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Physics  2009 

The missing link in nanomaterials governance: industrial dynamics and downstream policies

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Abstract:

In this article we explore the analytical and policy implications of widening the governance of nanomaterials from the focus on risk regulation to a broader focus on the governance of innovation. To do this, we have analysed the impact of industrial activities on nanotechnology governance, while previous studies have concentrated on risk appraisal, public perceptions, public engagement, regulatory frameworks and related policies. We argue that the specific characteristics of the industrial dynamics of nanomaterials - flexibility in applications and distributed innovation - have important implications for innovation governance as they limit and enable different interventions to attempt to shape technology. Flexibility and distributedness exacerbate the difficulties of directly controlling or shaping the directions of nanomaterials innovation. In particular, the potential for public policy leverage is hindered by the bottom-up nature of governance resulting from the multiplicity of innovation sites. Under these conditions, we argue that the framing of policies for nanomaterials governance needs to be broadened. The prevailing emphasis on policy initiatives upstream, while commendable, should be complemented with broader downstream policies, such as renewable energy procurement or regulations in housing, in order to modulate technological development towards socially desirable goals.

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