Companies test Safe-by-Design and are positive. This is evident from work by the European project NanoReg2. The nanotechnology companies saw the opportunity to reduce risks early in the innovation process. It turns out to be difficult to choose the most suitable Safe-by-Design measures.
Safe-by-Design aims to minimize risks to health and the environment. The earlier in the innovation process these potential risks are known, the sooner companies can do something about them. To do this, they have to look at the functionality of a nanomaterial. But also to safety and the costs involved.

What did the study show?

In this NanoReg2 project, 6 companies have introduced Safe-by-Design. They applied Safe-by-Design measures for nanomaterials, nanoproducts or nanomaterial production processes. This led to favorable results for the participating companies:

  • Avanzare no longer has liquid waste and employees hardly use powdered graphene.
  • Group Antolin reduced workers’ exposure to carbon nanofibers. And chose the best carbon nanofiber making method.
  • HIQ-nano has compared the toxicity of two materials and devised new solutions for the safest possible material.
  • NanoGap reduced silver waste by 50%.
  • Nanomakers reduced the risk of explosion and worker exposure. And they have assessed the financial feasibility of the measures.

What is required for Safe-by-Design?

  • Broad knowledge for the introduction of Safe-by-Design in the nanotechnology sector. Topics such as materials science, chemical engineering, harmfulness, exposure and risk, and handling large amounts of data are all important.
  • Data sharing is necessary to streamline the implementation of Safe-by-Design. This also helps make it affordable for businesses.
  • Data on physicochemical properties, hazards and exposure must be collected in robust and reliable databases. And these databases must be accessible.
  • Training on the use of databases and risk assessment tools. This would facilitate the introduction of Safe-by-Design and promote the development of sustainable nanoproducts.

What does the RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment think?

Materials, products and processes must be safe from the outset. Safe materials, products and processes are a precondition for a circular economy and a safe living environment. Not enough is known about possible adverse health effects of a large number of nanomaterials. This requires new smart ways. These should reduce the uncertainty about the safety of nanomaterials. Safe-by-Design can be very helpful in this, together with the developed instruments that go with it. It is an effective approach to develop safe innovations in a smart way.

Embedding of Safe-by-Design

The companies participating in the project used a number of tools and measures. This can be seen in the Safe-by-Design examples from practice. It is an important development towards embedding Safe-by-Design in companies. In addition, NanoReg2 has taken a step to allow companies, researchers and risk assessors to cooperate in the development of Safe-by-Design. This should lead to safe nanomaterials that are also suitable for a circular economy.

The published article shows the benefits of introducing Safe-by-Design at companies. But it also shows that it is custom work. Knowledge and availability of data play an important role. The GO FAIR AdvancedNano Implementation network can play a major role for the availability of data. These points are important for Safe-by-Design to be successful.

Source RIVM

The research and innovation programme NanoNextNL has built up a unique and vibrant nano/microtechnology ecosystem at a scale that has never been achieved in any technical field in the Netherlands. This is one of the main conclusions of the final End Term Report of NanoNextNL, which was published last month. The updated End Term Report (2017) shows new achievements of the NanoNextNL programme (2010-2016) regarding science, valorisation and responsible innovation.

Highlights NanoNextNL programme as presented in End Term Report 2017 (click to enlarge image)

Increase in scientific output

Since its start in 2010, NanoNextNL has created a very large knowledge base in nano/microscience and technology as demonstrated in the preliminary End Term Report published in 2016. The recently published update shows an increased output in science:

  • Over 1250 peer-reviewed publications
  • Over 130 PhD theses; little short of 100 still to be published
  • Over 150 publications with an impact factor > 10
  • All NanoNextNL themes performed above world-average regarding citations
  • At least 95 granted EU projects
  • Already 127 unique patents

The updated NanoNextNL Research Appendix (2017) provides detailed information about the scientific output.

Achievements in valorisation

One important mission of the NanoNextNL programme has been to foster the transfer of knowledge from nanoscience and technology into new applications and business. This focus on valorisation has resulted in the following achievements:

  • 24 start-ups benefitted from NanoNextNL
  • 18 start-ups emerged from NanoNextNL
  • 86 demonstrators were developed
  • Average Technology Readiness Level (TRL) rose from 4.9 to 6.9
    • TRL 4.9: the stage of technology development – validation in a lab environment
    • TRL 6.9: the stage of system development – a system/prototype is tested in the relevant working environment
  • Over 50% of the participants in the Valorisation Programme have:
    • Found new funding
    • Acquired a client or potential client
    • An estimated market value that remained stable or grew
  • The patent-over-budget-filing ratio was 15 times higher than the average within the EU FP 7 programme (normalised by the total budget of NanoNextNL)


Safe-by-Design innovation

Risk Analysis and Technology Assessment (RATA) has been strongly integrated with the NanoNextNL research and development programme, bringing responsible research and Safe-by-Design innovation into practice, also in the development of new businesses. Tools for the detection of nanomaterials and understanding mechanisms of (eco)toxicity were developed to support new regulations and develop international policy. Since 2016 the following results were achieved:

  • A toolbox for technology assessment for researchers and technology developers is freely available:
  • The RATA research theme participated in about 30 EU projects
  • Researchers from the programme have supported the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice by investigating the significance of nanotechnology for civil security applications

Read more about the Safe-by-Design tools here

Follow-up to NanoNextNL

The successful NanoNextNL integrated approach involves strongly interlinked programmes composed of collaborative projects between academic and industrial partners. Using this method in a follow-up programme will guarantee a high-return-on investment for Dutch industry and society, and provides an efficient and effective road towards a more sustainable society. The Board of NanoNextNL is now holding discussions with private partners and government ministries to explore the possibilities of a follow-up programme targeting these goals. Researchers from NanoNextNL are active within two routes of the Dutch National Research Agenda (NWA) and have taken the leading role in the route ‘Quantum/nanorevolution’ and the route ‘Materials – Made in Holland’.

About NanoNextNL

A total of 13 universities, 8 medical centres, 12 knowledge institutes and 110 industrial partners have collaborated within NanoNextNL (2010-2016). Since its start in 2010 the research and innovation programme has created a very large knowledge base in nano/microscience and technology, involving over 750 researchers. Together with universities and companies, the Dutch government has invested € 251 million in NanoNextNL.

Read more

• NanoNextNL End Term Report (2017)
• NanoNextNL Eindrapport (2017)
• NanoNextNL Updated Research Appendix (2017)
• Overview of Safe-by-Design tools
• Leaflet Maatschappelijk relevant innoveren met technologische publiek-private samenwerkingen (2017)

The concept of Safe-by-Design aims to integrate safe manufacturing, safe production and responsible waste management in the innovation process at the earliest possible. Safe-by-Design requires a timely dialogue between relevant stakeholders. Within NanoNextNL  the concept of Safe-by-Design was further developed within the Risk Analysis and Technology Assessment theme (RATA) and applied in the Valorisation Programme.

*click to enlarge image

Safe-by-Design tools for research and development

NanoNextNL developed unique Safe-by-Design tools ready for application in research and development:

  • Safe-by-Design tools for researchers and technology developers
  • Safe-by-Design tools for starting entrepreneurs
  • Safe-by-Design tools for entrepreneurs
  • Safe-by-Design tools for interaction with society

Safe-by-Design tools for researchers and technology developers

Technology assessment tools for researchers and technology developers: Toolbox Constructive Technology Assessment

With these tools insights into the economic, societal, ethical and legal aspects can be gained at an early stage in the development process. The tools are classified according to the development stage and applications. For more information:

Safe-by-Design tool for starting entrepreneurs

As part of the NanoNextNL Valorisation Programme business case owners have been asked to perform a Safety and Society Check.

Risk levels for safety and society are indicated with arrows based on expertise of business case owners and an independent expert; left for safety and right for society.

Starting entrepreneurs used the following questionnaire to execute the Safety and Society Check : RATA questionnaire Valorisation Programme (pdf)

Safe-by-Design tools for entrepreneurs

The Golden Egg Check, an online tool used within the NanoNextNL Valorisation Programme, was extended with risk analysis and technology assessment.

Entrepreneurs used the following questionnaire for a Safety and Society Check as part of the Golden Egg Check: RATA questionnaire Valorisation Programme (pdf)

Safe-by-Design tools for interaction with society

Safe-by-Design intends to stimulate representatives from business, science, government and civil society to discuss societal responses and challenges tot nanotechnology. The Societal Incubator is used as an experimental tool to explore the sentiments of involved stakeholders and is under construction.

Read more

On 9 November 2016 a Safe-by-Design workshop was organised by NanoNextNL and RIVM. The aim of the workshop was to explore what Safe-by-Design could yield. The concept of Safe-by-Design aims to integrate safe manufacturing, safe production and responsible waste management in the research and technical development during the innovation process at the earliest possible. The participants of the workshop agreed on the importance of Safe-by-Design whereby a timely dialogue between relevant stakeholders is started early on in the innovation process. Speakers included experts from the I&M ministry, RIVM, start-ups and TNO (see the programme, in Dutch only).

Safe-by-Design as a safety net

Participants also stated that Safe‐by‐Design should provide a safety net for several stakeholders, such as:
• for innovators to avoid confrontation with regulatory issues later on in the process
• for investors and insurers to minimize uncertainty about health risks
• for regulators to minimize casualties
• for society to provide access to safe products.

The participants highly valued the workshop and a follow-up is considered to be very useful.
More details of the lively and constructive discussions between policy makers, researchers and nanotech companies & start-ups can be found in the report Safe-by-Design workshop November 2016.

Infographic Safe-by-Design

Read more

Report Safe-by-Design workshop November 2016

Programme Safe-by-Design workshop November 2016 (in Dutch only)