by Dr Anastasios Papadiamantis and Dr Antreas Afantitis

Nanomaterials (NMs) are chemical substances with sizes below 100 nm, or to put it into perspective, 1,000 times less than the thickness of a single human hair [1]. NMs have existed naturally and can be produced by human activity.

Examples of naturally occurring NMs include by-products from volcanic activity, fine sand, biological organisms (e.g., viruses) and more. At the same time, incidental NMs can be produced through human activity, e.g., during the use of diesel engines, industrial processes, or even when lighting a fire for a barbeque. The third NMs category includes those that are being produced intentionally, under controlled processes. These NMs can have different chemical compositions of varying complexity. Their properties like chemical composition, size, and shapes, to name a few, are well controlled to meet specific requirements and take advantage of the unique properties such chemicals substances present.

These unique properties have led to the production of hundreds of products that contain NMs and are available within the EU market [1]. Examples include novel sensors, medical devices, batteries, coatings, and anti-bacterial clothing. As stated in the European Commission’s website, around 1.5% of all new cosmetic products notified in Europe contain NMs [1]. As a result, guidance and/or regulation regarding NMs has been produced by several EU institutions like the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA, under REACH [2]), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) [3], and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) [4]. Furthermore, analysts expect the EU, and indeed the global, NMs market to substantially increase in the near future, although the recent events in Ukraine may affect these projections. While the consequences have not been currently quantified, a negative impact is to be expected considering the rising energy costs and distribution channels disruptions.

Due to this boom in the NMs production and usage, ECHA through the EU Observatory for NMs (EUON) commissioned a study regarding the current market (including the European Economic Area countries (EEA) and Switzerland), which was awarded to NovaMechanics Ltd. from Cyprus. The purpose of the study was to provide EUON, its stakeholders, and the public with reliable and transparent information regarding the NMs that are currently available in the internal market, the main areas of application, and the market operators (producers, major traders, downstream users). The results of this study will feed into the EUON’s activities to increase transparency and understanding on how the NMs market is evolving and fill data gaps on the EU market information. The study included a 5-year projection of the EU market, with 2020 as the baseline year, but was completed prior to the ongoing events in Ukraine and the resulting crisis.

Based on the results, the EU NMs market can be divided into 6 segments. These include metal oxides (e.g., oxides of iron and silicon), metals (e.g., gold, silver), carbon-based NMs (e.g., carbon nanotubes, graphene), dendrimers (nano-polymers), nanoclays (e.g., halloysite), and nanocellulose. Currently, the EU NMs market is one of the biggest and most active. For 2020, its size was estimated to be at a volume of 140,000 tonnes and a value of 5.2 € billion. 

To the best of our knowledge, and through desk research, a total of 1,168 NMs organisations were identified in the EU, EEA, and Swiss market. Eighty-eight of those are NM producers, with 27.2% being based in Germany, followed by Spain (11%) and France (9.1%). Of the 1,054 EU, EEA, and Swiss downstream users, Germany leads the market with 34.6%, followed by France (11.9%) and Sweden (7%). A rough estimate of 2,800 existing NM-containing products (excluding NMs production) indicate that Germany leads the market with 35.4%, followed by Switzerland with 20.4% and Sweden with 5.7%. Most of organisations were identified as belonging to the fields of manufacturing, medicine and life sciences, personal care, and instrumentation and electronics. Further segmentation identified the two most dominant segments and their market shares: coatings, paints, and sealants (18.8%), and instrumentation and electronics (17.8%), noting as well that the combination of the medicine and personal care segments would lead to a dominant segment of 20.3%.

The market, in the basic scenario and prior to the events in Ukraine, is expected in the next 5 years to grow with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.9% per volume and 18.4% per value, reaching 271.29 Kilotons and 12.6 € billions, creating strong positive socioeconomic impact for the EU, EEA, and Switzerland. While currently the largest segment is the metal oxides market, growth will be mainly driven by the nanoclay, nanocellulose, and carbon-based NMs.





Figure 1. Prediction of the size of the EU NMs market per volume (top) and value (bottom) for the period 2021 – 2025.



The projected growth will be driven by the technological advancement, coupled with strong and rising industrial and public demand for NMs and NMs-containing products. Industry is using NMs in multiple sectors like health and personal care, aerospace, automotive, energy, food packaging, construction, electronics, etc. At the same time, the public requires functional, lightweight, and affordable state-of-the-art products like smart phones. Considering the benefits of the use of NMs and nanotechnology, public funding (at EU and national level) will boost growth as well, focussing on more complex and advanced NMs (e.g., more complex chemical compositions, 2-dimensional materials like graphene). These will lead to the development of more advanced and robust manufacturing lines and standardised manufacturing processes, which will substantially reduce the cost of NMs and the manufacturing of NMs-containing products.

On the other hand, and prior to the events in Ukraine, the main barriers for the growth of the EU’s NMs market included the current regulatory landscape [1], which currently is one of the strictest globally. This may become stricter if regulatory requirements for polymers, which are used in conjunction with nanoclays, are introduced [5]. Another barrier is the lack of a common definition of NMs and NMs-containing products throughout the EU, EEA, and Swiss market (even if it is sector specific). While the EC recommended definition of NMs assists in overcoming this barrier, further harmonisation is required to provide more certainty and clearer regulatory guidelines to industry. These barriers, including the high power of suppliers and competition, and the relatively high barriers to enter the market may hinder growth as well. As demonstrated in the Porter’s five forces analysis, these leads to moderate customer power, which coupled with an observed relatively negative public opinion and scepticism towards NMs may result in lack of investment for scaling up production leading to reduced costs.





Figure 2. Porter’s five forces for the current state of the EU, EEA, and Switzerland NMs market.



In summary, the EU (including the EEA and Switzerland) nanomaterials market is expected to have a steady growth led by the medicine and personal care and manufacturing sectors. The projected CAGR up until 2025 is 13.9% per volume and 18.4% per value driven by technological advancement and strong consumer demand. However, the recent events in Ukraine add yet another barrier to the already existing relatively high barriers to enter the market, such as a strict regulatory landscape, the high power of suppliers and tough competition.
For more information and in-depth analysis please consult the full report as prepared by NovaMechanics ltd. and published by ECHA here.




1., Available online. Accessed 13 October 2022.

2., Available online. Accessed 13 October 2022.

3., Available online. Accessed 13 October 2022.

4., Available online. Accessed 13 October 2022.

5., Available online. Accessed 13 October 2022.

Biographies of the authors


tassospapadiamantis Anastasios (Tassos) Papadiamantis is a Senior Researcher at NovaMechanics Ltd. He got his PhD from the University of Birmingham (UK) and has experience in management consulting, having been involved on market research and competitive intelligence projects. His research focusses on the study of nano, complex, and advanced materials using computational, AI, and machine learning techniques. He currently Chairs Working Group D on Modelling and Simulation of the EU NanoSafety Cluster focussing on the collaboration of all stakeholders for the integration of modelling and simulation in the development, Safe and Sustainable by Design, and regulatory assessment of advanced, complex, and nanomaterials.

antreasafantitis Antreas Afantitis PhD, MBA has a strong scientific background in the field of chem/bio/nanoinformatics, modelling. His scientific work has been published in over 90 original research articles and reviews in international peer-reviewed journals (h-index is 33). As a Director at NovaMechanics Ltd, he has led several efforts for the development of computational infrastructures of scientific and technological excellence at a national and European level that have contributed decisively to the support of new scientists. He participates as a PI with NovaMechanics in >30 multi-partner & international Projects. Currently he is the Coordinator of the materials informatics projects NanoSolveIT and CompSafeNano.


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