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Public dialogue to understand public perceptions of nanotechnologies

Sciencewise co-funded project 2014


Government believe that nanotechnologies have the potential to:

•   Deliver improvements for consumers in the UK;
•   Help to sustain continued recovery and growth in the UK manufacturing industry;
•   Contribute to our effort to tackle global challenges.

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Impacts & Value

The dialogue project and report meets a long-standing request by Ministers to understand more about the public’s views on nanotechnology in general and will enable decision makers in Defra and BIS to react to any likely policy decisions on nanotechnology that they are likely to face over the next few years. Specifically the report is likely to be useful in upcoming decisions on:

•    The European Commission proposal on nano registers and the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of CHemicals (REACH) Directives (expected early 2016). The dialogue report will be part of the evidence that Government considers and submits in support of its position and will be shared with the European Commission if, as expected, it decides to launch its own public dialogue exercise.

•    The 2005 moratorium on nano Zero-Valent Iron (nZVI) in land remediation. The dialogue findings on attitudes to opportunities for and risks of nano land remediation will be considered alongside emerging scientific and economic evidence and outcomes from the European NanoRem2 programme, if and when there is momentum to lift the moratorium.

•    Industry expect the report to be a useful input to the wider debate on Responsible Innovation across the nanotechnology sector and feed into the new Nanotechnology Environment and Health Industry Group (NEHIG) set up in late 2015.

Project Status

Dialogue report published - June 2016

Evaluation report published - January 2016

Analysis and report writing - March 2015

Dialogue design phase - February 2015

Policy Maker View

“I hadn't been involved in anything like this before so interesting to take part in the process. Learnt about public engagement, which will be useful in future as I am becoming involved in other project in which PPI&E are important.”
Expert workshop participant
“I thought the timing was good, and allowing time in groups as well as in open discussion was good.”
Expert workshop participant
“Although balanced there was never enough time! I think that is testament to the participants’ interest and commitment. We travelled a lot of tangents though, and perhaps a bit more steering would have helped to focus discussions – always difficult to get that balance right.”
Expert workshop participant

Delivered By

Dialogue commissioning agent. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs is the UK government department responsible for policy and regulations on environmental, food and rural issues.

OPM is an independent public interest company that helps public services across all sectors to improve outcomes, performance and standards. OPM is responsible for delivery of the public dialogue.

URSUS Consulting
URSUS Consulting provides advice on areas including sustainable development and environmental policy to clients in public, private and voluntary sectors. URSUS Consulting is the evaluation contractor for this project.