Manufactured nanomaterials (MNMs) are regarded as key components of innovations in various fields with high potential impact (e.g., energy generation and storage, electronics, photonics, diagnostics, theranostics, or drug delivery agents). Widespread use of MNMs raises concerns about their safety for humans and the environment, possibly limiting the impact of the nanotechnology-based innovation. The development of safe MNMs and nanoproducts has to result in a safe as well as functional material or product. Its safe use, and disposal at the end of its life cycle must be taken into account too. However, not all MNMs are similarly useful for all applications, some might bear a higher hazard potential than others, and use scenarios could lead to different exposure probabilities. To improve both safety and efficacy of nanotechnology, we think that a new proactive approach is necessary, based on pre-regulatory safety assessment and dialogue between stakeholders. On the basis of the work carried out in different European Union (EU) initiatives, developing and integrating MNMs Safe-by-Design and Trusted Environments (NANoREG, ProSafe, and NanoReg2), we present our point of view here. This concept, when fully developed, will allow for cost effective industrial innovation, and an exchange of key information between regulators and innovators. Regulators are thus informed about incoming innovations in good time, supporting a proactive regulatory action. The final goal is to contribute to the nanotechnology governance, having faster, cheaper, effective, and safer nano-products on the market.
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