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Developing nations are recognising the economic potential of nanotechnology, but the global scientific community should take steps to avoid a South-South divide, says Mohamed H.A. Hassan.

The headlines are now familiar: nanotechnology, the science of the very small, could transform everything from drug delivery to solar power.

In this article in Science, Mohamed H.A. Hassan attributes the interest of the developing world in nanotechnology to a growing awareness of science and technology as key factors in economic development.

There appears to be little risk of a North-South 'nano-divide', says Hassan, as the proficiency of scientists in the developing world grows and governments in the South develop sophisticated science policies. But, he cautions, there is the risk of a South-South divide.

Countries like Brazil, China and India are racing ahead of their poorer neighbours in terms of government spending and published nanotechnology research. As these scientifically proficient nations develop ever-closer ties with the North, they risk their research agendas becoming dictated by the North.

This could mean that instead of addressing critical development issues, there is a drive to develop consumer goods with market potential, warns Hassan.

Scientifically proficient developing countries should invest in South-South cooperation so that nanotechnology may ultimately benefit all nations, he concludes.

Link to full story in Science.

Read more about nanotechnology in SciDev.Net's nanotechnology quick guide.