INSPIRE: Getting inspired on nanotechnologies 

Hype on nanotechnologies has been fading out. At the same time, the public discussion on nanotechnologies has been reduced to a debate on the risks and benefits of different applications. Still, nanotechnologies’ possibilities in shaping our future remain unclear and deserve dialoguing.

Even though we live in an era of grand societal challenges – climate change, energy transition, scarcity of resources, to name but a few – the dialogue on the role of nanotechnologies in addressing these challenges has not been satisfactory. Studies show that citizens are increasingly unsure and have trouble in forming an opinion when asked about nanotechnologies’ public impact. Nanotechnologies are not seen as something relevant for me and my children’s future: For many, they merely equal with car polish or less cleaning at home.

Effective governance of nanotechnologies however requires responsiveness of research and policy processes to the broader societal impacts of nanotechnologies. Regarding those grand societal challenges and the need to respond to them by means of technological innovation too, it is clear that dialogue on between the European public, policy-makers, researchers and producers needs to be fostered.

Work Package 2 of NanoDiode – INSPIRE

This is where the Work Package (WP) 2 of NanoDiode sets in. The WP2 initiates a process of engagement and dialogue at the level of nanotechnology research policy as part of the overall NanoDiode engagement effort. Its main objectives are to:

  • Determine European citizens’ views on priorities for desired fields of innovation on the basis of nanotechnologies by surveys and interviews (already online! See:;
  • Organise a competition for school kids and students on innovative ideas for nanotechnology products of the future (Spring-Summer 2014);
  • Hold a series of multi-stakeholder dialogues to determine how nanotechnologies can address important societal and ethical challenges and identify desired fields of innovation (Autumn 2014).

These objectives constitute elements of a broader, underlying rationale for ‘upstream’ public engagement: to enhance the responsiveness of policy making processes by enabling the public to participate in policy decisions on the direction of research. As its full name says – INSPIRE: Engagement and dialogue at the policy level – the WP2 is about fostering this culture of dialogue between researchers, industrialists, citizens, CSOs and policy: Where and how we as a society wish nanotechnologies to be applied?

In the end, inspiration is a prerequisite for creativity. In bringing inspiration and vision back to the public dialogue on nanotechnologies, the WP2 lays foundations for subsequent dialogue and outreach activities of NanoDiode – especially for the co-creation processes of the Work Package 3, where consumers are concretely involved in near-to-market applications and research. Now, after experiences of both hype and disillusionment, shared inspiration is what is needed for supporting responsible innovation in the nanotechnology field.


Dr. Antje Grobe
Project Manager
University of Stuttgart
Tel: ++49 711 685 83971