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Gateway to Nanoscience: The convergence of disciplines

Over 400 researchers, policy makers and concern groups from all across Europe attended a two-day (19 and 20 October) high-level conference “European Forum on Nanosciences” organised by the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) with the support of the European Commission (EC), the European Parliament (EP), the European Science Foundation (ESF) and the ERA-NET Consortium on Nanoscience in the European Research Area.

The event, which took place in the Charlemagne Building of the European Commission, was aiming to be a European Forum to explore a wide range of possibilities, underlining the international and interdisciplinary character of the nanoscience field.

The conference was officially opened by Francesco Fedi, President of the COST Committee of Senior Officials; Martin Grabert, COST Director; Dorette Corbey, MEP and member of the STOA Panel as well as Ian Halliday, President of ESF.

During the event many issues were addressed: 1) How can nanoscale research improve the quality of life? 2) Will future energy problems be powered on nano-scale? 3) How will converging nanosciences transform information society? 4) And finally how can we better structure the research community to answer these questions?

The European Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez POTOCNIK told the participants that it is essential for Europe to conduct research in this field and to maintain a “leading position”. “Nanoscience might be about the small but it’s a big issue,” he commented.

Leading scientists presented keynote talks and gave their opinion to perspectives of nanosciences in medicine, energy and communication technologies. By integrating societal and environmental aspects the urgent need for a broader perspective was demonstrated.

Thomas Dietl (Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw) talked about the emerging nanomaterials world – without innovation in materials research, no further progress is possible for applications in communication technologies. Ruth Duncan from Cardiff University (UK) demonstrated the benefits of nanosciences for medicine, such as for cancer research. However, not only benefits should be highlighted; also potential risks need to be assessed and communicated. A close dialogue with society is the only way to increase the acceptance level for this new technology, as pointed out by Giovanni Carrada from Italy, who proposed a new way to communicate science. Therefore, the actors of tomorrow need to be prepared for the challenges in nanosciences, as requested by Elisa Molinari from the University of Modena (Italy). Nicholas Hartley, Director “Industrial Technologies” at the European Commission” closed the meeting with an extremely positive view on the collaboration of the organisers and on promising perspectives on nanosciences in Europe.

Gabi Egartner | alfa
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