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International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory

A decision was reached at the 21st Portugal-Spain Summit held in Évora on 18th and 19th November 2005 to set up a Portuguese-Spanish R&D Institute, as a groundbreaking initiative symbolising a new type of international institutional R&D partnership in science and technology in Europe.

It was decided that the institute would be located in Braga-Portugal. Its first director would be a Spanish researcher (Professor José Rivas of the University of Santiago de Compostela, nominated on the occasion by the President of the Government of Spain) and it would have 200 researchers from Spain, Portugal and other countries, with an annual operational budget of approximately 30 million Euros and an additional investment of the same amount, shared equally between the two countries.

The idea behind setting up this new institute is to beef up scientific and technological cooperation between Portugal and Spain, opening up a new era in their relations and in building national knowledge-based economies.

The initial phase will involve Portugal and Spain, but other countries will be allowed to join, as will institutions and specialists from all over the world, with the objective of becoming a benchmark international research facility, developing partnerships with higher education institutions and the business sector, promoting the transfer of knowledge that adds value and creates jobs, as well as training specialised professionals.

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed at the aforementioned Summit, setting up a bilateral Technical Committee to prepare a detailed proposal including definitions of the initial lines of scientific and technological activity to pursue, the Institute’s operational model, how it will be funded, and the partnerships to be set up and methods and timeframe for setting up. It was agreed that this committee would comprise representatives from Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC), the Science and Technology Foundation (FCT), the Office for International Science and Higher Education Relations (GRICES) and the Council of Associate Laboratories (CLA), the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education of Portugal, and the Directorate-General for Research (DGI), the Directorate-General for Technology Policy (DGTP) and the Directorate-General for Universities (DGU), and the Ministry of Education and Science of the Kingdom of Spain. This Technical Committee was chaired by the President of Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC), the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education of Portugal, and by the Secretary General for Scientific and Technology Policy and the Ministry of Education and Science of the Kingdom of Spain.

The Technical Committee’s progress report that was drafted to be handed to the governments of both countries included, inter alia, the proposal for the institute to focus on the nanotechnology and nanoscience areas, and guidelines for the legal framework and administrative organisation for the institute as an international science and technology organisation. This proposal took on board recommendations from an International Scientific Board consisting of eminent scientists in the areas under consideration. As regards the legal framework aspects, contributions came from Jean-Marie Dufour, Professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Geneva and President of the Geneva International Academic Network, who was a legal adviser for CERN European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva, which was founded in 1956, and who was involved in setting up the main international research laboratories in Europe, namely the ESO – European Southern Observatory, set up in 1962 and based in Garching, Germany, the EMBL – European Molecular Biology Laboratory, inaugurated in 1978 in Heidelberg, and the ESRF – European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, set up in Grenoble in 1988. The Technical Committee worked in conjunction with Helmut Krech, Administrative Director of the ESRF on the administrative points.

The Spanish and Portuguese initiative was presented on 6th October 2006 by the President of Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC) at the first Lisbon Strategy best practices seminar, which was held in Lisbon under the title “ Excellence and Partnerships towards an Innovative Europe”. Participants included the Lisbon Strategy Coordinators from the Member States of the European Union, the President of the European Commission and one of his Vice-Presidents (the Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry).

The Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education and Braga Municipal Council signed the agreement giving the State the municipal land to build the institute on 17th November 2006. The land covers an area of 47,455 m2 and is located roughly 500 metres from the Universidade do Minho’s Gualtar Campus, on the site selected by the Technical Committee from all the proposed locations received. On the same day, an agreement was signed between the said Ministry and the Universidade do Minho granting university premises for the institute's Installing Committee.

Location of the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory (INL) (via GoogleEarth) >>

The 23rd November 2006 meeting of the Council of Ministers approved the creation of the Installing Committee for the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory (INL) as a private non-profit making public utility association and its respective statutes were also approved, as published under Decree Law No. 66/2007, of 19th March (text in Portuguese).

The Portuguese associates of the Installing Committee are the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education, via the Science and Technology Foundation (FCT) and Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC), and on the Spanish side, the Ministry of Education and Science, represented by its Secretary General’s Office for Scientific and Technological Policies. The Installing Committee’s objective is to carry out all additional actions required for the duration of setting up the INL. It is its responsibility to launch international calls for tender for the design and/or construction of the premises, hiring of scientific and administrative staff, as well as preparing and carrying out the scientific activity programme until the INL starts operating.

On 25th November 2006, the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation (FCT) and the Spanish Dirección General de Investigación launched a call for tender for Nanotechnology scientific research and technological development projects (text in Portuguese), in the scope of the scientific and technological cooperation between Spain and Portugal related to the INL - International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory. The call specifically focussed on the following topics: nanomedicine (diagnostic systems, therapeutic applications and controlled medication release) and nanotechnology for environmental control and for food safety and quality. The call is aimed at multidisciplinary research teams of international scientific and technological excellence in the areas given and mixed teams, that is to say, involving researchers from Spanish or Portuguese public institutions or private not-for-profit institutions, with at least one team from each country involved in each project. An international panel of independent assessors from other countries shall evaluate these projects. They shall be named through agreement between the FCT and the Spanish Dirección General de Investigación. This will be the first time the two countries have adopted this evaluation scheme for bilateral cooperation projects.

The Spanish-Portuguese Nanotechnology Laboratories Meeting was held at the premises of the Installing Committee of the INL - International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory on 23rd February 2007. Participants (List in Portuguese) included representatives from the main nanoscience and nanotechnology laboratories, the coordinators of the Spanish Nanotechnology Network and the Portuguese Nanotechnology Network , and representatives from the ministries of science of the two countries. Presentations (text in Portuguese and Spanish) were given of the various laboratories and views were exchanged as to the role the INL is to play.

Decree Law No. 66/2007 (text in Portuguese) was published on 19th March 2007,setting up the INL Installing Committee and approving the respective statutes.

The 1st General Meeting of the INL Installing Committee was held on 10th May 2007, at which members of the corporate bodies were named, including: President of the General Assembly – Luis Magalhães, President of Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC); Secretary of the General Assembly – Francisco Marcellán, Secretary General for Science and Technology Policy; President of the Administrative Board – José Rivas, Professor at the University of Santiago de Compostela; Executive Director (and part of the Administrative Board) – Carlos Bernardo, Professor at the Universidade do Minho and President of the Associate Laboratory "I3N – Nanostructures, nanomodelling and Nanomanufacturing Institute "; Voting Member on the Administrative Board: Paulo Freitas, Professor at the Instituto Superior Técnico and President of the "Nanotechnologies Institute” Associate Laboratory.

The Government presented its draft resolution for approval of the INL’s statutes before the Portuguese Parliament on 21st May 2007. It received a favourable opinion from the Foreign Business and Portuguese Communities Committee for consideration in plenary. This opinion was published on 16th July 2007 in the Portuguese official journal, Diário da República. The legislative process was at a similar stage at that point in Spain.

The 2nd General Assembly of the INL Installing Committee was held on 27th July 2007 to assess the Administrative Board’s proposal for awarding the BoD – Basis of Design for the premises of the future INL campus following invitations for tenders addressed to three internationally-renowned enterprises in nanotechnology laboratory projects. A decision was taken based on the evaluation report to award the basis of design to two world-leading companies for this type of project (M+W Zander and HDR), with the following objectives: to enable consideration of two alternatives and avoid being tied in to one single supplier at this stage, to create a situation of natural competition between the two design teams, to increase the decision-making abilities of the Administrative Board and the General Assembly, which will be able to choose from the best of two solutions. Work began after this decision and proceeded at a very good pace. [Note: M+W Zander is a German company with a great deal of experience of designing complex installations for the electronics and semiconductor producing industries, among others, and of designing, building and operating clean rooms (for example, it recently carried out a project in Taiwan with 133,000 m2 of clean rooms, which were built in 12 months). HDR is an American company that has worked on designing and building nanotechnology installations, among others. It has been involved in designing six nanotechnology installations, of which one was in the United Kingdom and the others in the USA, two for universities and the rest for specific research laboratories. One recent project (2003-05) is the Birck Nanotechnology Center at the University of Purdue.]

The High Level Conference on Nanotechnology (text in Portuguese) was held in Braga on 20th -21st November 2007 in the scope of the Portuguese Presidency of the EU. participants included the Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education of Portugal and the Spanish Minister for Education and Science, the European Commissioners for Science and Research and the Information Society and Media, as well as leading lights from science, industry and C&T policy in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology. Of these topic areas, special attention was paid to the following: nanoelectronics, computing in the nanotechnology age, nanomedicine, nanotechnology applications in food safety and quality, the environment and energy, micro and nano systems, organic electronics, and nanotechnology in industrial production (including textiles). As regards European S&T policies, significant consideration was given to the JTI – Joint Technology Initiatives, particularly those involving nanoelectronics (ENIAC – European Nanoelectronics Initiative Advisory Council) and embedded systems (ARTEMIS – Advanced Research and Technology for Embedded Intelligence and Systems) as well as various European Technology Platforms in nanotechnology-related areas, namely: ENIAC (Nanotechnology), ARTEMIS (Embedded Systems), Nanomedicine, EPoSS (Smart Systems), Photonics21, Textiles, Manufuture (Future Manufacturing Technologies)/ MINAM (Micro- and Nano- Manufacturing), EuMAT (Advanced Engineering Materials and Technologies).

The High Level Conference on Nanotechnologies (text in Portuguese) was jointly organised by Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC), the Science and Technology Foundation (FCT), the Installing Committee for the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory (INL) and the European Commission’s Directorates-General for Technology, Technology and Development, and the Information Society and Media. Conference participants were given, among other things, the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory (INL) – An international community for nanotechnology brochure. Most of the presentations that were given are available using the links on the Conference Programme.

Meetings for 9 Committees and Boards for Various EU Programmes were held in Braga (text in Portuguese) the day before the High Level Conference on Nanotechnology, on 19th November 2007, most of which were topics related to nanotechnology. One of these was the European Union National ICT Research Directors Forum meeting which gathered together the Directors-General responsible for Information and Communication Technologies in the 27 Member States of the EU and the external countries that are associates in the EU Research Framework Programme.

The approval of the INL Statutes by the Portuguese Parliament (Resolution of the Portuguese Parliament No. 59/2007 (text in Portuguese, Spanish and English)) were published in the Portuguese official journal, Diário da República No. 225, 1st Series, on 22nd November 2007, as was their ratification by the President of the Republic (Decree of the President of the Republic No. 125/2007 (text in Portuguese).

The Council of EU Science Ministers meet (text in Portuguese) on 23rd November 2007 in Brussels, in the guise of the EU Competitiveness Council for Research. Under the presidency of the Portuguese Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education, José Mariano Gago, Science ministers from EU countries and the European Commission, represented by the Commissioner for Research, Janez Potočnik, and the Commissioner for the Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding, approved the agreement prepared by the Portuguese Presidency to launch the first strategic public-private partnerships between the Member States, the European Commission and Industry for a total 9.3 billion Euros, including two JTI – Joint Technology Initiatives related to nanotechnology, which specifically concern nanoelectronics (ENIAC – European Nanoelectronics Initiative Advisory Council) (3 billion Euros) and I.T. systems embedded in other products (ARTEMIS – Advanced Research and Technology for Embedded Intelligence and Systems) (2.7 billion Euros).

A Meeting of the International Academic Board of INL (text in Portuguese) was held in Lisbon on 3rd December 2007 at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education to assess the work setting up this new international laboratory.

The BoD - Basis of Design drafted by M+W Zander was approved at the General Assembly of the INL Installing Committee held in Madrid on 15th January 2008 as a base programme for negotiating subsequent design and construction work, to be supplemented by amendments and specific requirements.
A new phase in the Empowerment Programme for nanoscience and nanotechnology was approved at the same meeting, beefing up cooperation between Portugal and Spain with the INL's support, with three components:

  • R&D projects approved after international evaluation (see evaluation panel) of the proposals presented from the call launched in November 2006 by Portugal’s Science and Technology Foundation (FCT) and the Spanish Dirección General de Investigación (10 projects approved involving 36 research teams from Portuguese institutions and the same number from Spanish institutions (see the geographic distribution of research teams for the 10 approved projects), which were selected from a total of 72 received applications).
  • Doctoral scholarships for training in Portuguese and Spanish research units (15 scholarships to be allocated equally to both countries’ research units for training and preparation of a call for the allocation of further scholarships).
  • Post-doctorates to be carried out in laboratories under international secondment in areas of specific interest to the INL.

The 1st meeting of the INL Board was also held on 15th January in Madrid as a fully-fledged institution under international law to approve the draft Headquarters Agreement to be signed with the Portuguese State, giving the Laboratory the necessary conditions to pursue its objectives and activities independently and effectively, and governing its relationship with the Portuguese State, in particular laying down privileges and immunities typical to international research organisations, and also to designate the nominated Director-General, Professor José Rivas, to represent the INL at the act of signing the Headquarters Agreement with the Portuguese State.

The Headquarters Agreement between the Portuguese Republic and the INL (text in Portuguese and English) was signed in Braga on 18th January 2008 at the site of the future premises of the INL – International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory during the 23rd Portugal-Spain Summit, in the presence of the Portuguese Prime Minister, José Sócrates, the President of the Spanish Government, José Luis Zapatero, and the ministers from the two countries’ delegations at the said summit. The Agreement was later approved by the Portuguese Parliament on 27th June 2008 and published in the official journal, Diário da República, on 5th August 2008. This agreement sets out the immunities and privileges of the Laboratory and those involved with it as a fully-fledged scientific organisation under international law.

The ceremony also included the signing of the formal agreement between Braga Municipal Council and the Portuguese State whereby the Council gives up all claims to the plot for the INL premises, following the Protocol signed by the Braga Municipal Council and the Portuguese State on 27th November 2006, and the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding with the IBM Corporation (see Information on the Memorandum of Understanding (text in Portuguese)) with a view to jointly identifying research projects for possible future collaboration, underscoring the INL’s intention to conduct R&D activities with enterprises.

In addition to the signing of the documents mentioned above, there were two key symbolic moments during the ceremony (text in Portuguese): the sealing of the monument marking the foundation of the INL with a nanometric inscription containing the letters “INL” and the presentation of the model (Northeast aspect and Southwest aspect) of the basic architectural design. A video portraying the INL installation project development was shown at the event.

On 11th March 2008, the 1st contract for construction of the INL - International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory was launched through publication in the Official Journal of the European Union and in Portuguese and Spanish newspapers of the Notice of International Public Consultation for the Completion of the Contract for Demolition, Foundations, Structures and Subterranean Networks, Cover, Façades and External Window Frames.

The Portuguese and Spanish Nanotechnology Networks, PortugalNano and NanoSpain respectively, organised the Joint Meeting of the Portuguese and Spanish Nanotechnology Networks (text in Portuguese) on 14th – 18th April 2008.

The 2nd meeting of the INL Board was held, consisting of Luis Magalhães, President of Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC), João Sentieiro, President of the Science and Technology Foundation (FCT), Carolina Rego Costa, Jurist, Assistant to the Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education, on behalf of Portugal, and José Manuel Labastida, Secretary-General for Science and Technology Policy, Montserrat Torné, Director-General for International Cooperation at the Ministry of Innovation and Science, and Fernando Briones, Research Professor at the Higher Scientific Research Council Agency, representing Spain. At this meeting, the Board named the top-level executives and set out the initial guidelines for operating the laboratory. The following nominations were approved unanimously: Prof. José Rivas (text in Portuguese) for Director-General, Prof. Paulo Freitas (text in Portuguese) for Deputy Director-General, Prof. Luis Magalhães for Chairman of the Board, and Prof. Montserrat Torné as Vice-Chairman of the Board. The INL Board authorised the Director-General to recruit LNEC - National Civil Engineering Laboratory to help with the tenders for construction and to monitor them, to prepare organisational proposals and proposals for recruiting human resources, and to continue with building cooperation programmes, namely with MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and the Max Planck Gesellschaft to assist with installing the Laboratory.

Nano Bugle, an Internet blog, was launched on 16th June 2008 to disseminate information on the INL and matters of interest to the nanoscience and nanotechnology community. The INL website is also available, which includes information on job opportunities and the recruitment process for the INL.

The 3rd meeting of the INL Board was held in Madrid on 27th June 2008, where the proposals for awarding the 1st building contract and respective inspection were approved by the Director-General, after assessment of the calls for tender that had been launched and the corresponding negotiations. The corresponding work was scheduled to begin in mid July.

An Initial INL-MIT Meeting took place on 31st October 2008 atMIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA. Its objective was to explore the possibilities for collaboration between the two institutions. This meeting was followed by the 2nd INL-MIT Meeting, which was conducted on 22nd November 2008 at the Forum Ciência Viva 2008 (text in Portuguese) premises in Lisbon.

On 19th December 2008, the Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education Visited the INL Construction Works to observe how construction work was progressing for the INL. Work was proceeding at an exceedingly good pace with a great volume of work visibly built since the end of July 2008, when construction began, and with progress in a work which, due to the specificity of the installations, was using various new building techniques for the first time in Portugal.

The 4th INL Board Meeting was held in Madrid on 7 January 2009, at which the decisions to award the contracts with designers put forward by the Director-General were approved, as were delegation of powers to the Director-General and provisory contracting legislation.

A 2nd Meeting of the INL International Scientific Board was held in Braga on 23 January 2009 at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education to assess the work in setting up this new international laboratory. The meeting was attended by the President of the INL Board and President of The Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC), Luis Magalhães, the Director-General, José Rivas and the Deputy Director-General, Paulo Freitas. In the meeting break, members of the International Scientific Board visited the INL construction work, which is progressing at pace. The International Scientific Board voiced its considerable pleasure and satisfaction with the progress that has been made over the last year in construction, recruiting post-doctoral students and awarding PhD grants and at how a collaboration network is being created with different nanotechnology laboratories in Spain, Portugal and other countries. It also issued recommendations for the future.

The 3rd INL-MIT Meeting was held in Lisbon on 26 January 2009 to prepare an INL-MIT Collaboration Programme with long-term strategic objectives and short-term joint activities.

The 5th INL Board Meeting was held in Lisbon on 1 March 2009, at which tender award proposals presented by the Director-General for the construction of finishings, networks, special infrastructures and exterior details were approved, as was the respective inspection work, and the Director-General’s proposal to adjust the length and cost of the construction contract for the building infrastructures, underground networks, roof and façades. The proposal to open calls for tender for scientific equipment was also approved and the information and report from the 2nd Meeting of the INL International Scientific Board , held on 23 January 2008 in Braga, were analysed. The 2008 activity report, the 2009 activities plan and the proposed budget for 2009 were also examined and the progress report presented by the Director-General was analysed.

On 30 May 2009, the INL and MIT Launched a Joint Recruitment Programme for Principal Researchers and collaboration in research areas of particular promise to lead to scientific contributions of major international relevance in nanoscience and nanotechnology. This collaboration agreement is the fruit of detailed preparatory work over more than a year involving three bilateral meetings and many other contacts between MIT and INL management mediated by the Portuguese Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education. The agreement, which was signed by the INL Director-General, José Rivas, and by the Dean of the MIT School of Engineering, Subra Suresh, foresees the joint recruitment of 10 Principal Researchers for the INL, who will have periods over five years working at MIT and the INL on collaboration projects in jointly selected fields that are of major relevance to nanomedicine and nanoscience applications for monitoring the environment, energy systems and checking food quality.

The 6th Meeting of the INL Board took place in Madrid on 16 June 2009, at which the proposal to open calls for tender for scientific equipment was analysed, the 2008 financial report was examined, the progress report presented by the Director-General was discussed and the state of preparations of the draft rules of procedure noted.

On 17 July 2009, less than four years after Portugal and Spain signed the agreement to set up the institution, the INL premises were unveiled (see INL opens its doors: Portugal and Spain seek to join the group of leading nanotechnology nations ). Present at the inauguration ceremony were His Highness the King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, the President of the Portuguese Republic, Aníbal Cavaco Silva, the President of the Spanish Government, José Luis Zapatero, the Prime Minister of Portugal, José Sócrates, the Spanish Minister for Science and Innovation, Cristina Garmendia, and the Portuguese Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education, José Mariano Gago. A video was shown at the ceremony of the story behind the creation and construction of the INL. The researcher recruitment process is well underway. These scientists will swell the ranks of the almost 40 PhD and post-doctoral students who are already working in universities and research centres in Portugal, Spain and other countries in Europe, North America and Asia. Given the highly specialised requirements for each project, the Principal Researchers who will be recruited will play an active part in designing laboratories and in selecting and purchasing equipment for use in these laboratories. As the future is uncertain, the main building, whose structure and facilities for the first collaborators have now been finished, will not be completely occupied until the end of 2009. It is hoped that the Laboratory will be operational by this time. At this point, only a fraction of the 200 scientists will be conducting projects at the INL, as the recruitment process for the total number of scientists should take 5 or 6 years. This is why the premises have been built with the necessary flexibility for occupation and need for future adjustments in mind. Some of these rooms will be fitted out over the next five years in accordance with new, thus far unknown, technological developments and future research activities that cannot be predicted. The building is prepared not just for the here-and-now, but also for future needs.

Last updated ( 24/10/2011 )