10 years of SAFENANO at the IOM


2016 sees SAFENANO celebrating 10 years of supporting the responsible development of nanotechnology

From the latest advances in medicines and healthcare, to the personal cosmetics, paints, packaging and now 3D printing.  SAFENANO has been de-risking nanotechnology using its unique combination of multi-disciplinary expertise, laboratory and state-of-the-art equipment with enterprises from small start-ups to multi-national corporations. 

Dr Steve Hankin, SAFENANO's Director of Operations says: “Our mission then and now is to provide the highest quality expertise to help nanotechnology emerge and develop on a safe and sustainable basis, maximising its commercial potential, through a continuous development and improvement of our knowledge, equipment and practice.” 

Over the last ten years, SAFENANO’s work has included a series of reviews for the UK Government and its agencies including HSE, DEFRA, the Environment Agency and Food Standards Agency, and more widely for the European Commission and ECHA.  These reviews have been amongst those instrumental in how today’s approach to nanotechnology risks and regulation have developed.  In parallel to these reviews, SAFENANO developed and launched a suite of lab- and field-based scientific services to support manufacturing and R&D across industry and academic sectors.  These included guidance for safe working practices, workplace assessments, toxicology testing, risk assessment and training.  

Today, the SAFENANO team delivers its unique range of multidisciplinary services globally to support the use and adoption of nanotechnology in a safe and sustainable way.  Current research where SAFENANO is de-risking nanotechnology innovations include projects developing different approaches for the introduction of nanotechnology into packaging, automotive and photovoltaic materials production lines, and enhancing the mechanical properties of composites for increased erosion resistance and anti-icing characteristics for materials in extreme environments. 

“The landscape has changed substantially over the last 10 years, but major challenges remain,” comments Dr Hankin.  “The extensive worldwide research effort has resulted in the generation of a substantial quantity of scientific data on toxicology, exposure and risk. Progress has been made on important topics and there are many examples of responsible industry practice addressing these risk issues in a proactive way. However, there are many other examples where government, academia and industry have still to fully recognise the extent of the risk issues and have not yet put in place the necessary steps to manage them effectively.  This is crucial as new nanoscale forms of materials continue to be developed to bring a technological advantage and benefit to society.” 

In 2012, IOM extended its activities into Asia with the launch of IOM Singapore which has SAFENANO as a major theme within its service delivery in the region.  Work there has included research for government departments, support to industry and the development of training programmes. 

SAFENANO believes that the major challenge going forward is to ensure that the key aspects of research and best practice finds its way into the philosophy underpinning responsible innovation and effective governance of nanotechnology and other emerging technologies where uncertainty and risk are at play.