AS A growing number of producers look towards nanotechnology to enhance their products, there is a need to safeguard consumers and ensure the quality of such products, says Nanoverify Sdn Bhd managing director Johan Iskandar Hasan.
“We are moving in the right direction. But as with any other technology, the main concern is safety. We don’t want nanotechnology to take the route of GMO (genetically-modified organism). So we want to manage expectations and the risk involved,” he says.
Nanoverify is Malaysia’s first and only nanotechnology verification body. Established in 2015, its aim is to boost recognition for nanotechnology-based products as well as validate the quality and safety of these products and services.
According to Johan, Nanoverify is the sixth voluntary certification programme worldwide. The other programmes are from Russia, the UK, Thailand, Iran and Taiwan.
With the advancement of technology, more products are expected to be nanotechnology-enabled and such programmes will be needed to assure consumers that they are not getting counterfeit products. This will also increase public trust in new technology and investor confidence in nanotechnology-based projects.
“We want to protect users. We want them to know about nanotechnology and ensure that they are getting products with genuine nanotechnology,” he adds.
He hopes to increase awareness on the technology and is working with the relevant ministries in hopes of making it compulsory for all nanotechnology-enabled products to be certified by the end of 2019.
Johan cites reports that the global revenue from nano-enabled products is projected to be US$1.7 trillion in 2018, the bulk of it coming from the electronics and information technology sectors.
Globally, it is estimated that there are 5,113 nanotechnology products. In Malaysia, there are 504.
To-date, Nanoverify has certified 34 products locally across various sectors with another 18 products in the pipeline. Johan identifies the cosmetics, automotive, fertiliser as well as domestic cleaners as areas of growth for nanotechnology.
He estimates that there are about 600 nanotechnology-enabled products in Malaysia. However, at least half of these are imported technology.
“Malaysia is not short of SMEs that can produce raw materials for nanotechnology and the integrator technologies. The issue is commercialisation. We encourage local companies to explore nanotechnology by pitching new technology ideas to some companies that may benefit from it. We also facilitate their development and verification process by providing grants. This will help gain traction for nanotechnology.
“But moving forward, we see that the growth of the technology here will be driven by consumer demand. When the acceptance is there, the industry will grow,” he says.
Nanoverify is currently more focused on pushing out consumer products to get the masses interested in the technology behind the products. This is hoped to create more awareness and change public perception of nanotechnology.
However, Johan is aware that local consumers are sensitive to pricing, and nanotechnology-enabled products are, notably, selling at a premium.
“I think consumers will become more receptive of these products when they see the health benefits. Millennials are certainly more receptive of such advanced products. And the Gen-X and -Y are approaching the age where health is becoming a concern. So we may see better acceptance for nanotechnology,” he says.
Nanoverify intends to drive more local know-how of the technology so that more companies will be able to develop their own nanotechnology-enabled products rather than just import them. This would help make local products more competitive and, possibly, more affordable compared to imported products.
He adds that the global market is very competitive with various compounds and pricing available for different products.
At the moment, most of the research and development work for the technology is carried out by educational institutions as companies lack such research facilities.