South Africa's 1st Nanotechnology Symposium in Health, Safety and Environment

EndCode attended the 1st Nanotechnology Symposium in Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) held in Pretoria, South Africa. The following topics were discussed:

● Policy and regulatory environment

● Research and development

● Responsible research and innovation, and science communication

● Discussion on the HSE research, implementation and communication plan

What became immediately evident during each session, was the endless possibilities of nanotechnology and its impact on society and the economy. As stated by a presenter from the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti), a key priority is commercialisation of nanotechnology to ensure job security, thereby growing the economy and benefiting the citizens of South Africa. As knowledge of the uses of nanotechnology increases it is necessary to prepare for the benefits it can have on society and the economy at large. This can be done by having policies and regulations in place that create an enabling environment to harness the endless potential of nanotechnology.

Although South Africa began researching nanotechnology in 2006, the policies and regulations needed to adequately provide for an enabling environment for research and commercialisation of the benefits of nanotechnology have trailed behind nanotechnology developments. These policies and regulations would need to take into consideration the potential uses of nanotechnology, which as demonstrated during the symposium, are endless and capable of being used together with other emerging technologies in a manner that benefits both society and the economy. Potential applications which were discussed include, agriculture, health, manufacturing, energy, mining, the green economy and aerospace.

South Africa has a Whitepaper on Science, Technology and Innovation (2018) which advocates for the establishment of an efficient and well-coordinated technological and social innovation. Moreover, the National Industrial Policy Framework (2007) concurs and states that “as a middle income developing country South Africa needs to increasingly invest in its innovation and technology capabilities”. Dr Sadvir Bissoon, from the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) stressed that without adequate regulations and policies the institution cannot develop standards.

Nonetheless, the SABS has, in terms of ISO TC 229, developed some standards for nanotechnology, however, this is not adequate to create an enabling environment to harness the potential and benefits of nanotechnology. Consequently, during the Symposium presenters showcased the developments of HSE research to inform and encourage the development of the requisite policies and regulations to create the necessary enabling environment in South Africa.