The 'slow progress' of the UK government to provide funding for research into the potential risks of nanotechnology has been criticised by a high-level advisory group.
The review said the UK was losing its leading position in the development of nanotechnology, mainly due to a "distinct lack of Government activity or funding in research into toxicology, health and environmental effects of nanomaterials."
Without a substantial domestic research, the UK suffer through exclusion from international collaborations, warned the review author, the Council for Science and Technology (CST).
Nanotechnology refers to the technique of controlling and manipulating matter at near atomic scales to create new processes, materials and devices.
Although it has been touted as the next revolution in many industries, including food manufacturing and packaging, public concerns have been raised over potential health or environmental hazards nanotechnology may pose.
The CST findings are part of a review of the UK government's response to a report published last year calling for greater research to be conducted into the risks of nanotechnology.
The review, which monitored progress made since the publication of a Society and Royal Academy of Engineering report in 2004, found there had been no nanotechnologies developments have since February 2005.
While the review commends the Government's commitment of support for the development of the technology, it warned there has been little progress on commitments for research.
The review said that the Government had spent €15m on nanometrology over the last five years, of which only €5m was spent on toxicology and the health and environmental impacts of nanomaterials.
According to CST, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has awarded €60m each year for nanotechnology development, while €120m has been invested over six years by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to promote its commercialization.
"The balance between research that develops new applications of nanotechnologies and that which provides the necessary underpinning for its safe and responsible development must be addressed," CST said.
The review said too much reliance had been placed on Research Council responsive mode funding to fill the knowledge gaps and recommended the Government invest a minimum of €7-9m per year over the next decade to research the toxicology, health and environmental effects of nanomaterials.
Some estimates put the worldwide market for nanotechnologies to be €750bn by 2015.