The external final evaluation of the NANOMAT programme, conducted by the international consulting firms DAMVAD of Denmark and Econ Pöryry of Norway, earlier this year concluded that the programme has succeeded in building knowledge and capacity, coordinating national research communities and Hilde Erlandsen developing research groups in the areas of the ethical, legal and social aspects of biotechnology, nanotechnology and neurotechnology, and HSE (health, safety and environment).
In her remarks during the programme’s recently held concluding seminar, Hilde Erlandsen, Director of the Department for Technologies and Industries at the Research Council, commented on the positive evaluation results as well as on the Research Council’s plans for the establishment of a new nanotechnology initiative.
Knowledge, coordination and education
Speaking from the institutions’ point of view, Dean Bjørn Hafskjold of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) said that the NANOMAT programme had played a vital role in building knowledge and promoting coordination between the various research institutions.
Education in the field was given a major boost during the NANOMAT programme period as well. During the programme period, from 2002 to 2011, all of the largest educational institutions in Norway introduced their own study programmes in nanotechnology at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels.
Increasing focus on benefit to society
The programme was originally established to conduct basic research. Over time the emphasis on the benefit to society and value creation generated by the research received greater focus, and the business sector became increasingly involved in the activities. The focus on industry grew even more relevant when the Ministry of Trade and Industry allocated funding to the programme in 2007.
During the course of the NANOMAT programme period, a total of NOK 700 million has been granted to Norwegian research projects. The concluding seminar included presentations of the results from selected areas, including solar cell research, nanomedicine, magnetic data storage and the measurement industry.
New research programme
Now the Research Council and Norwegian Government are looking ahead towards the new research programme on nanotechnology that will soon be launched. A new ten-year programme with an annual budget of some NOK 100 million is in the works.
At the concluding seminar, State Secretary Kyrre Lekve of the Ministry of Education and Research gave an update on the status of the Government’s national strategy for nanotechnology, which will be finalised in the spring of 2012. The strategy, which is being drawn up by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, will be an important part of the foundation of the Research Council’s new programme.
“The Government wants to use research to meet major national and global challenges and to promote progress in our society. Nanotechnology will be a catalyst for developing new industry. At the same time we must continue to work to build and expand the research groups in this area,” Mr Lekve said.
Students point the way to new nano-thinking
Future nano researchers were well represented at the NANOMAT seminar by three student teams who competed for an award set up by the Research Council.
After a keen competition between projects on topics from contact lenses to blood test sensors, three students from Vestfold University College – Quoc-Huy Nguyen, Bao Quoc Ta and Giang Minh Nghiem – walked away with the victory for their project for an inexpensive water-purification device.
Their project is an example of how nanotechnology can help to solve global challenges. One-third of the world’s population lives in areas with limited access to clean water. The students devised a concept for a device that can purify salt water on a small scale and at a very low price.