Meeting the needs of Nanotechnology

Gov4Nano is a Horizon2020 project with over 30 partners from all over Europe, the Republic of Korea, South Africa and the United States. Gov4Nano was launched 1 January 2019. RIVM coordinates this project.

The development of a well-functioning system of risk management for nanomaterials is central to this project. By using existing knowledge and experience, in combination with effective policy instruments, we aim to prepare future developments concerning nanomaterials.

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.

What will change with the Gov4Nano project?

With the EU project Gov4Nano, we aim to organise knowledge about nanomaterials. The main aim is to develop a risk governance model. By linking knowledge about materials and possible risks, decision-making on controlling risks when working with and using nanomaterials can be supported. In this way, it will be possible to ensure more quickly and more effectively that applications with nanomaterials are safe at an international level.

Concrete actions from Gov4Nano

  • Stimulating agreement between stakeholders on the best ways of risk analysis and risk management. Taking into account differences in risk perception among different target groups in society.
  • Developing harmonised testing methods and guidelines that are suitable for all legal frameworks.
  • Ensure better data management, according to the FAIR principle []: Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Re-usable, using blockchain technology.
  • Promoting Safe-by-design as a precaution. This means choosing the safest options early on in the design process of materials and products.
  • The establishment of a Nano Risk Governance Council. This council focuses on stakeholders, application areas, legal frameworks and multidisciplinary knowledge.

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