This contribution reflects the views on the nanoscience and nanotechnology motivated by societal needs. The grand challenges facing the diverse population provide profound obligations and opportunities for scientists, engineers, technicians, entrepreneurs to join the intellectual resources and materials support to achieve maximal societal impact. For example, extra effort should be needed for the developing economies to tackle the long standing societal challenges ranging from environmental to health care that may not be sufficiently supported by imported technologies.
The advances of nanoscience and nanotechnology in both developed and developing economies are closely associated with expectations that the technology can address various societal needs. Nanotechnology encompasses a wide range of functional nanoscale materials, structures, devices and integrated systems with unique properties, with applications across multidisciplinary areas of energy, information and healthcare, etc. Possible broad applications of nanotechnology in various areas, including health, energy, environment, and manufacturing, have generated keen interests of policy makers, academics and industrialists in China. The potential of the technology has been clearly reflected in the prioritizing of nanotechnology development in various science and technology programs. Innovative nanotechnologies are emerging in the areas of production, integration and application of nanomaterials at industrial scale, including lithium battery, green printing technology, selected applications in energy, environmental and healthcare areas, and fundamental infrastructures. However, considering that nanotechnology as a whole is only at the early stage of generating economic impact, challenges should be dealt with during this process of searching for technological breakthroughs. Given the current restraints in resources as well as existing infrastructures in China, we emphasis that exploring technological solutions to meet societal needs is essential for promoting nanotechnology development. Such solution is critical for public R&D investment to benefit society at large.