While I do not think there is much new here, this report provides a glimpse into not only what Australia is confronting with nanotechnology (many of the same problems the EU and the USA are dealing with) but also offers a portrait of how other advanced nations are coming to terms with the supposedly nanotechnology revolution and its effects on national identity and economic competitiveness. I enjoyed reading this.
It begins with the assumption nano made "be as significant as the impact of electricity or the microchip" (p. 4). I am not so sure but I do like hyperbole. The report notes "Australian nanoscience talent... is relatively thinly spread" (p. 4). While observing "Australia is keen to participate in the nano-world" (p. 6), the report has a few recommendations:
- the establishment of a dedicated office with a Federal Department (p. 6) and a general improvement in industrial awareness (p. 10) as part of a coordinated national strategy (p. 46),
- new facilities complementing the characterization and fabrication facilities already identified by the NCRIS (National Collaborative Research Infrastructure) roadmap may be needed (p. 7) with greater consolidation of research capability maybe through one or more national centres of excellence (p. 8) modeled on the Australian Stem Cell Centre (p. 21),
- specific funds should be made available to support Australian involvement in international HSE (health, safety and environment) studies (p. 7) as well as international co-operation in HSE (p. 7), esp. regarding chemical explosions, accidental spillages, and end-of-life-cycle issues (p. 26) and free radical formation (p. 27),
- a national nanometrology program is recommended (p. 11) noting it as "a prerequisite for documenting standards and regulations" (p. 37) as well as a "cost-effective and robust ambient air monitoring systems for nanotubes, nanopowders, and quantum dots" (p. 27), and
- a public awareness campaign like Biotechnology Australia's Public Awareness Program needs to be instituted (p. 7).
It also recommends "Green chemistry metrics need to be incorporated into nanotechnologies at the source" (p. 28).
It denies that a moratorium is needed (responding to FOE Australia's rhetoric) (pp. 29 & 32) though it suggests that industry "limit the use of engineered nanoparticles in environmental applications such as soil remediation" (p. 30) until cost-benefit research is done.
It notes "most Australians are interested in, feel positive towards, developments in science and technology" (p. 34) but "awareness of nanotechnology is low but increasing" and consumers are still forming their views" (p. 35).
The report added (p. 37) that "the Victorian Government is currently developing a communication program as part of its own state-based nanotechnology strategy" and I will follow-up on this.
The report also realized that "Australia will need 125,000 nanotechnology workers by 2015 in order a maintain a 1 percent share of the emerging industry" (p. 39) and recommended visa reform.
Finally, there is a nice inventory of facilities on pp. 42-46.