Nanotechnology is the manipulation of matter at the nanoscale, i.e., a size so small that it is measured in nanometres (one billionth of a metre), to create new materials of any size that have new properties and functions. The technology is earmarked to contribute solutions to South Africa’s development challenges, such as the provision of safe water, clean energy and innovative delivery of health services, in the promise to improve the quality of life. Driving nanotechnology developments in the country is the National Nanotechnology Strategy, which is a significant policy intervention by the South African government aimed at stimulating the development of nanotechnology in the country. The adoption of this technology has led to the manufacturing of engineered nanomaterials on varying scales for research, development and industrial purposes. The application of engineered nanomaterials can be seen in many industries such as in healthcare, clothing, cosmetics, construction and electronics.

In promoting responsible development of nanotechnology, the Department of Science and Innovation has established the Nanotechnology Health, Safety and Environment Research Platform to identify the potential risks associated with nanotechnology and mitigate those risks. However, the role of the platform in ensuring responsible development of nanotechnology is dependent on multiple stakeholders, and its work should be viewed as a value-added service enabling the production of safer engineered nanomaterials rather than an obstacle to nanotechnology development and innovation. Without a local regulatory environment specific to engineered nanomaterials and limited information on the impact of these manufactured nanomaterials in human health and the environment, it is possible that broad adoption of this technology amongst the end users could be hampered.

Several investments have been made to ensure nanotechnology development including, inter alia, the creation of nanotechnology innovation centres aimed at supporting the development of nanoscience and nanotechnology, formulation and commercialisation of nano-enabled products and provision of ring-fenced grants to purchase nanotechnology-related research equipment. The timely consideration of the Nano HSE aspects, especially at the infancy phase of nanotechnology will drive the sustainability of nanotechnology and ensure that investments and developments in this technology are on course to improving the quality of lives for all South Africans.


NRF│SAASTA is a leading science engagement agency promoting the public awareness of science, technology and engineering and the role that science plays in society in South Africa. Through the Nanotechnology Public Engagement Programme, NRF│SAASTA will provide a platform for decision makers, regulators, researchers and science communicators to discuss the sustainable development of nanotechnology. The symposium will offer participants an opportunity to engage with multiple stakeholders to ensure that different perspectives are heard and that issues are addressed in a collaborative manner. The symposium will further explore the role played by society as end users of nano-enabled products in the advancement of this technology. An environment where citizens are involved in the early stages of setting the research agenda and co-creation of a future ideal for those affected ensures that all stakeholders and actors have a common goal and expectations.

Objectives of this symposium are:

  • To discuss HSE policy and regulatory environment conducive for the sustainable development of nanotechnology and the role of the nano code of conduct.
  • To provide a platform for researchers to discuss the latest research relating to the potential risks of nanomaterials to occupational health, safety and the environment.
  • To discuss the role of science communicators in promoting balanced and fact based understanding of nanotechnology, especially in the era of ‘post-truth’.
  • To explore responsible research and innovation or “upstream public engagement” as a broad policy to better align science and society as an integral part of innovation in nanotechnology.

Reservations and Enquiries:

To attend the 1st Nanotechnology HSE symposium, kindly RSVP here no later than 31 January 2020. For any enquiries, you can use contact us or or 012 392 9300 │ 9347. Kindly take note that:

  • Registration is free but limited.
  • Parking will be available but limited.
  • Lunch and refreshments will be served.
  • Material related to the symposium will be provided.

* The Nanotechnology Public Engagement Programme (NPEP) is an initiative funded by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and implemented by the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA), a business unit of the National Research Foundation (NRF). The NPEP aims to promote credible, fact-based understanding of nanotechnology through awareness, dialogue and education to enable informed decision making on nanotechnology innovations to improve the quality of life.