Ensure that nanotechnology is not subject to excessive government regulation, that the economic benefits of nanotechnology are maximized, and that the business community has a collective and uniform voice in the development of any regulatory structure.
Summary of the Issue
Nanotechnology is the creation of materials, devices, and systems through the manipulation of individual atoms and molecules. It is a term used to define the application of materials whose size is measured in billionths of a meter (e.g., a human hair is 100,000 nanometers in diameter). At the nanoscale, materials exhibit unique properties, allowing for new manufacturing possibilities and applications in a variety of fields. These unique properties present new challenges in both the regulatory and legal arenas.
Despite these challenges, the United States must maintain its lead in nanotechnology development—not just in the scientific arena, but in the commercial one as well. Consider that, by 2014, approximately $2.6 trillion in global manufactured goods will incorporate nanotechnology, or about 15% of total output. Global spending on nanotechnology research and development has increased every year, with industry spending $4.5 billion in 2005 and governments spending another $4.6 billion. Moreover, venture capitalists invested approximately $500 million last year in nanotech ventures.
Some luddites are urging the United States to proceed under the precautionary principle, advocating inaction until any possible risks associated with nanotechnology have been identified and quantified. Such a course would not only be unwise, but it would almost certainly cost the United States the opportunity to define the regulatory landscape in this field. Instead, as a nation, we should continue to develop commercial applications for nanotechnology while simultaneously pursuing efforts to standardize risk assessment protocols.
U.S. Chamber Strategy
- Ensure that the business community has a role in any regulatory framework that is developed
- Work with federal agencies to ensure that commercial applications of nanotechnology continue to flow to the marketplace
- Lobby Congress, as needed, on developing sensible legislation for nanotechnology
- Form a working group among Chamber members to prepare agency comments, communicate with Congress, and coordinate a communication strategy to address risks, both real and perceived.
Environment, Technology & Regulatory Affairs Division