22 Feb 2023 Publications

How nanotechnology risk governance can address the needs of civil society and the insurance industry

How to address civil society’s and insurances’ needs within the organisational form for Nano Risk Governance


Project Deliverable by BNN
Gov4Nano, Grant Agreement No. 814401  (Topic: NMBP-13-2018 – Risk Governance of nanotechnology (RIA) )
Date of publication: February 2023
Area: Design for Technology Development (DfTD)
BNN team involvement: Susanne Resch, Andreas Falk


Nanotechnology risk governance is a collaborative effort among various stakeholders, each with their own areas of responsibility, to ensure the safe development and use of this technology. The organisational form for Nano Risk Governance should take into account all the different needs of the stakeholders and ensure that they are adequately considered and addressed. Both the (re)insurance industry and civil society have specific needs related to nano risk governance.


Within the EU-funded H2020 project Gov4Nano, BNN prepared a report providing best-practice guidance on how to address two specific stakeholder groups, namely civil society and the (re)insurance industry, within risk governance initiatives.  Based on desk research, qualitative expert interviews, a stakeholder survey, and dedicated “User Committee” meetings, the needs and views of these two stakeholder groups were identified and considered throughout the project implementation.


As far as the (re)insurance sector is concerned, our research showed that there is currently no particular interest or need with respect to nanotechnology. While some insurance companies decided to react to potential nano-related risks with the announcement of ‘exclusions’ of all nanotechnologies (with a focus on nanomaterials) from their policies, the majority of (re)insurance companies, however, decided to count on experts’ opinions and subsequently set up nanotechnology-monitoring activities. Currently, they would not be willing to participate and engage themselves heavily in further activities related to nano risk governance. However, the organisational form for Nano Risk Governance could act for the (re)insurance industry as expert knowledge provider, if any new findings/scientific results are available, specifically to new advanced (nano)materials and potential associated risks.


With respect to civil society, two levels were considered. First, we looked at the general public, who are affected by nanotechnology primarily as end users of nano-enabled products in their daily lives (without additional knowledge; considered as lay-persons with respect to nanotechnology). Second, we looked at civil society organizations (CSOs), which operate independently of government and industry and work for the public good by representing the interests of the specific groups or communities they serve or whose causes they advocate. Drawing on studies on public perceptions of nanotechnologies and based on expert interviews, eleven recommendations were formulated for general, lay-people-oriented public communication of nanotechnologies. Following these recommendations would allow the organisational form for Nano Risk Governance to publicly communicate in the most effective way, as they are providing practical and real-life relevant guidance. To engage CSOs, a “User Committee” format was used to enable multidisciplinary discussions between different stakeholders. Next to that, a public stakeholder survey on nanotechnology risk governance was conducted, with more than 25% representation from CSOs/NGOs. One question in this survey was addressing the engagement of civil society, if any – the provided recommendations from this survey are very much aligned with the suggested best practice public communication actions. The organisational form for Nano Risk Governance should act as a trusted source of information and monitor public discussions, education and training activities, focusing on communicating risks as well as benefits of nanotechnologies and nano-enabled products.


Follow-up activities for the organisational form for Nano Risk Governance should consider the findings and recommendations from this report in future activities. In addition, this report could be useful for every initiative interested and/or actively involved in risk governance.


Get the Concept Paper on how to address civil society and insurances’ needs within the organisational form for Nano Risk Governance from the link below.



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