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Nano4Society: health, security, energy, agro with 'nano inside'

Nanotechnology, over the past decades, proved to be a key enabling technology for a wide range of applications. The position of The Netherlands is strong thanks to large and successful programmes like NanoNextNL and public-private partnerships. This enables a flying start for the new ‘Nano4Society’ programme: applying nanotechnology in health, security, sustainability, agro and food. This programme, targeting at 400 million euros for the coming three years, is officially started during a kick-off meeting, looking forward to the coming 15 years of nanotechnology.

The chosen period of 15 years is not a coincidence. The Dutch branch association of companies and institutes in micro/nanotechnology, MinacNed, was founded 15 years ago. In SME’s in this field, now over 5000 people work and this number is rapidly growing. This is a clear indication that nanotechnology passed the stadium of ‘futuristic vistas’ and is a key enabling technology by now: without ‘nano inside’ many products wouldn’t have existed and new developments would not be possible. The top position of The Netherlands is thanks to the excellent ‘NanoLabNL’ research infrastructure, open to both science and industry. “In order to maintain this strong position, we’ll need to keep these facilities up-to-date. And that is only possible through new investments”, Prof Guus Rijnders says. He is chair of the NanoNextNL foundation and scientific director of the MESA+ Institute of the University of Twente.

Speeding up processes

The company of MinacNed’s chairman, Ronny van ‘t Oever, is an excellent example of the impact of nanotechnology. Micronit Microfluidics is a UT spinoff, founded in the year 2000 and currently employing over 100 people. By now, it is a world player in the field of fluidic chips. For DNA analysis, sequencing, all over the world, 40 percent of the samples is tested using a Micronit chip. Van ‘t Oever: “Nanotechnology truly gave a boost to this research, by reducing costs and speeding up processes.” An upcoming field, for Micronit, is ‘organ-on-a-chip’: it uses small tissue samples, on microfluidic chips, as models for full human organs. Disease research and development of personalized, targeted medication will be possible in this way, using far less testing animals.

These are examples of ‘Nano4Health’, one of the subdomains of the new programme Nano4Society. The others are ‘Nano4Sustainability’‘Nano4Security’ and ‘Nano4Agro/Food/Water’. Nanotechnology will be able to improve and accelerate all of these sectors. We’ll need better batteries than the current lithium ones, in order to meet the growing need for energy storage. We’ll need better ways of cleaning our drinking water, we’ll need smart ways of securing our information society. With knowledge of materials on the atomic level, as well as nanofabricated structures, nanotechnology helps in doing so.

Sense of urgency

It is thanks to the NanoNextNL programme that partners find each other: universities and institutes, organisations like TNO, multinationals and SME’s, together with Dutch government. Nano4Society has connections to other programmes like PhotonDelta, the national photonics initiative. An estimated budget for the programme is about 150 million euros per year, of which part already is secured. “We are confident that regional and national governements, as well as Europe, see the urgency to accelerate again. Especially with the very positive evaluation of NanoNextNL in mind”, says Prof Albert van den Berg (MESA+ Institute), scientific foreman who shaped the plans together with his colleagues from other universities and industry.

The kick-off on 25 September (NB: the language of the presentations is Dutch), at the Dutch Federation of Technology Branches in Leusden, will demonstrate the capabilities of nanotechnology. Visitors are challenged to come up with ideas for the coming 15 years of nanotechnology.

More information:

Contact person MinacNed: Nynke Minnema, +31612242885

ir. W.R. van der Veen (Wiebe)
Press relations (available Mon-Fri)