PARTICLE_RISK was one of the first multidisciplinary projects funded by the European Commission's Framework Programme that was responsible for evaluating the implications of nanomaterial (NM) exposure on human health. This project was the basis for this review which identifies the challenges that exist within the assessment of NM risk. We have retrospectively reflected on the findings of completed nanotoxicology studies to consider what progress and advances have been made within the risk assessment of NMs, as well as discussing the direction that nanotoxicology research is taking and identifying the limitations and failings of existing research. We have reflected on what commonly encountered challenges exist and explored how these issues may be resolved. In particular, the following is discussed (i) NM selection (ii) NM physico-chemical characterisation; (iii) NM dispersion; (iv) selection of relevant doses and concentrations; (v) identification of relevant models, target sites and endpoints; (vi) development of alternatives to animal testing; and (vii) NM risk assessment. These knowledge gaps are relatively well recognised by the scientific community and recommendations as to how they may be overcome in the future are provided. It is hoped that this will help develop better defined hypothesis driven research in the future that will enable comprehensive risk assessments to be conducted for NMs. Importantly, the nanotoxicology community has responded and adapted to advances in knowledge over recent years to improve the approaches used to assess NM hazard, exposure and risk. It is vital to learn from existing information provided by ongoing or completed studies to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort, and to offer guidance on aspects of the experimental design that should be carefully considered prior to the start of a new study.