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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Sri Lankan Parliament Select Committee to Recommend Steps to Minimize the Damages from Natural Disasters

The Mandate When the tsunami hit people in Sri Lanka were not ready. In the light of the fact that the people of Sri Lanka were not prepared to face an event of this nature and the unpredictable and destructive nature of the tsunami event, on a motion moved in Parliament on 10.02.2005 the Parliament Select Committee consisting of 21 members from all political parties represented in Parliament was appointed with a mandate to:Investigate whether there was a lack of preparedness to meet an emergency of the nature of the Tsunami that struck Sri Lanka on 26th December, 2004 and to recommend what steps should be taken to ensure that an early warning system be put in place and what other steps should be taken to minimize the damage caused by similar natural disaster’.By unanimous choice of Parliament, Hon. Mahinda Samarasinghe, Chief opposition Whip of Parliament was appointed the Chairman of the Committee and the committee commenced its proceedings on February 11, 2005 and had 28 sittings up to the date of submitting this Report. The Committee heard the evidence of relevant personnel, went on field visits and participated in several local and foreign study tours.

By unanimous choice of Parliament, Hon. Mahinda Samarasinghe, Chief opposition Whip of Parliament was appointed the Chairman of the Committee.This committee commenced its proceedings on February 11, 2005 and had 28 sittings up to the date of submitting this Report. The details of committee deliberations and presentations made are all uploaded on the committee website: http://www.srilankanparliamentonnaturaldisasters.org . This is updated regularly.Deliberations of the Select Committee, Local and Foreign Study ToursThe Committee heard the evidence of experts in the relevant fields, public officers, senior officers and commanders of the armed forces, Police and officers of the relevant government and private agencies; civil society organizations; and provincial, district and division authorities. The Committee also along with media personnel went on a field visit to the Geology Centre in the University of Peradeniya, the Pallekele Seismological Centre and Kuliatta, an identified landslide prone region in Kandy. The committee also visited the Tsunami-hit areas of Galle, Matara, Hambantota, Ampara districts and one of the worst affected areas of Kalmunai in Ampara district. The Committee Members also participated in several local and foreign study tours. The agencies represented, a list of those who made presentations and participated at the deliberations are appended at the end of this report. Some very important information gathered during foreign visits too is appended as appropriate.These have been taken in to consideration in compiling the recommendations in this report.This Committee wishes to place on record its appreciation of the valuable assistance rendered by the United Nations Development Programme, International Organization for Migration, Government of Australia and AUSAID, US State Department and the Governments of India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Germany and Indonesia.The Committee in the course of deliberation agreed that the Parliament should appoint a Select Committee to examine and report on man-made disasters which the present Select Committee was unable to look into as a result of the Terms of Reference limiting its work to Natural Disasters. This should be followed up.ForewordTowards a “Safer Sri Lanka”It has been my pleasure to chair this Select Committee constituted by the Sri Lankan Parliament to ‘investigate whether there was a lack of preparedness to meet an emergency of the nature of the Tsunami that struck Sri Lanka on December 26, 2004 and to recommend what steps should be taken to ensure that an early warning system be put in place and what other steps should be taken to minimize the damage caused by similar natural disasters’.This Select Committee has adopted a truly bipartisan approach, consisting of senior ministers in the government and other senior members of parliament, who participated actively in the deliberations and study visits, despite their busy schedules. The proceedings of the various deliberations have been conducted in a very fair and impartial and constructive manner, leading to some very important recommendations.I take this opportunity to thank the experts, officials, various organizations- government departments, universities, national/ international NGOs, media and various individuals too numerous to be named, for their valuable contributions in the proceedings of the select committee and for their submissions.I also wish to acknowledge the invaluable support provided by various governments and international agencies for arranging eye-opening, invaluable study visits to different countries. Most of these countries visited have highly effective mechanisms for mitigating disasters and for reducing their impacts on lives and economy and the experiences from these study visits have contributed a lot towards the select committee’s recommendations.I also wish to put on record the valuable contribution of the UNDP and IOM in supporting the committee with technical inputs and assisting the select committee with this report.The Committee also wishes to express its sincere appreciation for the assistance and cooperation extended by the Parliament Staff.It is also my sincere belief that since the recommendations have been arrived at, by consensus, and considering the bipartisan approach of the committee, any government would be in an excellent position to implement these recommendations towards a ‘safer Sri Lanka’Mahinda Samarasinghe, MP Chief Opposition Whip Chairman- Sri Lankan Parliament Select Committee on Natural Disasters

Download Final Report (.doc file)

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Friday, November 11, 2005

Peace Needed For Tsunami Recovery In Sri Lanka-UN Official

CompanyNews Story
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP)--A top United Nations official warned Wednesday that progress in Sri Lanka's peace process was necessary for development to take place in the tsunami-affected island and urged the government and Tamil Tiger rebels to resolve the two-decade conflict.

"If there is peace in this country we can perform miracles in the next couple of years," Jan Egeland, U.N. under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief told reporters. "If there is no peace, I foresee a long and difficult humanitarian phase that we cannot go into development."

Egeland is on two-day visit to Sri Lanka to review the coordination of international assistance in the wake of the Dec. 26, Indian Ocean tsunami.

He canceled his visit to tsunami-affected Indonesia and instead will travel later Wednesday to Pakistan, hit by a devastating earthquake that is believed to have killed more than 35,000.

However, Egeland assured that the international community will not shift its attention from nations affected by the tsunami. More than 220,000 people in 11 countries were killed or left missing by that catastrophe.

"The money which is committed will be honored ... hold donors to their pledge, " Egeland assured.

"What I hope is the same generosity," for Kashmir and African countries, will be as forthcoming as for those affected by the tsunami, he said.

The Tigers began fighting the government in 1983 to create a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils, accusing majority Sinhalese of discrimination. More than 65,000 people were killed in the conflict before Norway brokered a cease- fire in 2002.

Subsequent peace talks broke down two years ago but the truce has held despite increasing strains.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires


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Guide on Capacity Development

Mdg Development Gateway: This UNDP Resource Guide on Capacity Development compiles resources on capacity development topics. The guide is arranged around the following topics: Analytical Research; Country Studies; Operational and Programming Manuals, Guidelines, Tools; and Learning and Training Materials, Additional Resources. UNDP, Bureau for Development Policy, Capacity Development Group. July 2005. (9 pages)

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Adding value to business through technical excellence

Sunday Observer: 30/10/2005"

The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) Sri Lanka Division has organised a one and half day technical symposium, the first of its kind and aligns itself closely to this year's theme of "adding Value to Business through Technical Excellence". The specialised Technical Symposium titled "Adding Value to Business through Technical Excellence - a five facetted focus" will be held from November 25 to 26.

"I believe many things differentiate a Chartered Management Accountant from others, not least among them CIMA's "2010 Vision" of "CIMA members driving the world's successful organisations" and its "mission" of "being the first choice for the employers in the qualification and development of professional accountants in business", CIMA Sri Lanka President Lalith Fonseka said.

A prerequisite for this is that the members should be equipped with the technical skills and competencies.

The introduction of CIMA's new generation qualification which was tested in May 2005 and the mandatory CPD program which comes into effect January 2006 are two very significant initiatives taken by CIMA Global in this direction.

A key initiative taken by the Sri Lanka division in this endeavour is the first ever CIMA Technical Symposium to be held in November which is directed at our members and passed finalists.

This symposium would provide a forum to deliberate on cutting edge technical developments and key challenges in the business world.

This would enable them to add greater value in their respective roles as accountants in business. The three-fold objective of the CIMA Technical Symposium as identified by the Symposium's Chairperson Melanie Kanaka are:- (a) create an awareness and stimulate an interest among participants on the cutting edge development and key challenges of the business world, (b) provide participants a forum to deliberate on broad technical issues and address any perceived gaps between the theory and practice and (c) to spur participants to develop their potential further which would enable them to perform better and thereby add value to their stakeholders in business.

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Information Society: The Next Steps

Special Report - Development Gateway:
The Information Society has produced a tantalizing array of new information and communication technologies (ICT) that today have transformed the approach to global development. Access to these technologies is spreading rapidly. In 2005, the number of Internet users in developing countries will cross the 500 million mark, surpassing industrial nations for the first time. By some estimates, more than 75 percent of the world’s population now lives within range of a mobile network. Yet the long-heralded promise of ICT remains out of reach for most of the developing world. For the information poor, economic and social gaps are in fact widening both within and between countries.

Following on the rapid expansion of the Information Society, the United Nations called for a World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) organized under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union. The two-phase summit, begun in Geneva in 2003, concludes in November 2005 with WSIS Phase II in Tunisia. The goal of this meeting is to assess progress and prompt further global action to capture the promise of ICT for all. This Special Report "Information Society: The Next Steps" looks at how the ICT landscape is changing in the developing world and what lies ahead. Experts from governments, donors, NGOs and the private sector speak out about effective policies, promising applications and innovative business models.

Read More

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Traditional crafts survive Sri Lanka's Tsunami

ReliefWeb - Document Preview -: Source: International Organization for Migration (IOM)
Date: 23 Sep 2005

By Gina Wilkinson

The tsunami swept away the hard work of many of Sri Lanka's talented craftspeople, but with help from IOM valuable traditions and skills are being restored and protected for the next generation.

Ondachchimadam, Sri Lanka, September 23, 2005 - When the tsunami hit Kandapan Velmurrhu's town on Sri Lanka's east coast, it swept away his well-respected business built up by generations of master brass-smiths.

"In the first few days after the tsunami I was in complete despair because not only had I lost my home but also my brass workshop, which meant I could no longer provide for my family," said Velmurrhu.

However IOM stepped in to provide Velmurrhu with tools and stocks of brass so that he could resume his traditional way of life – making everything from ornate brass statues for local Hindu temples to humble but effective rice cleaning bowls.

"My grandfather and father were both brass-smiths and I began studying the trade under them 50 years ago," said Velmurrhu, adding that he's confident that IOM's assistance will help him to earn enough to support his family.

An estimated 400,000 Sri Lankans like Velmurrhu lost their source of income to the devastating waves that battered two-thirds of the island's coastline last December.

With funding from Greece, the European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO), and USAID, IOM has helped more than 1,800 tsunami-affected families in Sri Lanka rebuild their businesses or develop new sources of income.

Getting back to work not only allows tsunami survivors to make a living and meet their basic needs, it also helps restore a sense of normality on their lives as they deal with the psychological impact of the disaster.

"Now that I'm busy again I don't have time to sit around and worry, and I feel much more confident that we can recover," said Velmurrhu, as some of his many grandchildren gathered close to watch him polish a brass tray to a gleaming shine.

"Despite what we suffered in the tsunami, I am hopeful that at least one of my grandchildren will continue the traditions that we've built up over generations and my family will be able to prosper in the future."

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Targeting and universalism in poverty

Poverty Development Gateway: "Does social policy aim at benefiting the whole of society or just a select group? This paper argues that policy regimes tend to lie somewhere between being universally beneficial and targetted at a specific group. However, how far a policy leans towards one of these aims can determine individuals' life chances. This paper discusses the forces behind the shift from universalism towards selectivity in using social policies to combat poverty in the developing world. It then considers the administrative difficulties of targeting in poor countries, the political economy basis of policy choices, and the consequences of these choices for individual incentive. Source: ELDIS. Produced by: United Nations (UN) Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) (2005)

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Nanotechnology and Developing Countries - Part 2: What Realities?

Nanotechnology and Developing Countries - Part 2: What Realities?: Donald C. Maclurcan
Submitted: June 28th, 2005, Posted: October 19th, 2005
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Assessing Global Engagement with Nanotechnology

Using the ‘Google’ and ‘Yahoo’ search-engines we individually combined the term ‘nano*’ with the title of every economy recognised by the World Bank in 2004a, aiming to provide an encompassing picture of nanotechnology activity, as of October 2004. We extended our search parameters to include countries demonstrating either an interest, current research, national activities or national funding in nanotechnology (as outlined in Figure 1). Countries registering activity were then categorised by the 2003 Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) and 2004 United Nations Development Program Human Development Index (HDI) classificationsb, to assess the distribution of engagement across recognised global groupings. Our classification did not distinguish the strength or research directions of each commitment.

Table 1. Categorisation of national nanotechnology activity

Country Interest

An expression of interest from country governments, representatives or delegates
With patent data used in previous studies as a key indicator of country strength in nanotechnology R&D [11, 12] and the life sciences as one of the major fields of nanotechnology patenting [8], we decided to focus the second stage of our research upon health-related nanotechnology patent activityc. To do so we assessed data from 1975d – 2004, registered with the widely encompassing, European Patent Office (EPO) databasee.
a. Available at: http://www.worldbank.org/data/aboutdata/errata03/class.pdf, (for the purposes of this paper, the term ‘countries’ includes ‘territories’ recognised by the World Bank).
b. In this paper countries are classified by the January 2003, OECD ‘DAC List of Aid Recipients’, available at: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/35/9/2488552.pdf. HDI data was not available for Serbia and Montenegro, Taiwan, Afghanistan, Puerto Rico and Liechtenstein.
c. Considering that Rader notes comparability among U.S. and foreign success rates for obtaining patents from patent applications in biotechnology [13], we used both patent applications and assigned patents for our research in ‘patent activity’ and regularly interchanged the terms ‘patent activity’ and ‘patents’.
d. 1975 is used as the commencement date for the research as it was the year following that in which the word ‘nanotechnology’ was coined [14].
e. The Espacenet database can be accessed at: http://ep.espacenet.com/ and incorporates published data from over 70 different countries.

Analysis of Data

Employing a ‘basic analysis’ and only registering distinct patents, we used the European Classification system (ECLA) to distinguish health-related areas on which to base our search for patents including the term ‘nano*’f. Noting some limitations of the ECLAg, we conducted a supplementary ‘title-search’h, combining the ten most common health-related terms identified in the ECLA search with the term ‘nano*’. This produced a further list of a 197 health-related terms, gained from the patent titles, that were run through an identical process to that of the initial search (see Table 2 for examples of searched classifications and terms).

Table 2. Classifications and terms used for health-related nanotechnology patent search

f. Based upon the data of Huang et al., 92.5% of the nanotechnology patents registered with the USPTO office between 1976-2003 included the term ‘nano*’ [8].
g. For example, many Chinese Patents without an abstract could not be included in the ECLA but could be identified as health-related, via their title. Furthermore, it takes up to 8 months before 90% of ECLA data is confirmed [15] yet our study of 1975-2004 data concluded in May 2005.
h. Known to give an adequate indication of patents without needing to conduct a full text search [8].

Collating of Data

The collated data was divided, based on the nationality of the patent holder(s), to give an idea of the national distribution of patents. The countries were then placed into developmental, continental and sectoral groupings to enable a broader assessment of patent distribution. Data was compared with Compañó and Hullman’s 2002 EPO and Patent Cooperation Treaty nanotechnology patent analysis [12].
Considering the claim that pharmaceutical giants are investing less money and people in nanotechnology than other industries [16], we felt it important to gauge the engagement from big pharmaceutical companies in health-related nanotechnology patenting. Hence, we recorded a list of the top 20 institutions patenting in this area. Due to implications of multiple holders for individually owned patents, private individuals were not included in the presented data.
In 2003, White noted that bio-nanotechnology patenting was occurring in three main areas: cosmetics and consumer health; instrumentation, focussed on general diagnostic processes; and drug delivery [17]. We therefore chose to include data on the strength of patenting within these three areas of utility.
Furthermore, with relatively little research directed towards some of the health problems affecting the majority of the world’s population, we chose to analyse every title and abstract for references to diseases in order to assess one aspect of early orientation within health-related nanotechnology research. Viruses and general conditions were deemed too broad to be included in this analysis.
Excluded Data
The patent research was made difficult by factors such as one Chinese national holding over 500 health-related nanotechnology patents “by simply turning traditional plants into fine powders with particles under 100 nanometres… and claiming a new invention” [18]. Such results were excluded.

Limitations of the Study

Both the first and second stages of our research suffered from the limitation that classifying research as ‘nanotechnology’ has only been a recent phenomenon. Much work that occurs on the nanoscale is not referred to as ‘nanotechnology’ and therefore may not have been registered by our research methods. In stark contrast, it is possible that a number of individuals and companies incorrectly use the term ‘nano’ in the title of their work, perhaps hoping to gain from the hype surrounding nanotechnology.
The final stage of the research assessed country participation at two, key, recent international nanotechnology meetings. These were the International Dialogue on Responsible Research and Development of Nanotechnologyi held in 2004, which was the first intergovernmental dialogue of its kind, and the North–Southj Dialogue on Nanotechnology: Challenges and Opportunitiesk held in 2005, which was the first United Nations-sponsored meeting held to specifically address developing country participation in nanotechnology science and policy. As with earlier stages, categorisation occurred on a country level and used the 2003 OECD classifications. As the discussion will suggest, participation in the development of global nanotechnology policy and strategies extends well beyond representation at international conferences and meetings. Furthermore, the data limited participant assessment to one’s nationality, leaving issues such as gender equity as important areas for future research.
i. The meeting report may be found at: http://www.nanoandthepoor.org/Final_Report_Responsible_Nanotech_RD_040812.pdf.
j. In this paper, the term: ‘South’ or ‘Southern’ is used to refer to developing countries, whilst the term: ‘North’ or ‘Northern’ is used to refer to developed countries.
k. See http://www.ics.trieste.it/Nanotechnology/ for more details.
Global Nanotechnology Activity and Interest
In 2001 the U.S. NSF claimed that at least 30 countries had initiated, or were beginning, national nanotechnology activities [19]. This figure progressed to, “more than 40”, by 2004 [8]. According to our research, this number has grown to 62 countries, 18 of them ‘transitional’ and 19 ‘developing’, engaging with nanotechnology on a national level. A further 16 countries demonstrate either individual or group research in nanotechnology, 3 of which are ‘transitional’ and 12 ‘developing’ (including 1 Least Developed Country (LDC)). Fourteen countries have expressed interest in engaging in nanotechnology research. Of these countries, 1 is ‘transitional’ and 13 ‘developing’, including 3 LDCs (for a full, country breakdown see Table 3).

Table 3. Global distribution of nanotechnology activity by country and classification.

The most prominent figure is the number of countries engaging in nanotechnology on a national level at such an early stage of global development. Although every developed country, excluding Liechtenstein, is included in this category, the large number of developing countries is of note.
Countries Actively Involved in Nanotechnology
In China, nationally run activities in nanotechnology have existed since 1990 [20, 21] and the country “appears to be leading the world in sheer numbers of new nanotechnology companies” [22]. Brazil has approximately 300 Ph.D.-level researchers working in nanotechnology [23], whilst in India more than 30 institutions are involved in research and training programs in nanotechnology [24]. Vietnam commenced nanotechnology research in 1992 [25] and the Ministry of Science and Technology has launched a nanoscience and nanotechnology infrastructure building program from 2004-2006 [26]. In 2004, 117 participants came from all over Thailand to contribute to the development of a national nanotechnology roadmap [27]. In 2003, Maruping reported that South Africa had approximately 12 universities, 4 science councils and several companies active in nanotechnology R&D [Maruping, cited in 5]. In 2003, at least 6 groups were working on nanotechnology in the Philippines [28]. Whilst Malaysia has 6 existing research centres engaging in nanotechnology research [29].

Lesser Known Nanotechnology Players Encouraging Development

In 2004, Egypt, Bangladesh and Moldova were among some of the lesser known nanotechnology ‘players’ to host international nanotechnology conferencesl, perhaps as a precursor to a greater involvement in nanotechnology R&D. The International Conference on Nanotechnology: Science and Application, held in Egypt the following year, was pitched at developing country involvement and exposing young researchers from the developing world to leading researchers in the fieldm.
l. See: www.nanotech-now.com/2004-events.htm for a list of nanotechnology conferences held in 2004 and their locations.
m. See: http://www.nanoinsight.net/ for conference details.

The Global Nanotechnology Race

Could nanotechnology promote a more equitable engagement with global science? In 1999, before the establishment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative in the U.S., Roco wrote that “the situation is unlike the other post-war technological revolutions, where the U.S. enjoyed earlier advances”. A recent report by the U.S. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has shown that the U.S. leads the world in the number of nanotechnology start-up companies and research output but “…is under increasing competitive pressure from other nations…” [30]. Furthermore, Haworth believes that “no one country or region of the world has a monopoly on the cutting-edge research capabilities necessary to advance materials science and nanotechnology” [Haworth cited in 31 preface]. Watanbe claims that the widespread interest is resulting in countries “…competing on a more equal basis for a slice of the action” [32].
However, Runge and Ryan note that, despite developing countries making up more than half of the 63 countries engaged in biotechnology R&D, innovation remains heavily concentrated amongst the top 5 countries, with a significant gap to the ‘2nd tier’ [33]. Whilst global government spending on nanotechnology is relatively evenly split between North America ($1.6 billion), Asia ($1.6 billion) and Europe ($1.3 billion)n [30], funding among nations varies greatly. For example, whilst both the U.S. and Thailand have national nanotechnology programs, established in 2000 and 2003, respectively, Thailand’s program receives approximately $2 milliono per year [34] compared with 2005 annual funding for the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), set at $982 million [35].
Furthermore, widespread national engagement with new technology does not necessarily translate to an automatic ‘trickle-down effect’ of associated benefits. As Chrispeels notes, with the ‘Green Revolution’p, “many governments (national or local) did not do enough to ensure an even spread of the benefits among the different types of farmers and the different socio-economic groups” [36].
n. The Lux Research data included U.S. State funding in the total for North America and incorporated figures from associated and acceding EU countries in the European estimate. The remaining governments, not covered above, contributed $133 million.
o. All monetary figures in this paper refer to U.S. dollars.
p. A movement commencing in the 1940s that focused on increasing crop yields via the application of new plant varieties and modern agricultural techniques.
Some Countries to Concentrate Nanotechnology Efforts on Materials Research
Whilst most of the international commentary on the relevance of nanotechnology to developing countries has focussed on applications to assist sustainable development in social development cluster areasq, Chinese, South Korean, Malaysian and Thai governments will reportedly focus 2003-2007 nanotechnology funding on materials research [22]. In Thailand the initial focus has been on applying nanotechnology to ‘value-add’ to existing export industries and develop: waterproof, more durable silks; ‘smart packaging’ to monitor and maintain the state of food; more productive wine fermentation; ‘self-sterilising’ rubber gloves; and new car body materials [34]. With this in mind, Barker et al. suggest that “most government investments are aimed at improving national corporate competitiveness in nanotechnology” [5]. Roco believes some governments are focussing efforts towards nanotechnology because they have recognised lost opportunities at the dawn of earlier technologies such as the Human Genome Project, ICT and biotechnology [19].
q. According to the South African Nanotechnology Initiative, nanotechnology sectors can be classified into ‘industrial’ and ‘social development’, with the latter incorporating: energy; water; and health. ‘The environment’ crosses both sectors [37].

National Activity by Human Development Index

An assessment of national activity by HDI groupings (Figure 1) shows that the strength of developing country engagement with nanotechnology comes from countries with a medium HDI rank. China, India and Brazil lead developing country investment in nanotechnology [Rao, cited in 38], ahead of many developing countries with a higher HDI rank.
Figure 1. Global distribution of nanotechnology activity based on countries’ human development groupings.
So what about the less-developed countries? It is clear that countries in the lowest bracket of either the OECD classifications or HDI rankings, have not engaged with nanotechnology on any significant level. Will this revolution promote a bigger South-South divide, whereby certain developing countries use nanotechnology to propel themselves into global trade and investment markets whilst others are left behind?

Is Nanotechnology R&D Feasible For Less-Developed Countries?

Whilst factors such as support from private enterprise will play a significant role in determining the level of nanotechnology engagement in a countries such as India or Thailand [27, 39], for many of the less-developed countries, the current barriers will present themselves at the earliest stages of R&D entry.

Challenges for Nanotechnology in Developing Countries

The correlation between lower average incomes and lower government spending on R&D [40] and healthcare [41], presents an initial challenge for nanotechnology to even be considered in less-developed countries. Infrastructure; human and policy capacity; cost; intellectual property rights; education relating to academics and the public; brain drain; trade barriers and the political context, constitute further barriers, although these are not unique to nanotechnology [42].

The Cost of Setting Up Nanotechnology Institutes

Differing figures have been provided as to the financial and infrastructure demands of nanotechnology innovation. The cost of establishing nanotechnology institutes has been claimed at approximately $5 million in both Vietnam [43] and Mexico [Rao, cited in 38], whereas the new national nanotechnology facility in Costa Rica, including a ‘clean room’, was reportedly built for “about $50,000”, and will be equipped for an extra several hundred-thousand dollars [44]. Rao claims an Atomic Force Microscope, a fundamental tool for characterisation at the nanoscale, costs approximately $1.5 million [Rao, cited in 45], whereas the ETC Group puts this figure at $175,000 [42]. Salvarezza believes that the ability for nanotechnology research to be conducted with relatively inexpensive items such as computers and scanning probe microscopes means that it “becomes an attractive field for research and development in third world countries because it can be done with modest resources and relatively low funding” [46]. Furthermore, Welland challenges the contemporary belief that drug research has to be capital intensive, claiming that pocket-sized, drug factories “could theoretically end the control of large companies over manufacturing” [Welland cited in 47]. On the other hand, Waga believe that as scientists work with matter on a smaller scale approaching the nanoscale, more sophisticated and expensive equipment is required [48].
As with most emerging technology, one cannot generalise about nanotechnology innovation being ‘expensive’ or ‘inexpensive’. Rather, nanotechnology innovation encompasses a wide spectrum of R&D activity, from less sophisticated powders all the way through to highly complex quantum computers. Existing resources, niche areas for development and program aims will all play a role in any countries’ national assessment prior to engaging with nanotechnology R&D.

Facilitated Partnerships and Access to Information

Partnerships between countries are crucial for successful developing country engagement with nanotechnology. The U.S. NSF suggests that there is scope for ‘win-win’ in the pre-competitive stages of international nanotechnology R&D [31], although this acknowledges, in part, that the situation becomes ‘zero-sum’ when the research moves to the commercialisation stage. The NSF also sees ground for leveraging investments and educating young investigators [31] and that “research groups in different countries and regions can bring complementary expertise to solve common problems for the ultimate benefit of society as a whole” [Haworth in 31 preface]. In 2002, the NSF had already developed partnerships with India and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group [31] and, since then, has been integral in the development of national nanotechnology initiatives in Vietnam and Costa Rica [44, 48].

European Commission Partnerships

Similarly, the European Commission (EC), believing “a wider critical mass is beneficial” [49], has encouraged widespread participation in nanotechnology. In promoting their Sixth Framework Programme, the EC highlighted the possibility of funding for developing country nanotechnology projects [49]. Simultaneously, the EC negotiated bilateral nanotechnology partnerships with Argentina, India, Chile, China, Russia and South Africa [50].

Asia Pacific Partnerships

Regional partnerships in the Asia Pacific are meeting with some success for developing countries. The Asia Nano Forum involves 13 countries including China, India, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. Similarly, the APNF offers opportunities for Asian countries to engage in dialogue on collaboration and has already held international nanotechnology meetings on issues as widespread as human resources development and environmental protection and pollution.
Partnerships for Countries in the Bottom Third of the HDI Rankings
Apart from South Africa and India, we have found no evidence to suggest any official R&D partnerships including countries in the bottom third of the HDI rankings. Yet, with nanotechnology research underway in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Botswana and expressions of interest from Kenya, Senegal, Swaziland, Ghana, Tanzania and Afghanistan concerning an engagement with nanotechnology, the opportunity exists for nanotechnology partnerships to promote emerging science in some of the less-developed countries. In Africa, where nanotechnology research “has been largely academic and disparate” [51], regional partnerships and pooling of resources, both virtual and physical, may offer geographical and cultural advantages over trans-continental partnerships and present the operative strategy for African engagement in nanotechnology R&D.
In 2003 the World Bank provided $1/4 million for a ‘nano science and technology observatory’ as part of the Brazilian Millennium Institute in nanotechnology [52]. However, noting the inappropriateness of a ‘developed world model’ for nanotechnology innovation in developing countries [39, 53], caution must be taken to ensure nanotechnology is not viewed as a means by which developing countries are to replicate the development path of the industrialised nations. Such understanding was demonstrated at the UNIDO-sponsored, ‘2004 Technology Fair of the Future’. This event incorporated nanotechnology and “allowed least developed countries to present their technology needs, to identify mechanisms to match needs and trends and to determine their potential role in global value chains” [54].

Barriers to Global Partnerships

One barrier to global partnership is that clear information concerning national nanotechnology activity and global resources, remains unavailable or beyond the access capability of many. Reports outlining international activity in nanotechnology, such as the ‘Lux Report’, currently cost in excess of $4500r. The Global Nanotechnology Network, formed out of the 2001 ‘Workshop on International Collaboration and Networking’, seeks to address this situation by facilitating information exchange, collaborations and access to critical resources in the field of nanotechnology [55].
r. See: https://www.globalsalespartners.com/lux/order.asp?retrysecure=1 for cost details.

Scientific Publishing

With scientific journals becoming increasingly unaffordable for developing countries [56], examples such as the online AzoNano Journal of Nanotechnology offer a unique and important step towards open-access information in cutting-edge science, technology and policy, via financial incentives for authors and reviewers. The associated websites provides a free database for many issues and research papers related to nanotechnology. Another site, managed by SciDev.nett, offers efficient, free access to nanotechnology updates compiled by some of its 300 researchers posted around the world. This group has agreements with some of the most prestigious journals, such as Science, allowing them to post articles on their site, free of charge.
Electronic education offers one avenue to bridge the gap between differing academic expertise internationally [57], particularly those that have a growing ICT infrastructure and reasonably inexpensive bandwidth costs. In 2004, Dr Joe Shapter from Flinders University, in Australia, conducted an Internet link-up between Australia and New Zealand, hosting an online, real-time nanotechnology demonstration involving the use of atomic force microscopy. This opens the way for an interactive, online method of international training for teachers in countries lacking such expertise [58].
s. http://www.azonano.com/.
t. http://www.scidev.net/

Health-Related Nanotechnology Patent Activity

Our assessment of health-related nanotechnology patents registered 1256 distinct results, showing that 35 countries have a share in the global distribution (as shown in Figure 2). The three leading countries are the U.S. (32.8%), China (20.3%) and Germany (12.9%), with the top 7 countries holding 88% of the overall patent share. Compañó and Hullman’s study of general nanotechnology patents from 1991-99 shows a similar concentration among the top 7 country holders (92.1%) [12]. However, unlike their study where the only transitional or developing countries ranking in the top 15 holders were Israel and Russia [12], our research showed that in health-related nanotechnology, patent participation extends to the transitional countries of South Korea (3.9%), Israel (0.9%), Russia (0.5%), Taiwan (0.3%), the British Virgin Islands (0.2%), Hong Kong (0.2%), Hungary (0.2%), Poland (0.2%), Singapore (0.2%), Bermuda (0.1%) and Slovenia (0.1%). Furthermore, developing country patent holders include China (20.3%), India (0.5%), Brazil (0.1%), and Serbia and Montenegro (0.1%).

Figure 2. Distribution of health-related nanotechnology patent activity (1975-2004), by country.

World Leaders in Nanotechnology Research

Whilst commentators have suggested that the U.S. “does not dominate nanotechnology research” [31] or “…have a commanding lead as it was for other S&T (science and technology) megatrends” [59], it would appear that the U.S. has a very strong position in health-related nanotechnology. However, the 2004 data shows China catching up to the U.S. in health-related nanotechnology patenting, with 123 patents, compared with 128 for the U.S. Third placed Germany produced 39 patents (See Figure 3).
Figure 3. 2004 Distribution of health-related nanotechnology patent activity by country.
Health-Related Nanotechnology Development in China
Challenging a 2003 report that stated Chinese domestic studies in biomedicine lagged behind those in developed countries [60], the present data suggests that China will use health-related nanotechnology to leverage its position in the 21st century knowledge economy. The strength of China’s patenting defies the general statistic that less than 2 per cent of all the world’s patents are granted to scientists in the South [6] but obscures weak levels of patenting among the other developing countries.

Health-Related Nanotechnology Development in India

With India touted as “likely to become a leader in nano technology within the next five to ten years” [Pillai, cited in 61], the country remains behind the rest of the world by about 6 years in nanotech patenting [Sastry, cited in 45]. Yet these results come at a time of great transition for developing country patent regimes in light of required accession to the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement. Furthermore, Indian research has been strengthened by a number of domestically-based, international nanotechnology healthcare conferences. In both 2003 and 2005, an international workshop on ‘Nanotechnology and Healthcare’ saw a wide range of researchers and industry professionals, including Nobel laureates, gather in India to discuss applications of nanotechnology in frontier areasu. These conferences flanked ‘The First World Congress on Nano-biotechnology’ in 2004, and “Nanobiotechnology: Implications on Food, Health and Nutrition Security”, in 2005.
u. See http://www.sastra.edu/nthc/ for more details.

Distribution of Health-Related Patents by Continent

When we look at the distribution of health-related patents, by continent (shown in Figure 4), we see little separating Europe (36.7%), North America (34.2%) and Asia (28.8%). The large involvement of Asia suggests that nanotechnology may be the first widespread technology in which Asian countries have a foundational role. Competition, arising from a relatively evenly distribution of patents across the three continents will probably lead to a more rapid development of nanotechnology but may do little for partnership outside these regions. Few or no patents are held in Oceania (0.2%) South America (0.1%) and Africa (0%). This furthers our earlier claims that a ‘nano-divide’ may exist within the developing world highlighting the continental divide in health-related nanotechnology patenting.

Figure 4. Global distribution of nanotechnology health-related patent share, by region.

Patent Ownership by Sector

With respect to sectoral ownership, 77% of patents are held privately, 16% by universities, 5% by government and 2% by independent, not-for-profit organisations (outlined in Table 4).

Table 4. Distribution of health-related nanotechnology patent activity, by sectors.

This data is consistent with the belief that “independent public research is becoming extinct” [6]. As Chrispeels notes, research contributing to the Green Revolution was conducted in the public domain and included free distribution of resultant technologies, “without concerns for the intellectual property rights of those who produced them” [36]. However, in the 21st century there is an increasing difficulty of public sector researchers to access technologies to fulfil their missions [62].
The top 20 holders account for 28% of the patents (Comprehensive data is shown in Table 5), with the top 10 institutions holding 22% of the total. The difference here, as compared with biotechnology, is that many of these are multinational corporations (MNCs), engaging right from the ‘beginning’ [63].

Table 5. Top 20 institutions with health-related nanotechnology patent activity.

Of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies on the U.S. market (according to NDCHealth figuresv), Sanofi-Aventis, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca and Merck have all engaged in nanotechnology patenting. Two further drug giants: Elan Pharma International and Novartis, hold strong patent positions in health-related nanotechnology.
Yet, highlighted by a recent report claiming pharmaceutical giants are investing less money and people in nanotechnology than other industries [16], a number of big pharma companies are noticeably absent from health-related nanotechnology patenting. These include the top pharmaceutical manufacturer in the U.S.: Pfizer, along with Johnson and Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Abbott Labs and Amgen. Nordon suggests this offers a situation similar to that in biotechnology, “allowing new competitors to take root” [Nordon, cited in 16].
The concern that health-related patents will be ‘locked up’ extends beyond ‘big pharma’ because, with nanotechnology, patents can cross over many industrial sectors [Mooney, cited in 64]. Two of the top 20 institutions with health-related patents (Eastman Kodak and The Regents of the University of California) are also two of the greatest assignees for general nanotechnology patents [8]. Considering that legislative prohibitions, such as the non-patentability of living material, do not stand in the way of nanotechnology, the ETC Group believes that convergence at the nanoscale will become the “operative strategy for corporate control” in 21st century healthcare[63].
In an era when, both within and across countries, health-related decisions are increasingly based upon ‘economic return’ [65], the additional concern is that nanotechnology R&D will be oriented towards the needs of Northern markets [5], thereby exacerbating the 10/90 gapw. For example, though heralded in the literature as an application aimed at a predominantly developing country issuex, Starpharma’s manager of drug development confirmed that their HIV microbicide gel is likely to be aimed at commercialisation on the U.S. and Australian markets by 2010 [McCarthy, cited in, 67]. Such examples provide a good opportunity to more carefully consider suggestions that official development assistance and United Nations’ specialised agency programs assess an incorporation of nanotechnology-based applications [5, 68].
v. Available at: http://www.ndchealth.com/press_center/pressreleasearchive.asp.
w. Whereby, only 10% of spending on health research and development is directed at the health problems of 90% of the world’s people” [66].
x. See, for example: [5].

Assessing Patents by Utility

Assessing patents by utility, we notice the strong emphasis on therapeutic applications. A large number of patents relate to cosmetic and sunscreen applications, providing initial evidence for Barker et al.’s concern that nanotechnology may be directed at applications most applicable to the North [5]. However, the great majority of therapeutic patents are focussed on new drug delivery mechanisms, already highlighted as an important application for the developing world. Furthermore, a number of applications describe the combining of nanotechnology with traditional medicine for therapeutic benefit. The strength of therapeutically-related patents, compared to diagnostic-related patents challenges Tegart’s suggestion that nanotechnology applications could encourage detection outpacing response capability [2].

Table 6. Categorisation of health-related nanotechnology patents, by utility.

Patents Classified by Disease

An assessment of all titles and abstracts for cited diseases shows that patenting is strongest for non-communicable diseases (see Figure 5 for a list of the 10 most cited diseases). By citation, cancer is receiving the greatest focus, propelled by funding such as the $144 million committed to nanotechnology cancer research in the U.S. [69]. Yet cancer’s burden, in terms of overall numbers, is greatest in the developing world [70]. Hepatitis is the second most cited disease, yet the majority of patents relate to Hepatitis B which is most prevalent in the developing world [71]. Non-communicable diseases include osteoporosis, beri-beri, stroke and diabetes mellitus. Yet, much of the projected doubling of diabetes mellitus cases by 2025 will stem from increases in developing countries [72]. Influenza, acne, AIDS and vaginitis represent the remaining communicable diseases and are conditions prevalent in both the developed and developing world. Numerous references to various waterborne diseases, staph infections and viruses such as HIV were not included in this research but would have shown HIV/AIDS receiving a greater focus than represented in our disease citation data.

Figure 5. The 10 most cited diseases in health-related nanotechnology patent abstracts.

With a growing recognition that “…health differences between countries will be narrowed” [73], one challenge is to ensure that developed world research into areas such as cancer, hepatitis and AIDS does not limit research into developing country applications. As discovered with ‘Golden Rice’, “when it came time to prepare this new rice for those countries and people for whom it was intended… many of the techniques used by the researchers were patented…” and these barriers took a great deal of time and effort to overcome [62].
The research shows very little focus on neglected diseases. Two of the worlds greatest killers, malaria and tuberculosis, are noticeably absent from any significant level of nanotechnology patenting. In one respect, this could mean that little research being undertaken in these areas has been transferred to the commercial setting. However, what is more likely is its signifying that these diseases are receiving attention disproportionate to their global impact.

Global Participation Nanotechnology Dialogue

Court et al have suggested that the greatest lesson nanotechnology can learn from biotechnology is that there should be a democratic and more widespread participation in discussions concerning society [4]. To avoid a ‘Genetically Modified Organism-style’ backlash but simultaneously ensure legitimate handling of public concerns, developing country representatives must play a significant part in global nanotechnology discussions.
Forty-three participants from 25 countries gathered in the U.S. for the first intergovernmental dialogue on Responsible Research and Development of Nanotechnology (IDRDN) and 106 participants from 18 countries assembled in Italy for the North-South Dialogue on Nanotechnology: Challenges and Opportunities (NSDN).

Table 7. Breakdown of country representation at the International Dialogue on Responsible Research and Development of Nanotechnology and the North-South Dialogue on

Both conferences demonstrated a strong presence from the host nation, with Italy contributing 67% of the overall NSDN participants. Developing country representation, in both dialogues, was weak, contributing to 30% of the IDRDN constituency and 13% for the NSDN. Furthermore, in a breakout group at the IDRDN, titled ‘nanotechnology and developing countries’, only 3 of the 13 representatives were from developing countries (Argentina, South Africa and Mexico). Moreover, participants in this group commented that the allocated time for their discussions (less than two hours) was insufficient [42].

China’s Absence from Discussions

Whilst South Africa played a leading role in developing country representation at both events, Chinese delegates were notably absent from both meetingsy. A lack of Chinese engagement in international nanotechnology dialogue weakens efforts to ensure nanotechnology is developed responsibly and for the benefit of those most in need.
y. Although a Chinese paper was distributed at the NSDN.

Concerns for Some Developing Nations

With many development groups tending “…to stay away from the emerging nanotechnology debate” [5], there is significant concern that developing country voices will not be heard in the international development of nanotechnology. This was highlighted by a session on nanotechnology held at the 5th World Social Forum in Brazil. Furthermore, representatives from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh, as signatories of the ‘Dhaka Declaration’, wrote of their concern for the loss of traditional methods and potential health risks associated with nanotechnology [74].

Attempting to Address The Lack of Cohesion in Global Nanotechnology Policy

Some attempts have been made to address the lack of cohesion in global nanotechnology policy. The International Association of Nanotechnology claims to address important global issues such as: nomenclature &amp;amp;amp; terminology; safety; standards; intellectual property; regulation; ethics; society and the environment [75]. The International Council On Nanotechnology (ICON) is the “only global organization aimed at providing… meaningful and organized relationships among diverse stakeholders” [76]. The International Nanotechnology and Society Network “consists of researchers exploring the connections between society and the possible upcoming changes provided by nanotechnology research” [77].Yet all three examples are U.S.-based, posing logistical and, perhaps, political challenges to an incorporation of truly global perspectives. Furthermore, major environmental groups invited to participate in ICON, have protested that the sole funding for the group comes from industrial members [78, 79]. Hence the need for a permanent United Nations’ committee on nanotechnology to ensure debates occur outside the national context but include a truly global range of national perspectives.


Our research has shown a more widespread developing country engagement and interest in nanotechnology R&D than previously documented although this, itself, will not promote a more equitable engagement with global science. Early signs are that developing countries will direct nanotechnology R&D to ‘value-add’ to export markets, rather than use nanotechnology to promote sustainable development. The considerable absence from countries with a low HDI signals that the ‘nano-divide’ is already here and exists just as strongly within the developing world as between the North and South. Although some examples are provided of developing countries inexpensively establishing national nanotechnology programs, one cannot generalise about the cost of nanotechnology innovation. Considerable barriers exist for less-developed countries seeking to engage with nanotechnology R&D on a national level. Some of these barriers are uniform but entry costs will vary from country to country depending on factors such as the selection of research directions.
A number of international nanotechnology partnerships and alliances have been established. At the moment, partnerships look set to promote some of the more industrialised developing countries, leaving behind many of the less-developed countries interested in nanotechnology. The challenge for people in policy circles investigating the engagement of developing countries with nanotechnology is to constantly assess whether their work is helping reduce technological dependency in both hard and soft forms. A combination of regionally- and internationally-facilitated access to resources and information may prove crucial for developing countries geographically isolated from nanotechnology infrastructure and R&D.
Viewing the overall picture of health-related nanotechnology patents, we see that control lies firmly with the industrialised countries of the North, although China is ensuring strong representation from the developing world, relative to its general patent input. The U.S. holds a strong lead in health-related nanotechnology patenting. However, the 2004 data indicates that China is placing pressure on U.S. dominance. Ownership rests firmly with the private sector, following a relatively earlier MNC engagement with nanotechnology than witnessed with biotechnology. The research is primarily oriented towards therapeutic applications, particularly drug delivery mechanisms, with great interest in cancer and hepatitis. Many of the diseases and conditions cited in the patents hold increasing relevance for the developing world although it must not be assumed that such research can, or will, be transferred.
Global participation in the development of nanotechnology policy and directions appears limited to U.S.- and European-led efforts with the notable absence of China from key international meetings. As it is currently placed, nanotechnology is in danger of replicating the inequitable trends of biotechnology with respect international participation in dialogue.
Overall, there are some encouraging signs that certain developing countries could play a significant role in the global development of nanotechnology. Yet, in light of increasing, market-based barriers and limited country participation on a number of levels, early signs are that nanotechnology will promote a greater global technological divide.


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Contact Details

Donald C. Maclurcan
Institute for Nanoscale Technology, University of Technology, Sydney
PO Box 123, Broadway, Sydney, 2006,Australia.
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Monday, November 07, 2005

Nanotechnology and Developing Countries - Part 1: What Possibilities

Nanotechnology and Developing Countries - Part 1: What Possibilities: Donald C. Maclurcan
Submitted: June 28th, 2005, Posted: September 30th, 2005
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In recent times, nanotechnology has been included in a number of the debates considering emerging technology and developing countries. However, the literature considering nanotechnology’s application to the developing world has often varied in its interpretation of what nanotechnology really is. Furthermore, despite a wide range of perspectives as to the relevance, appropriateness and potential impact of nanotechnology for developing countries, the key debates have often remained disengaged. This paper attempts to clarify understandings of nanotechnology and synthesize discussions on issues of relevance, appropriateness and distribution with respect to developing countries. In support, recent developments in nanotechnology and healthcare are provided.


In recent times, a number of research groups have stimulated debate on nanotechnology’s possible applications and implications for developing countries [see, for example, 1, 2, 3]. However, many of the subsequent papers have failed to distinguish theoretical- from currently feasible-nanotechnology [see, for example, 3, 4, 5]. In international debates, distinction between the near-term, possible reality and theoretical science is crucial to the efficient exchange of information.
Furthermore, amongst those considering developing country engagement with nanotechnology, a range of perspectives are held concerning ‘appropriateness’ and nanotechnology’s likely impact on the developing world. Some individuals challenge a pervasive acceptance of nanotechnology, expressing concern about developing country exploitation [Shiva cited in 6], insubstantial consideration for issues of risk and regulation [7], the loss of traditional markets [8] and an identification of nanotechnology applications that fails to consider historical trends and current barriers to technology distribution [9]. Others adopt a more utilitarian approach, linking nanotechnology applications in water, energy, health, food and agriculture to the fulfilment of the United Nation’s (U.N.) Millennium Development Goals[1] [4, 10], despite earlier recognition of its potential to stimulate a greater divide between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ [1].
Despite surprising levels of nanotechnology research and development (R&D) in the developing world [1], arguments concerning nanotechnology’s role as a protagonist or antagonist to sustainable development[2] remain disengaged.
In this paper we seek to clarify understandings of nanotechnology and synthesize discussions on issues of relevance, appropriateness and equity with respect to developing countries. With infectious and parasitic disease remaining the greatest cause of death in the developing world [12] and nanotechnology predicted to affect half of the world’s drug production by 2011 [13], examples relevant to health are commonly cited.

What is Nanotechnology and How is it New?

For citizens in the developed world already exposed to the term ‘nanotechnology’, associated impressions may be that it deals with ‘very small things’, concerns ‘submarine robots in the bloodstream’ and brings with it the threat of ‘grey goo’[3]. The latter, more popular ideations, essentially stem from K. Eric Drexler’s proposal that atoms and molecules could act as self-assembling machinery, performing production tasks at the nanoscale[4] [15].
However, what is now universally accepted as ‘nanotechnology’, yet sometimes less noted, is an area evolving somewhat independently of Drexler’s visions. Following challenges from the general scientific community, on the basis of technological feasibility, Drexler renamed his understanding and aspirations for nanotechnology: ‘molecular manufacturing’. Thus, in the 21st Century, the term ‘nanotechnology’, whilst similar to molecular manufacturing in that it involves work on the level of atoms and molecules, refers to an applied science, focussed upon exploiting novelties arising from size-dependent phenomena exhibited in nanoscale matter. When dealing with matter below approximately 50 nanometres, the laws of quantum physics supersede those of traditional physics, resulting in “…changes to a substance’s conductivity, elasticity, reactivity, strength, colour, and tolerance to temperature and pressure” [16]. Such changes are useful to all industrial sectors where nanotechnology will enable smaller, faster, ‘smarter’, cheaper, lighter, safer, cleaner and more precise solutions [17-19]. For example, in the field of drug delivery, Peppas notes that nanoscale pH-sensitive hydrogels for treating patients with multiple sclerosis, “release at varying rates depending on the pH of the surrounding environment”, suggesting that “…these nanoparticle carriers may protect drugs from being broken down in the body until they reach the small intestine” [20]. Furthermore, progressing from the micro- to nano-scale involves inherent increases in a material’s surface area and surface-to-volume ratio that can be used to manufacturing advantage.

Ancient Origins of Nanotechnology

Yet, utilising science at the nanoscale is not new. For example, in the 4th Century A.D., the Romans applied gold and silver nanoparticles to colour glass cups [21]. The resulting artefacts were red in transmitted light and green in reflected light – a sophistication not reproduced again until medieval times. There are many scientists today who would argue they have been conducting research in the realms of the nanoscale since well before 1990.

Reasons Why Nanotechnology has only Come to the Fore in Recent Times

So how come more and more people are talking about nanotechnology as the ‘next big thing’ if it has ‘existed’ for such a long time? There are three main reasons. Firstly, only in the past few decades have we really had the experimental means to conduct work focussed on activity at the nanoscale. Emerging tools, including scanning probe microscopy, quantum mechanical computer simulation and soft X-ray lithography, have combined with new synthesis methods, such as chemical vapour deposition, leading to a significantly greater, ever accelerating understanding of scientific endeavour at the nanoscale. These progressions have been paralleled by the discovery of materials such as fullerenes and nanotubes and, in more recent years, stimulated by a flood of government nanotechnology funding in countries such as the U.S., China and Japan.
Secondly, nanotechnology has, as its underlying aim, the desire to manufacture with ultimate precision on the atomic scale in a ‘bottom-up’ manner. This means that, rather than the traditional approach to manufacturing whereby bulk materials are whittled down, nanotechnology aims to produce devices commencing with the self-assembly of individual atoms into precise configurations, as has been the case with combinational chemistry for many years. Whilst a great deal of nanotechnology continues to utilise ‘top-down’ processes such as lithography, the gradual trend is towards ‘bottom-up’ approaches that hold numerous, long-term manufacturing, financial and environmental advantages.
Thirdly, and arguably most importantly, the recognition of nanotechnology as an emerging field demands and creates new levels of multi-disciplinary collaboration and cross-fertilisation amongst the sciences. Practically, this happens because of the integrated exploitation of biological principles, physical laws and chemical properties at the nanoscale [22]. The increasing desire and need to classify technology resulting from nanoscale manipulation and the progressive integration of scientific disciplines at a unifying length-scale, has led to the accepted term ‘nanotechnology’, under which new research is growing and existing research is often re-classified. Whilst nanotechnology is projected by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) to have a global market value of $1 trillion[5] by 2011 [23], early signs in the information and communications technology (ICT) and textile industries are that nanotechnology is more complementary, than displacing.
According to a UNESCO-sponsored study in 1996, “nanotechnology will provide the foundation of all technologies in the new century” [24]. However, basket-casing nanotechnology as ‘another biotechnology’ runs the risk of disregarding novel implications (both advantageous and detrimental). For those involved in the development of nanotechnology policy, one of the greatest challenges will be the efficient use of time; distinguishing and dealing with novel ethical, legal and social implications whilst ensuring appropriate contextualisation.

Relevant, Appropriate Applications for Developing Country Healthcare?

Given the ‘capital intensive, high-tech, science fiction’ branding it has received from much of the developed world media, nanotechnology would appear highly incongruous with sustainable development practices. In response to a recent study that ranked nanotechnology applications, from social development cluster areas[6], according to their potential benefit for developing countries [10], Invernizzi and Foladori, cite the ability of China and Vietnam to significantly reduce malaria in the last century without the use of emerging technologies [9].
Furthermore, Brown notes that, “within development circles there is a suspicion of technology boosters as too often people promoting expensive, inappropriate fixes that take no account of development realities” [26]. Others believe the promotion and debate about nanotechnology in countries such as India, China and Brazil, threatens to divert and detract resources, political will and attention from the needs of the poor [27] and could inhibit research necessary to “address society’s problems in a systemic manner” [Mulvaney cited in 6]. In addition to nanotechnology possibly promoting a ‘technical fix’ approach [28], there is a concern that high entry prices for new procedures and skills are “very likely to exacerbate existing divisions between rich and poor” [Healy, cited in, 28].

Dispelling Misconceptions about Nanotechnology

Yet much of the early commentary from research groups and developing countries engaging in nanotechnology discussions has been united in the identification of relevant applications in areas such as solar cell technology, water purification; and health-related diagnostics and therapeutics [1, 4, 29-32]. At an international policy level there has been a push from individuals, such as the U.N. Under-Secretary for Economic Affairs, to include nanotechnology in discussions concerning emerging technology and sustainable development [33]. Representatives from the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development and Commission on Science and Technology for Development have suggested that nanotechnology can help “reduce the cost and increase the likelihood of attaining the Millennium Development Goals” [34]. Individuals with the National Science Foundation of Sri Lanka believe that, whilst nanotechnology research and development is ‘high-tech’, the products it enables, can be appropriate for use throughout the world [30]. Harper suggests it is this misconception, that nanotechnology is “all about high technology, semiconductors and science fiction”, that is creating a major barrier to nanotechnology being viewed as appropriate to the development setting [35].

Potential Benefits of Nanotechnology to Developing Countries

In a recent study that ranked nanotechnology applications according to their potential benefit for developing countries, water treatment, disease diagnosis/screening and drug delivery systems respectively rated 3rd, 4th and 5th, behind energy storage, production, and conversion (1st) and agricultural productivity enhancement (2nd) [10]. Salvarezza believes nanotechnology offers an area such as developing country healthcare, “safer drug delivery, new methods for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases” [36]. In rural areas, Harper argues that pulmonary or epidermal drug delivery applications utilising nanotechnology, “have the potential to free up the large numbers of trained medical personnel who are currently engaged in administering drugs via hypodermic needles” [35]. Furthermore, Barker comments that slow-release drugs, important for those in remote areas, could be assisted by nano-porous membranes [4]. In a joint project between groups in the U.S., India and Mexico, inexpensive, maintenance free solar panels, aimed at powering rural clinics and refrigerating medicines, are currently being developed [37]. Could nanotechnology empower local healthcare auxiliaries, in rural settings worldwide, to address diagnostic and therapeutic concerns by reducing reliance on trained specialists or technical assistance? Or does such as suggestion sound similar to the many promises of past technological revolutions that were challenged by the realities of global development and domestic technology distribution?

Diagnosis and Treatment of Tuberculosis using Nanotechnology

Many believe nanotechnology offers new ways to address residual scientific concerns for Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB). Declared a global emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1993, the re-emerging threat of TB continues to be technically compounded by significant increases in the prevalence of multi-drug resistance (MDR), in a number of settings [38]. Treatments with improved sustained release profiles and bioavailability can increase compliance through reduced drug requirements and therein minimise MDR-TB [39]. Additionally, improved diagnostic tools are required to meet the needs of the WHO’s expansion of the Directly Observed Treatment Short-course, MDR and co-infection with HIV [40].
In India, the country with the highest estimated number of TB cases [41], research is underway into the role nanotechnology can play in addressing such concerns. A nanotechnology-based TB diagnostic kit, designed by the Central Scientific Instruments Organisation of India and currently in the clinical trials phase, does not require skilled technicians for use [42] and offers efficiency, portability, user-friendliness and availability for as little as 30 rupees [43] (less than US$1). In the Medical Sciences division of the U.S. Department of Energy, researchers are investigating an optical biosensor for rapid TB detection [44]. Furthermore, a group at RMIT University, in Australia, is conducting research into the application of novel tethered nanoparticles as low-cost, colour based assays for TB diagnosis [45].
Polylactide co-glycolide nanoparticles are being investigated by groups at Harvard University (U.S.), the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (India) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (South Africa), as drug carriers for treating TB [46-48]. So far, all groups have registered high levels of drug encapsulation efficiency, whilst both the Indian and South African groups have demonstrated sustained release profiles. Furthermore, the Indian group have reported increased bioavailability and “undetectable bacterial counts in the lungs and spleens of Mycobacterium tuberculosis-infected mice” 21 days post-inoculation [49]. The South African group claim that a prototype of their work should be ready for commercialisation by 2007/8 [39]. Furthermore, a nanotechnology-based vaccine adjuvant for TB was developed by the U.S firm, Biosante, in 2002 [50].

Nanotechnology Research into Prevention of Other Infectious Diseases such as HIV/AIDS

TB is just one example of current nanotechnology research relevant to infectious diseases most prevalent in the developing world. Inter alia, science ministers from South Africa, Brazil and India have been working together on identifying ways in which nanotechnology can assist HIV/AIDS [3]. An Australian company, StarpharmaTM, is developing a preventative, clear, HIV microbicide gel, based on dendrimer nanotechnology, that would remain effective when applied by women up to four hours in advance of sexual intercourse [51]. Also in Australia, the Austin Research Institute has conducted successful trials into nano-vaccines for malaria [52]. Researchers at the State University of Campinas, Brazil, are investigating drug and vaccine delivery for leishmaniasis [53]. At the Chidicon Medical Center in Nigeria, researchers are studying nanoscale copolymer assemblies for diagnostic imaging and therapeutic management of infectious diseases [54]. Furthermore, in a joint project between the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (U.S.) and Banaras Hindu University (India), scientists are investigating easy-to-manufacture, carbon nanotube filters that remove nano-scale germs, such as the polio viruses, E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, from water [55].

Long Term Effects of Nanoparticles

Whilst Barker comments that “any helpful technologies should be brought into service…” for developing countries [4], others caution about the unknown risks associated with nanoparticle accumulation, toxicology and permeation [2]. As a report to the European parliament noted, “the state of research concerning [sic]... The behaviour of nano-particles is actually rather limited, preliminary as well as contradictory” [56]. Whilst the comprehensive 2004 report by the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering (U.K.) recommends that “factories and research laboratories treat manufactured nanoparticles and nanotubes as if they were hazardous waste streams” [28], many traditional Chinese medicines are now known to have contained metal nanoparticles [57]. Hoet et al. argue that “…producers of nanomaterials have a duty to provide relevant toxicity test results for any new material, according to prevailing international guidelines on risk assessment” [58], leaving others disturbed that the cosmetic industry has refused to release test data into the public domain[7], despite claiming that products such as sunscreen lotions are safe [59].
Furthermore, early suggestions from the U.S. and U.K., that nanotechnology is inherently regulated [56], have encountered stiff opposition from the action group on erosion, technology and concentration (ETC group), and others, who believe nanotechnology enters a ‘regulatory vacuum’ and that some new properties of nanoparticles are not covered by existing chemical regulations [2, 60].

Risk versus Benefits of Nanotechnology and its Effect on Applications

However, in light of the debate surrounding Genetically Modified foods, Court et al. argue that an exclusive focus from the developed world upon issues of risk threatens to divert attention from identifying and applying nanotechnology to the developing world [1]. An engagement with ‘risk’ and the consideration of nanotechnology’s application to the developing world need not be mutually exclusive. In fact, although technological ‘risk’ affects countries in different ways depending on the nature of their engagement with change, it remains a universal consideration and a crucial factor in ensuring the appropriateness of new technology, to any setting.
Although in-depth discussions about health risks and the contribution of developing country perspectives are beyond the scope of this paper, it is clear that a number of issues remain unresolved and require greater consideration that incorporates truly global perspectives.

The Potential Nature of Developing Country Engagement with Nanotechnology

The nature of nanotechnology’s global impact will largely depend on the answers to five, key questions surrounding nanotechnology innovation: who? what? when? where? and why? Developing countries will experience differing forms of engagement with nanotechnology but can we comment on any overall impacts? Will nanotechnology, as Daar suggests, be “a profitable industry for countries in the South[8]” [61]? Or will it “exploit the South” [Shiva cited in 6] and threaten developing country markets in primary production areas such as cotton, rubber and minerals [8]?
Will developing countries play the role of the ‘manufacturing-base’ for nanotechnology innovation, as suggested by Whittingham and Bateman’s 2003 ‘cost-benefit analysis of moving nanotechnology R&D and manufacturing to Eastern European and developing countries’ [62]? Already, Malaysia and South Africa have been highlighted as countries with comparative advantage in manufacturing for nanotechnology [32, 63].

Which Countries will Manufacture and which Will become Nanotechnology Importers

Perhaps the nature of developing country engagement with nanotechnology is believed as largely given? Salvarezza argues that an identification of Northern-based nanotechnology applications for the developing world predisposes participants to a scenario where “developing countries appear as passive actors… turning them into NT [nanotechnology] importers”, widening economic and technological dependence [36].
Yet others point to the effective development of biotechnology R&D in China, India, Brazil and Cuba, suggesting an early developing country engagement with nanotechnology innovation could reduce the possibility of these countries being net importers of the technology [25, 64]. Given that domestic innovation and technological advance have been identified as the most important mechanism for the ability of countries to improve economically and ultimately close the rich-poor divide [65], nanotechnology has been promoted by a recent UNESCO report as important to developing country innovation [3].

Developing Countries Active in Nanotechnology Development

With this in mind, a 2003 report by the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics claimed a number of developing countries are exhibiting a “surprising amount of nanotechnology activity” [1]. The study noted that China, India and South Korea had established national activities in nanotechnology; Thailand, The Philippines, South Africa, Brazil and Chile had some form of government support and national funding programs were being developed; whilst Mexico and Argentina had some form of organised nanotechnology activity but no specific government funding [1]. Some see nanotechnology enabling developing countries “to ‘leap frog’ their way to leadership” [66], with the Indian government looking to use nanotechnology to ‘catch up’ in global economic terms [67, 68].

Patent Applications as an Indicator of Nanotechnology Activity

However, with patents known to be a useful indicator of “technology development” [69], an assessment of 2003 figures from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) highlighted the commanding lead held by the U.S. in nanoscale science and engineering patenting, with 42% of the overall share. Germany followed with 15.3%, and Japan was placed 3rd, with 12.6% [69]. Fast growth was said to be occurring in South Korea, the Netherlands, Ireland and China. A report later that year claimed China was ranked 3rd in general nanotechnology patents behind the U.S. and Japan [70].
Furthermore, of all the U.S. patent applications in nanotechnology, 90% are held by the private sector, with the remainder split amongst the public sector (roughly 7% from universities and 3% from government agencies and collaborative research centres) [71]. In recent times, companies such as ‘3M’, ‘IBM’ and ‘Hewlett Packard’ are allocating approximately one-third of their respective R&D budgets to nanotechnology [72]. Canadian-based nanotechnology start-up, ‘C Sixty Inc’, has, as its core assets, numerous patents concerning fullerenes and drug delivery. As their CEO stated, “if people want to get in this game they have to deal with us” [Sagman, cited in 73]. These figures and comments raise the concern that innovation will be tied up by the private sector of the North, with broad-sweeping patents limiting the development of new technologies and increasing global science’s ties to market demands [24].
A further example of market pressures was witnessed with the 2004 ‘Nanowater’ conference, held in North America. Following the claim by researchers at Oklahoma State University in the U.S. that they could utilise the ability of zinc oxide nanoparticles to remove arsenic from water [74], preliminary conference material presented Bangladesh as an example in which nanotechnology could address the very serious problem of arsenic levels and potable water. Furthermore, the conference aimed “to focus the attention of the nanotechnology community on the potential of technology to change the world for good” [75]. However, the conference did not involve any developing country in its proceedings, and developing country issues were not directly addressed[9].
Already, civil society organisations from South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Mali, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Benin have signed the ‘Cape Town Declaration’, calling for global participation in decisions about nanotechnology [76], highlighting fear that certain groups will be poorly represented in relevant discussions. The issue of participation is not limited to country participation. For nanotechnology to make a significant contribution to sustainable development within developing countries, a much greater interplay amongst business, academic, donor, non-governmental and governmental sectors is required [4].


Scientific developments and increasing international attention have promoted our ability to work with and understand the nanoscale. Nanotechnology provides a new focus for research through its aim to manufacture from the ‘bottom-up’ rather than from the ‘top down’. It also demands an unprecedented collaborative and integrated approach to science and technology. In the interest of dialogue, it is important that papers concerning nanotechnology and developing countries distinguish the kind of nanotechnology being discussed.
Like many past technologies, nanotechnology could be both relevant and appropriate to sustainable development practices in developing countries. In an area such as tuberculosis and rural health, nanotechnology has the potential to empower a local response to challenges such as the diagnosis and treatment of infectious disease. However, there is also a danger in viewing nanotechnology as a ‘solution’ to developing country challenges. In some cases its application may undermine alternative, more appropriate approaches to dealing with the problems at hand. Throughout nanotechnology’s ongoing evaluation process, both risk assessment and the global contextualisation of nanotechnology’s promises must be recognised as universal requirements in order for debates to progress on mutual ground.
However, with relatively little research commenting on global nanotechnology developments, the true picture, with respect to developing country engagement, remains unclear. A subsequent paper, published in this journal, will seek to clarify: which countries are engaging with nanotechnology R&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;D; the general focus of such research; who controls research in an area such as healthcare; the orientation of health-related research; and the levels of participation in international nanotechnology policy dialogue.


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Contact Details

Donald C. MaclurcanInstitute for Nanoscale Technology, University of Technology, SydneyPO Box 123, Broadway, Sydney, 2006 ,Australia
E-mail: mailto:Donald.C.Maclurcan@uts.edu.au

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