The Importance of Value Chains in Guiding the FNN Project

Toxicity of Familiar Materials: Some questions still exist within the nanosafety community about the toxicity of several familiar materials, notably concerns about the presence of acute toxicity for variants of titania, quantum dots and silver. Within the FutureNanoNeeds (FNN) infrastructure, we aim to address much of this uncertainty. Our results thus far strongly suggest that many observations of acute toxicity for these materials can be explained by artefacts related to study conditions. Results will be published in a summary review of the whole arena of acute toxicity of nanomaterials. Another focus within the FNN project is the search for potential sources of hazard from composite materials and anisotropic particles. Specifically shape-related phenomena and possible new undesirable outcomes are of interest. We aim to assess potential hazards and environmental impact assessment for the next generation of nanomaterials prior to their widespread industrial use.

Value Chains: In trying to understand potential risks of novel materials, we have pursued several strategies. In one approach, we have explored value chains (VC) for potential materials of the future, that is, new materials that by virtue of their commercial promise seem most likely to be widely used. These materials are being identified by an extensive exploration of the literature and a thorough validation process that has been driven by the FNN Value Chain Advisory Committee (VCAC). Once identified, we evaluate their potential hazards and exposure scenarios.

Exemplar VCs selected and evaluated focus on nanomaterials used in emerging nano-industry sectors, such as energy, electronics, transportation, energy harvesting, etc. (Figure 1). Before the final selection of VCs and representative materials, a multi stage evaluation and validation process was performed,  involving project partners (material researchers, industrial and research end users, toxicologists, risk assessors) as well as key external experts and stakeholders representing ETPs and other European initiatives.. The following VCs are categorized by industry (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Overview of FutureNanoNeeds Value Chains

Figure 1. Overview of FutureNanoNeeds Value Chains

Criteria used for including a new VC are the following:

  • High social and economic impact on an international scale in the medium and long term
  • Significant research interest in the application and preferably already established synthesis and manufacturing capacities, as the project is not focused on production
  • Industrial significance

Criteria for excluding a VC include:

  • Medicine and biomedical applications because they require safety research and regulation differing from most other industries.
  • Nanomaterials designed to be in direct contact with human mucosa, skin etc. (e.g. nano-enabled food, nutraceuticals and cosmetics) for similar reasons

Each VC describes nanomaterials, key properties and target applications, with advantages with respect to state-of-the art or competing nanomaterials. The Current Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of the value chain has been estimated. Market analysis estimated market size, trends, geographical distribution, and segmentation by technology/material and by application, and top companies (Figure 2). Table 1 summarizes the market size for the eight VCs completed.

Table 1‑1 Summary of FNN Target Market

Estimation of Market Size
VC1 – Energy Harvesting Market

VC1 – Solar PV Market

$131.4 million in 2012[1]

$89.52 billion in 2013[2]. 55.0 GW of annual giga-watts of installed PV solar systems worldwide in 2015[3].

VC2 –  Lithium-Ion Battery Market $11.70 billion in 2012[4]
VC3 –  Thermoelectrics Market $245.3 million in 2014[5]
VC4 –  Lubricants Market $123.64 billion in 2013
VC5 –  Additive Manufacturing Market $2 billion in 2012[6], 3.85 billion in 2014[7]. Additive Manufacturing Material market segment was $347 million in 2014.
VC6 –  Display Technologies Market $116 billion in 2015[8]. The market for displays that incorporated quantum dots was $10 million in 2013[9].
VC7 – Conductive Inks for Electronic Applications $3.36 billion by 2018, considering all conductive inks, with $679 million potentially captured by silver nanostructured inks[10]
VC8 – Antimicrobial Coatings $1.5 billion in 2012[11]


To supplement the market overview, an extensive patent and literature analysis was compiled (Figure 2), which provided important insights in understanding the development stage of industry and its innovation potential. To illustrate, silicon-based nanomaterials for thermoelectrics (VC3) are more at pre-commercial/applied research stage, whilst silver nanowires (VC8) are at commercial stage. Thus the former has more room for development, but market investment opportunities could be fewer with higher risk. Such information also helped inform our decision process for choosing which properties and materials to use for impact studies. In addition, the data helped narrow down potential release “hot spots” and exposure scenarios leading to more realistic exposure models.

Figure 2. Patent Trend of FNN value chains

Figure 2. Patent Trend of FNN value chains

The analysis showed also the role of top players, highlighting also key companies such those reported in the following figure.

Figure 3. Top patent owners for FNN value chains

Figure 3. Top patent owners for FNN value chains

A summary of the identified “hot spots” is provided for each VC, with likely points of exposure to nanomaterials during their life cycle using work done by other projects within FNN.

Value Chain Roadmaps: A critical part of our work has been to outline VC roadmaps, which include actions for material development (technical actions) as well as exposure control (non-technical actions). Those actions are mainly based on inputs from the FNN VCAC and will be clustered and further developed in future work, with the ambition of releasing suggestions to policy makers on possible calls for co-funded research and innovation activities. The report provides a compendium of information related to all value chains, which will aid the Consortium in the subsequent tasks where a selection of value chains will be performed for exposure measurements and biological studies.

Author: Margherita Cioffi, D’Appolonia S.p.A.


[2] Photovoltaic Market By Type (Organic PV, Inorganic PV), Component (Crystalline Silicon PV Cells, Thin Film PV Cells, Modules, Optics, Trackers), Application (Residential, Non-Residential And Utility) & Geography Analysis and Forecasts to 2013-2020. February 2015. Available at








[10] Conductive Ink Markets 2012-2018” IDTechEx report