Nanotechnology is derived from the combination of two words Nano and Technology. It is usually defined as the understanding and control of matter at the nanoscale (one nanometre is 10-9 metre). It is a combination of various fields of science like, Bio- technology, Chemistry, Physics, Bio-informatics, etc. There are three chief divisions in Nanotech: Nanoelectronics, Nanomaterials, and Nano-Biotechnology. Worldwide, there is much enthusiasm about nanotechnology as it has application in medicine, electronics, biomaterials, energy etc. It is observed that US, Japan, and Germany dominate the current R&D effort in nanotechnology with a focus on their own expertise and needs. 2,5,6
Nanotechnology in India is a government led initiative. Nanotechnology R&D barring a few exceptions is largely being pursued at public funded universities as well as research institutions. India has sought to promote nanotechnology applications in sectors that are likely to have a wide impact, and influence the course of future development in the country. Sectors such as health, energy and environment have received greater attention by various technology departments in the government (Dept of Science and Technology, Dept of Biotechnology and Science and Engineering Research Council).1
Starting in 2001 the Government of India launched the Nano Science and Technology Initiative (NSTI). Then in 2007 the Nanoscience and Technology Mission 2007 was initiated with an allocation of Rupees 1000 crores for a period of five years. The main objectives of the Nano Mission are:
- basic research promotion,
- infrastructure development for carrying out front-ranking research,
- development of nano technologies and their applications,
- human resource development and
- international collaborations.
The Department of Science and Technology (DST) is the chief agency engaged in the development of nanotechnology. The Department of Information Tech (under the Ministry of Communications and IT) also has a ‘nanotechnology initiative division’. Furthermore, collaboration on nanoscience is part of nearly all S&T agreements between India and other countries. Overall GoI has invested approximately $400 million so far in creating capacity for nanotechnology research in the country. 1,2,3,7
Of late industry participation has also begun in this area, and there is an emphasis on fostering public–private partnerships (PPP). Nonetheless government support to this sector remains crucial for three reasons:
- Nanotechnology is a capital-intensive technology and is in an embryonic phase, thus industry would not be able to sustain the research effort needed for the establishment of scientific and technological infrastructure.
- The state is required to define the regulatory framework. In 2010-11 this process was initiated.
- The state ,particularly in the developing country context, can set the agenda and resist the tendency to uncritically follow international trends in research that do not address their developmental needs.
Despite the tremendous opportunities that nanotechnology offers, there are risks associated with it as well. Because of the size of the particles, nanomaterials may enter human and other living bodies and disrupt body-functions. Some nanoparticles may also be non-biodegradable thereby posing a new threat to the environment. Therefore it is crucial to examine and estimate the risk for regulating the production, use, consumption and disposal of these materials.1