Systemic scenarios of nanotechnology: Sustainable governance of emerging technologies

Arnim Wiek, Lukas Gasser, Michael Siegrist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


The economic and social promises of emerging technologies, especially nanotechnology, are assumed to be outstanding due to radical innovative features of materials, products and services. However, preliminary studies indicate that these very same features, e.g. high chemical reactivity, could entail adverse impacts on human health and the environment. Calls for appropriate regulation and societal formation of nanotechnology developments have been made, resulting in the concept of sustainable nanotechnology governance. The required anticipatory knowledge supporting these efforts seems so far to lack a sound methodological basis as well as an integrated perspective on nanotechnological applications. We present a scenario study on possible future developments of nanotechnology in Switzerland (reference year 2020). The study employed a formalized and functional scenario methodology, featuring system analysis, consistency analysis and transdisciplinary collaboration. The results indicate five different future constellations of contextual aspects, such as public awareness, profit potential and legal regulations, which are assumed to consistently correspond to five distinct market situations for nanotechnological applications. Going beyond the specific nanotechnology scenarios, the article argues for a rigorous scenario methodology as a valuable tool for the sustainable governance of emerging technologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)284-300
Number of pages17
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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