Journal of Nanoparticle Research

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 153–191 | Cite as

Nanotechnology and the need for risk governance

  • O. Renn
  • M. C. Roco


After identifying the main characteristics and prospects of nanotechnology as an emerging technology, the paper presents the general risks associated with nanotechnology applications and the deficits of the risk governance process today, concluding with recommendations to governments, industry, international organizations and other stakeholders. The International Risk Governance Council (IRGC) has identified a governance gap between the requirements pertaining to the nano- rather than the micro-/macro- technologies. The novel attributes of nanotechnology demand different routes for risk-benefit assessment and risk management, and at present, nanotechnology innovation proceeds ahead of the policy and regulatory environment. In the shorter term, the governance gap is significant for those passive nanostructures that are currently in production and have high exposure rates; and is especially significant for the several ‘active’ nanoscale structures and nanosystems that we can expect to be on the market in the near future. Active nanoscale structures and nanosystems have the potential to affect not only human health and the environment but also aspects of social lifestyle, human identity and cultural values. The main recommendations of the report deal with selected higher risk nanotechnology applications, short- and long-term issues, and global models for nanotechnology governance.


nanoscience nanoengineering global risk governance risk communication risk management scenarios for nanotechnology development conceptual framework 


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The report was prepared for IRGC and the opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their organisations. The reviews provided by Dr. Gerd Bachmann (VDI, Germany), Dr. Michael Garner (Intel), Tim Mealey (Meridian Institute, U.S.), Dr.␣David Rejeski (WWSC, U.S.) and Prof. Joyce Tait (U.K.) are acknowledged and their input is included in the document.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • O. Renn
    • 1
  • M. C. Roco
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Environmental SociologyUniversity of StuttgartStuttgartGermany
  2. 2.National Science FoundationArlingtonUSA

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