Help Print this page 

Summaries of EU Legislation

Title and reference
Sixth Framework Programme (2000-2006): Nanotechnologies and nanosciences

Summaries of EU legislation: direct access to the main summaries page.

This summary is archived.
Languages and formats available
HTML html ES html DA html DE html EL html EN html FR html IT html NL html PT html FI html SV
Multilingual display
Miscellaneous information
  • Archived: true

Sixth Framework Programme (2000-2006): Nanotechnologies and nanosciences

This specific programme sets out to enable Europe to build up the necessary capacity to develop and exploit nanotechnologies and nanosciences, with a view to creating new materials, devices or systems designed to control matter on an atomic scale.


Council Decision 2002/835/EC of 30 September 2002 adopting a specific programme for research, technological development and demonstration: "structuring the European Research Area" (2002-2006) [Official Journal L 294 of 29.10.2002].


Nanotechnology deals with the manipulation of atoms or molecules to produce materials, devices and new technologies. It involves the "nano-scale" construction, atom by atom and molecule by molecule, of new devices possessing extraordinary properties. The principle underlying nanotechnology is simple: instead of reducing matter to arrive at the smallest possible particle, one extracts the smallest possible particle from matter.

From time immemorial, materials have been extracted from the ground, modified, heated, subjected to pressure, assembled, etc. All these procedures use a great deal of energy and, at the same time, generate a great deal of waste. Current industrial production is based on this manufacturing principle.

However, nanotechnology uses the individual atoms directly and, through their manipulation and through the application of assembly processes, groups of atoms are formed with a view to manufacturing nanomaterials or nanomachines.

Nanotechnologies ("nano" is derived from the Greek "nannos" meaning "dwarf") demand enormous effort in terms of basic and applied research in multidisciplinary areas involving a wide variety of specialisations: genomics and biotechnologies, sustainable development, food safety, aeronautics, health, etc.

Nanotechnologies, inasmuch as they are the driving force behind economic competitiveness, represent not only a major technical and industrial challenge but also an immense intellectual, cultural and educational challenge, into the bargain.

Nanotechnology covers three distinct main areas of research:

  • nanoelectronics: intended for computers, with the aim of creating higher-performance machines that are more powerful and adapted to domestic and industrial conditions;
  • nanobiotechnology: for use in the medical and health sector to promote the production of biosensors, biomaterials and other machines, notably for the treatment of cancer and cardiovascular diseases;
  • nanomaterials: intended for the manufacture of solar, optical, etc., materials.

The budget under the Sixth Framework Programme intended for this priority is 1 300 million, and the actions focus on three major areas:

A) Nanotechnologies and nanosciences

Nanotechnologies and nanosciences represent a new approach to materials science and engineering. The international nanotechnology market has great potential, and the European Union (EU) must not squander this competitive advantage for European industry. The aim is to promote the establishment of a nanotechnology-centred European industry and to encourage its development within existing sectors:

  • long-term interdisciplinary research into understanding phenomena: mastering processes and developing research tools;
  • supramolecular architectures and macromolecules;
  • nanometer-scale engineering techniques to create materials and components;
  • development of handling and control devices and instruments;
  • applications in areas such as health, chemistry, energy, and the environment.

B) Knowledge-based multifunctional materials

New materials providing new functionalities and improved performance will be the driving force behind industrial innovation in sectors such as transport, energy, medicine, electronics and design:

  • development of fundamental knowledge;
  • technologies associated with the production and processing of multifunctional materials;
  • support engineering.

C) New processes and means of production

The aim is to develop industrial systems based on a conception of the life cycle of products ("from the cradle to the grave"), of production, of the use and effective recovery of components, and also to put in place improved organisational and management models.

  • processes and flexible and intelligent manufacturing systems incorporating advances in virtual manufacturing technologies, high-precision engineering, etc.
  • systems research for sustainable waste management, reduction in the consumption of primary products, pollution abatement, etc.
  • optimising the life-cycle of industrial systems, products and services against the background of reducing substances hazardous to the environment.



Dateof entry into force

Final date for implementation in the Member States

Decision 1513/2002/EC

Date of application: 01.01.2003Expiry date: 31.12.2006



Communication from the Commission towards a European strategy for nanotechnology [COM(2004) 338 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

Last updated: 04.01.2007