Large scale gains for small scale work


6 June 2005

Increased energy efficiency, a cleaner environment, more effective medical treatment and improved manufacturing production are just some of the potential benefits of nanotechnology. Working at a scale 10,000 times smaller than the thickness of a human hair, its potential is enormous and far reaching.

The UK is set to play a key role in leading the development of nanotechnology as the British Standards Institution (BSI), supported by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), has been awarded the Chair and Secretariat of the International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) technical committee for nanotechnologies.

Through this committee the UK can further support this emerging discipline and use standardisation to help ensure its successful global growth.

The proposal to establish the committee demonstrates the UK’s commitment to the safe exploitation of nanotechnology internationally and is part of the Government’s response to the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering report ‘Nanoscience and Nanotechnology: Opportunities and Uncertainties.’

As another key aspect of the UK’s nanotechnology activity, BSI was commissioned by the DTI to develop a standardised vocabulary to provide a common language and terms of reference.

The Publicly Available Specification (PAS 71:2005 Vocabulary – Nanoparticles) is available electronically from today free of charge to enable its widespread adoption and use.

A universally understood and accepted vocabulary is fundamental for scientists, industry, business, retail and consumer sectors to maximise scientific advancements in the future.

Nanotechnology will have a significant impact on the way we live and will enable innovations such as:

  • the production of heat-conserving glass to save energy;
  • more efficient combustion of fuels;
  • lighter, stronger materials for producing cars and planes; and,
  • the purification of water to assist developing and drought-stricken countries

There are also positive implications for healthcare with an anticipated reduction in the need for invasive medical procedures and great hopes for the early identification and successful treatment of serious illnesses such as cancer.

Today’s announcement is an important step in ensuring the UK continues to play a leading role in emerging technologies and through standardisation establish the foundation for large-scale gains in these areas. It will be vital to help businesses act responsibly in maximizing nanotechnology and gain a competitive advantage in a global marketplace.

Science and Innovation Minister, Lord Sainsbury said:

‘’Being confirmed by ISO as Chair and Secretariat of the international committee reaffirms the UK’s position not only as a world leader in science but also as a well respected manager of science and technology networks.

‘’The Government’s Innovation Report sets out the strategy for increasing our level of innovation and encouraging a more strategic approach towards the development of emerging technologies like nanotechnology which many are predicting holds the key to technological and economic developments over the next generation.

‘’The UK has a strong science base and proven record of innovation. This government is committed to building on this success.’’

Director of British Standards, Mike Low said:

‘‘British Standards is proud to be leading UK efforts in supporting this innovative industry and providing a foundation for the successful development of nanotechnology.

‘’This is a key milestone for the UK with the announcement strengthening our position as a world leader in innovation and standardisation.’’

The work of the international committee will have a direct impact on collaborative R&D projects that have been funded through the DTI’s Technology Programme.

Last year the programme granted £15m funding to 25 Collaborative Research and Development projects in the field of micro and nanotechnology. A further £15m support for projects is in the pipeline.

The first meeting of the ISO technical committee on nanotechnologies is expected to take place in the UK later this year.

- ENDS -