Eight ministries have been responsible for producing a joint plan on nanotechnology every five years since 2006, the Ministry said. The ministries develop a common approach that pools strategies for action and fields of application for nanotechnology, it said.
The new five-year Action Plan Nanotechnology 2020 is based on the German government's High Tech Strategy, which aims to solve societal challenges through research. It will also "play its part in the fulfilment of the federal government’s strategic objectives with a view to the use of key technologies to increase the international competitiveness of the German economy and for the benefit of society", the report said.
The German public sector currently spends more than €600 million a year on nanotechnology related developments, and 2,200 organisations from industry, services, research and associations are registered in the Ministry's nanotechnology competence map, the report said.
"There are currently also some 1,100 companies in Germany engaged [in] the use of nanotechnology in the fields of research and development as well as the marketing of commercial products and services. The proportion of SMEs is around 75%," it said.
Nanotechnology-based product innovations play "an increasingly important role in many areas of life, such as health and nutrition, the workplace, mobility and energy production", and the plan "thus pursues the objective of continuing to exploit the opportunities and potential of nanotechnology in Germany, without disregarding any potential risks to humans and the environment.", the Ministry said.
Technology law expert Florian von Baum of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com said: "The action plan aims to achieve and secure Germany’s critical lead in the still new nanotechnology field and to recognise and use the full potential of nanotechnology while taking into account possible risks and dangers of this new technology."
"Of particular interest is the plan’s focus on the important role of the German Mittelstand or SME in this plan," he said.
"With the rapid pace of development and the new applications that emerge every day, the government needs to ensure that the dangers and risks are sufficiently recognised and considered. Nanotechnology will provide great and long-awaited breakthroughs in health and ecological areas, but ethical, legal and socio-economic issues must be assessed and evaluated at all stages of the innovation chain," von Baum said.
"The plan provides for a guideline on the social and technological aspect of development, but the legal side still needs to be dealt with in further detail," he said.