A big regulatory tool-box for a small technology

Diana M. Bowman, Graeme A. Hodge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


There is little doubt that the development and commercialisation of nanotechnologies is challenging traditional state-based regulatory regimes. Yet governments currently appear to be taking a non-interventionist approach to directly regulating this emerging technology. This paper argues that a large regulatory toolbox is available for governing this small technology and that as nanotechnologies evolve, many regulatory advances are likely to occur outside of government. It notes the scientific uncertainties facing us as we contemplate nanotechnology regulatory matters and then examines the notion of regulation itself, suggesting new ways to frame our understanding of both regulation and the regulatory tools relevant to nanotechnologies. By drawing upon three different conceptual lenses of regulation, the paper articulates a wide range of potential regulatory tools at hand. It also focuses particularly on the ways various tools are currently being used or perhaps may be employed in the future. The strengths and weaknesses characterising these tools is examined as well as the different actors involved. The paper concludes that we will increasingly face debate over what is likely to work most effectively in regulating nano technologies, the legitimacy of these different potential approaches, and the speed at which these different regimes may be employed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-207
Number of pages15
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Governance
  • Hazards
  • Nano technologies
  • Regulation
  • Risks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy
  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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