The promise of nanotechnology has captivated academia, industry, the general public, and governments around the world. Nanotechnology, the ability to control and manipulate matter at the nanoscale, is an enabling technology which combines biology, physics, chemistry, and information technology in an emerging field of science that might be able to transform society as we know it today. Nanotechnology offers a range of possible solutions for a whole array of social, environmental, and economic challenges, yet much uncertainty remains about the consequences of the use of nanotechnology and nanomaterials over a longer period of time. Many governments around the world have responded to the potentially revolutionary nature of nanotechnology, yet in very different ways. This leads to questions why governments take a different approach to a similar opportunity and a similar challenge. This paper reflects on drivers of science and technology policies, in particular with regard to nanotechnology. It compares the approach of the government of the Netherlands-a smaller, highly developed country in the heart of the European Union-with the be approach of the American government.
As a first in the world, the U.S. Congress established a national program to support research and development in nanotechnology: the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) in 2001. The NNI is an overarching program which coordinates all efforts in nanotechnology research and development made by the 26 participating federal departments and agencies. That American approach is the benchmark in this study. The comparison of the NNI with the Dutch government approach adds to our understanding which factors drive science and technology policies, why certain factors are important, under which circumstances their weight changes, and how the international setting shapes domestic science and technology policies.*
|Keywords:||Nanotechnology, Science and Technology Policy, Drivers of Science and Technology Policy, The Netherlands, National Nanotechnology Initiative|
Ph.D. Candidate, Political Science Department, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, USA