In the context of the development of nanotechnologies policy making faces specific challenges, because of the nature of the technologies themselves, and because of the evolution of international governance. Policymakers need to integrate these parameters, but their task is made difficult by the number of coexisting different frameworks and by the way stakeholders use them. This two part survey outlines these frameworks and draws from new institutional theory as well as from the policy and innovation literatures to discuss the challenges of nano policy making. The first part of the survey introduces nano policy making and the reasons for its complexity, and offers a panorama of the set of mandatory tools that are currently available to regulate nanotechnologies. The second part, which will appear in a following issue of Global Policy, provides an outlook of the set of voluntary tools that coexist with the mandatory ones, followed by a discussion of the use of all these tools by the different stakeholders. The survey concludes by debating two major directions which nano policy making may follow.