Value chains as a linking-pin framework for exploring governance and innovation in nano-involved sectors: illustrated for nanotechnologies and the food packaging sector

Douglas Robinson


Nanotechnology is often referred to as an entity in itself, a promising technoscience that may enable a vast array of products that will affect and change society. Looking beneath the umbrella-term of “nanotechnology” what is actually occurring with regards to the emergence of product/applications?  And what does this mean for governance of emerging nano-involved product development and societal uptake?.

The article argues that one must move beyond the broad umbrella term of nanotechnology to explore governance challenges.  It posits that for exploring governance of nano-applications, a much ignored level of analysis – the industrial value chain – is  a promising level of analysis in both identifying the current activities and potential impacts of nanotechnology and the modes of governance that are in play, how they evolve and how they could be shaped.

Focusing on value chains is important for the near and mid-term in order to evaluate and characterise the smorgasbord of techno-scientific promises stemming from nanotechnology and the effects of broader sectoral changes on potential nano-enabled products that may reach citizen-consumers. 

As nanotechnology enters various parts of the agrifood sector, the emerging governance arrangements of nanotechnology meet incumbent (and still developing) governance regimes, consumer positions and actor arrangements.  The paper further articulates this claim, closing with an outlook on what sort of approaches could be used for foresighting potential developments in nanotechnology, their impacts and potential frameworks for exploring and modulating nanotechnology governance.

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