On a recent trip to Stockholm, I gave a presentation on nanosafety at the Swedish Association of Graduate Engineers, which is the country's largest network for graduate engineers. The reception surprised me. In many fields, Finland is accustomed to following Sweden’s example, or at least emulating parts of a proven concept, when one exists. In nanosafety, however, Finland seems to be in the lead. Judging by the level of concern and type of questions that were presented, Finland’s authorities and research world seem to have done a good job in spreading basic understanding, advancing open communication and implementing corrective measures in the work environment.
Those of us who embarked on technology-intensive careers around 2005 in Finland couldn't have avoided being affected by the hype around nanotechnology, the can-do technology! Not without reason was nanotechnology generally known as a fourteen-letter word to fast funding. Including an aspect of nanotechnology in any start-up case or governmentally financed research project significantly increased the odds of landing a grant.
Parallel with the opportunities of nanotech, however, lie the adverse effects. Is nanotechnology safe? That question has long been feeding the anxiety of corporate leaders and the research budgets of occupational and environmental safety scientists. The research budgets in Finland, in my opinion, have been money well spent.
Joe Pimenoff is Head of Application Development at Beneq Lumineq Displays, and former Occupational Safety and Health Manager for Beneq.