By Peter M. Robinson
At a time of multifaceted regulatory and policy development, one of USCIB’s challenges is to target its resources on key areas of concern to our members. At the same time, USCIB must be nimble enough to move quickly on new and emerging issues, especially those in our “space,” i.e., intergovernmental organizations.
The regulatory response to rapid advances in nanotechnology – the manipulation of objects at less than a billionth of a meter – presents just such an emerging issue. Nanotech is poised to transform our economy and society, and will likely serve as a critical driver of innovation in the twenty-first century. That may sound like hyperbole, but it’s not.
Nanotech applications are proliferating, as progress in the underlying science intersect with significant new business opportunities. Recent studies predict that nanotechnology-related markets worldwide could reach $1 trillion by 2015, with nanotech playing a leading role in business sectors ranging from the life sciences, electronics, energy and chemicals to consumer products, textiles and cosmetics.
New technologies always bring new rules and regulations, however. Nanotech’s dynamism and complexity make it imperative that governments get the policy framework right, especially in view of widespread public misunderstanding about the nature of nanotech. Like any new technology, there is uncertainty over the range of potential applications, as well as the implications for human, and environmental, health and safety.
The business community believes the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development can play a critical role at this juncture. Building on its significant expertise in chemicals policy and regulation, the OECD is ideally placed to develop internationally agreed science-based methodologies, definitions and mechanisms for managing products, and for protecting environmental and human health.
The OECD process is especially useful, since it provides an established channel for policy outreach to innovative non-member countries such as China and India. In addition, industry’s active involvement via the Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC) to the OECD, part of USCIB’s global network, gives the private sector a forum for addressing perceptions by the wider public. The issue of nanotechnology was highlighted for me by many at May’s BIAC general assembly meeting in Paris.
USCIB has already played a key role in providing the OECD with industry analysis and expertise in nanotechnology. In addition, our members are actively engaged with U.S. officials on these issues, building government’s understanding of how existing legislation may best be applied to nanotechnology, and underscoring nanotech’s great innovative potential. We will continue to keep our members abreast of developments, and represent their interests on this crucial emerging issue.
New postings from Mr. Robinson appear quarterly. Previous postings:
Making Progress in the Fight Against Fakes (Spring 2006)