Socio-economic analysis : a tool for assessing the potential of nanotechnologies

Abstract : Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) has a long history, especially in the USA, of being used for the assessment of new regulation, new infrastructure and more recently for new technologies. Under the denomination of Socio-Economic Analysis (SEA), this concept is used in EU safety and environmental regulation, especially for the placing of chemicals on the market (REACh regulation) and the operation of industrial installations (Industrial Emissions Directive). As far as REACh and other EU legislation apply specifically to nanomaterials in the future, SEA might become an important assessment tool for nanotechnologies. The most important asset of SEA regarding nanomaterials, is the comparison with alternatives in socio-economic scenarios, which is key for the understanding of how a nanomaterial "socially" performs in comparison with its alternatives. "Industrial economics" methods should be introduced in SEAs to make industry and the regulator share common concepts and visions about economic competitiveness implications of regulating nanotechnologies, SEA and Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) can complement each other : Socio-Economic LCA are increasingly seen as a complete assessment tool for nanotechnologies, but the perspective between Social LCA and SEA are different and the respective merits and limitations of both approaches should be kept in mind. SEA is a "pragmatic regulatory impact analysis", that uses a cost/benefit framework analysis but remains open to other disciplines than economy, and open to the participation of stakeholders for the construction of scenarios of the deployment of technologies and the identification of alternatives. SEA is "pragmatic" in the sense that it is driven by the purpose to assess "what happens" with the introduction of nanotechnology, and uses methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis only as far as they really contribute to that goal. We think that, being pragmatic, SEA is also adaptative, which is a key quality to handle the novelty of economic and social effects expected from nanotechnology.
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Jean-Marc Brignon. Socio-economic analysis : a tool for assessing the potential of nanotechnologies. Journal of Physics: Conference Series, IOP Publishing, 2011, 304, pp.art 012069. ⟨10.1088/1742-6596/304/1/012069⟩. ⟨ineris-00963297⟩

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