively.

Gov4Nano joined forces with two sister projects NANORIGO and RiskGONE and together they addressed the same goal: to ultimately ensure a sustainable and equitable nano risk governance infrastructure for Europe and beyond. The projects have gathered meaningful insights about challenges and issues in risk governance of nanomaterials, such as the recommendations to the European Commission and broad dialogues with stakeholders. These dialogues have been summarised in 5 governance letters that provide researchers, industry and policymakers with an overview of gaps and barriers, and recommendations on ways to move forward with health and safety research and regulation for nano- and advanced materials: 
1.    Importance of standardisation and harmonisation of safety testing methods and of streamlined knowledge transfer from science to regulation 
2.    Implementation of FAIR principles (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable) in the management of nanosafety data 
3.    Precautionary approaches and thresholds to assess the exposure of particles and nanomaterials in the working environment 
4.    Safe and sustainable development strategies for materials development 
5.    Multi-stakeholder engagement and public communication to improve transparency and trust in risk decision-making 

What are nanomaterials?

Nanomaterials are particles, chemical substances or materials that have a size between 1 - 100 nanometres. This is about a thousand times smaller than a hair. Depending on the composition and size of the particles, nanoparticles may behave differently from larger particles of the same material. This can be useful, for example, to make clothing water-repellent or to improve the solubility of milk powder. Very specific properties such as good conductivity or efficient transport of medicines offer interesting opportunities for the future.

Are there any risks when using nanomaterials?

Research has provided better insight into the behaviour of nanomaterials and the possible consequences of their use. However, there is still uncertainty about the possible risks of nanomaterials. This uncertainty has to do with, for example, the unknown properties of nanomaterials as they penetrate the tissues and cells of living organisms. Research on an international scale has been going on for years, test methods are being developed and attempts are being made to gain more control over the management of these risks by means of legislation and regulations. Because there are so many different materials and applications, knowledge and regulation are complicated. Nevertheless, major interests, for health and sustainability, as well as major opportunities, play a role around the world in this technique. It is therefore important that these materials are safe for people and the environment.

RIVM role

RIVM has been a major player in Europe in the field of nanotechnology for many years. The Netherlands connects different policy areas and links available knowledge to the legal frameworks and policy development. For example, RIVM’s Risks of Nanotechnology Knowledge and Information Centre (KIR nano) is unique in Europe. It connects insights from scientific research, (developments in) legislation and social issues. It brings together knowledge and research fields for policy advice and is therefore an inspiration for the future Nano Risk Governance Council. The efforts of the Netherlands (RIVM, Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management) in Gov4Nano are therefore logical. RIVM coordinates and provides advice overall and is involved in specific efforts on an interdisciplinary risk approach, the involvement of stakeholders, data management and safe-by-design.

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This project received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement No 814410.