CS 2005 «Nanotechnology – Opportunities and Risks I»


Nanotechnology is perceived as one of the key technologies of the 21st century that has a major potential to generate new products and services with numerous benefits. Future developments in the field of nanotechnology are expected to multiply and diversify these benefits. However, the development of nanotechnology faces risks in terms of unintended economic, societal and environmental impacts. Recent studies in the field of nanotoxicology indicate that some nanomaterials have damage potential if they are exposed to humans or the environment during the production, manufacturing or application processes. Specific regulations and standardized risk assessments are still missing.

One reason for this is that multiple agents with different and also evolving knowledge, interests, competences, and resources drive the devel-opment of nanotechnology. Currently, most of the people who are and will be affected by nanotechnological products are not well informed, and subsequently, have not made up their opinion neither on the oppor-tunities nor on the risks of nanotechnology. The public discourse, for instance via the media, is still in the starting phase. Moreover, key agents from different institutional backgrounds are lead by hidden and latently conflicting agendas.

Therefore, joint efforts have to be taken in order to proceed towards a sustainable nanotechnology development. The Institute for Human-Environment Systems (HES) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich is conducting a transdisciplinary case study on opportunities and risks of nanotechnology.

The five project groups contribute to a better understanding of possible future developments, the agents involved and their interrelations, the “objective” risks and the perceived risks, as well as the acceptance and the apprehension potentials of nanotechnology applications. The overall aim of the study is to provide fundamental research results for governance of sustainable nanotechnology development.

To ensure the appropriate integration of the multiple perspectives on nanotechnology development, the case study is conducted within a transdisciplinary setting. Therein, the project leaders and the research group are supported by external experts, stakeholders and decision makers from science, industry, insurance business, federal institutions, consultancies constituting a Working Group and an Advisory Board.


PD Dr. Michael Siegrist (ETH), Dr. Arnim Wiek (ETH)
Sandro Bösch (ETH)
Marie-Eve Cousin (ETH), Silvia Frey (ETH), Åsgeir Helland (ETH), Lukas Gasser (ETH), Stefan Zemp (ETH)
Accompanying Working Group
Dr. Beatrice Capaul (BC2 Consulting), Dr. Thomas Epprecht (Swiss Re), Dr. Hans Kastenholz (Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research EMPA); Dr. Carmen Keller (University of Zurich), Dr. Sabine Kuratli (Swiss Federal Office of Public Health BAG); Peter Locher (Ernst Basler + Partner), Hans Näf (Bühler AG), PD Dr. Klaus Peter Rippe (ethik im diskurs), Prof. Dr. Wendelin Stark (ETH), Dr. Christoph Studer (Swiss Agency for the Environment, Forests and Landscape BUWAL)
Advisory Board
The Advisory Board of the study includes members from the following institutions: ETH Board, Swiss Re, The Geneva Association, F. Hoffmann-La Roche, Sika Technology AG, Swiss Association for Materials Science and Technology (SVMT), Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), CSEM Centre Suisse d'Electronique et de Microtechnique, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (EMPA), University of Basel, University of Lausanne, University of Zurich, Institute for Technology Assessment and System Analysis (ITAS), Research Center Karlsruhe (Germany).
57 ETH students


Research Papers


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