Nanoinformatics: a roadmap for European innovation

ENF2017’s session on “Societal Dimension and Governance of Innovation” looks at the ways in which environmental, health and safety (EHS) aspects are taken into consideration when nanotechnology is developed to a commercial level. Here we continue to explore the latest developments in nanoinformatics and their impacts on nanotechnology and advanced materials research in Europe.

The Nanoinformatics Roadmap 2016 was drawn up last year by Dr Andrea Haase at the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) and Dr Frederick Klaessig, manager at Pennsylvania Bio Nano Systems. A large-scale international collaboration, the roadmap is a part of a larger effort to bridge US and EU research into nanoEHS. At its core is a proposal to make all of Europe’s widely dispersed nanosafety data easily accessible. That data includes information on the physicochemical characteristics of nanomaterials, toxicity, exposure, data and metadata. If it were all within easy reach then it could be used to improve things like EHS risk assessments, model development, safe design and safe innovation.

Due for completion this summer, the finalised version of the roadmap will lay out a detailed plan of action on how it’s objectives can best be achieved, and these are no small feats. Firstly, there’s the development of a vehicle for community interaction and resources to support different stakeholders. Then it wants to capture, preserve and disseminate all publicly available nanomaterial measurement data, both experimental and computational. Crucially, it intends to take advantage of existing nanomaterial measurement results to help advance nanotechnology and get it on the road to commercialisation faster. What it aims to do first, however, is identify relevant projects that will help it realise these objectives, some of which will carry forward onto 2030.

The roadmap is closely tied up with the eNanoMapper project, another large-scale EU effort working to improve standards in nanomaterial risk assessments. Spring 2017 has been an exciting time for the project as it recently announced it has successfully achieved a wide range of its goals. For instance, an agreed language has been formalised in nano-ontology, and an open platform has been developed that integrates different nanomaterial data sources and provides access. There is also a computational infrastructure as well as analysis and modelling tools available for predicting nanomaterial toxicity. Excitingly, after NANoREG transferred all of its data to the eNanoMapper database, other Horizon 2020 projects including caLIBRAte, NanoReg2 and ACEnano have followed suit.

Nanoinformatics is an essential part of the nanomaterial research landscape. Ultimately it facilitates better science, better technology and better products. Easy access data on nanomaterials for the whole nanoscience and engineering community reduces risk and expedites the commercialisation of sound technology. Projects like eNanoMapper and efforts such as the EU-US Nanoinformatics roadmap could have a profound effect on innovation inside and outside of Europe with substantial benefits for regional, national and international economies.

Get involved with our session “Societal Dimension and Governance of Innovation” led by guest speakers Tero Mustonen, Daan Schuurbiers, Abdelqader Sumrein, Eva Valsami-Jones, and Keld Alstrup Jensen to find out more about this exciting topic.