DuPont Nanotech Project: Design, Outreach and Creation


With seed funding from the Woodrow Wilson Center, EDF developed the underpinnings for a corporate partnership to design nanotechnology risk management guidance companies could use in advance of government oversight. Wilson Center’s support not only helped EDF to organize our partnership plans, but also to focus discussions with corporations and government agencies we hoped to influence with the project.

EDF sought a corporate partner with strong capabilities in research and technology, a solid marketplace and value chain position, global reach and reputation and a compatible outlook on nanotechnology policy. EDF talked with companies in the consumer goods, chemical, electronics, medical, defense and insurance industries about partnership opportunities. These conversations helped us better understand the corporate audience we hoped to influence and created relationships with many of the companies that later endorsed or adopted the Framework.

EDF’s discussions with DuPont were promising from an early stage, though it took more than a year of meetings, conversations, proposals and negotiations to develop the formal partnership agreement. A key moment in building the partnership came while writing a joint editorial piece titled “Get Nanotech Right” for the Wall Street Journal. Writing the piece helped both organizations test the commonalities and differences in their views, provided a concise set of goals for the partnership, and publicly committed both to the same set of principles.


To create the Nano Risk Framework, EDF and DuPont first developed a set of principles to guide the overall project. We then compared DuPont’s standard process for risk management with EDF’s proposed outline for nanomaterial risk management. Once we agreed on the key steps of the risk management process, we developed and refined a description, aim and set of essential elements for each step. And we worked through a variety of ways to present the overall outline – flowcharts, wheels, matrices – before settling on the final outline of the Framework’s process. Based on this outline and the accompanying descriptions, we began drafting the full Framework document, and more importantly, developing (and negotiating) the technical details and tools at the heart of the Framework.

In parallel, DuPont began pilot-testing the process on three real-world nanomaterials in specific applications. These tests added concrete experience to what might otherwise have been abstract discussions about nanotechnology and risk management. The pilot tests provided real data on the resources required to implement the Framework, and assured us that the Framework was as comprehensive, practical and flexible as we’d designed it to be.


While we solicited informal feedback throughout the project, we also asked for formal feedback at two key points. In November 2006, we sent drafts of the Framework to approximately 20 experts, drawn from industry government, academia and NGOs from around the world. After refining the Framework based on their comments, we launched a public draft of the Framework in February 2007, again asking for feedback. This draft was downloaded over 1,500 times in nearly 50 countries and resulted in over 70 pages of comments. After further refining the Framework based on these comments, EDF and DuPont officially “launched” the Nano Risk Framework on June 21, 2007.

From an early stage, we made sure to let our target audiences know about our work through a variety of channels. Team members from EDF and DuPont gave presentations at industry association meetings, government forums, and conferences on nanotechnology, risk management and environmental management around the world. Our goal was to build interest in the Framework and to solicit feedback that helped refine the Framework as we developed it. In launching the Framework, we held standing-room-only public events in Washington, D.C. and Brussels, Belgium, with diverse audiences drawn from industry, government, academia, NGOs and the press. Six months after launching the Framework, we held day-long training workshops in San Francisco and Boston to help interested companies understand and implement the Framework. A year after launching the Framework, we published translations in Spanish, French and Chinese.

Back to EDF’s work with DuPont