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Home  > Emerging Technologies  > News  > INL Opens Its Doors: Portugal and Spain Want To Be among the Leading Nations in Nanotechnology

INL Opens Its Doors: Portugal and Spain Want To Be among the Leading Nations in Nanotechnology

 - 17/07/2009

Logo of INL International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory

Less than four years after Portugal and Spain have signed an agreement to create this R&D laboratory, in November 2005, the building of the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory was officially inaugurated on July 17, 2009. This laboratory will be the 1st in the world with an international legal status with States as members which is specially dedicated to nanotechnology, thus offering the best conditions for the most talented researchers from around the world to develop top research in nanotechnology. It is also the 1st international laboratory in the Iberian Peninsula in any area of research, leading to Portugal and Spain to enter the restricted group of countries that have such research international organizations in their territory.

Present at the opening 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 Socrates, the Spanish Minister of Science and Innovation, Cristina Garmendia, and the Portuguese Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education, José Mariano Gago. In the ceremony, a video showing the short history of the creation and construction of the INL was projected.

The INL facilities will be the workplace where 200 scientists from around the world will have the opportunity to develop research in nanotechnology at the highest level. The INL was established under a partnership between the governments of Portugal and Spain, although other countries from anywhere in the world can now join as Member States.

INL is the first such laboratory specializing in nanotechnology, with a legal framework to that of CERN, the international nuclear physics laboratory in Geneva highly recognized for his many achievements to particle physics and for inventing the WWW – World Wide Web. The legal framework for INL is also similar to that of EMBL, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, and to that of a few other international laboratories dedicated to research in other areas.

The idea was initially launched in the Portugal-Spain Summit of November 2005 and it was deepened during 2006. The INL Statutes (versions in Portuguese, Spanish and English) were approved by international treaty in 2007 while the facilities were being designed. The Headquarters Agreement between the Portuguese Republic and the INL (versions in Portuguese and English) was signed in January 2008. The construction (accelerated photo sequence from January to July 2009) began in mid 2008 and is now reaching the end of the first implementation phase, nearly a year before the start of the construction works, and less than four years after the original idea was conceived. This is practically a global record in the speed of creation of such institutions.

The supreme body of the INL is the Council whose members representing the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education of Portugal are Luis Magalhães (Chairman), President of the Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC), João Sentieiro, President of the Science and Technology Foundation (FCT), Carolina Rego Costa, Adjunct to the Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education, and those representing the Ministry of Science and Innovation, of Spain are Montserrat Torné, Director-General of International Cooperation and Institutional Relations, José Manuel Labastida, Director-General of Research and Management of the National IDI Plan, and Fernando Briones, Research Professor of the Agency Board of Scientific Research (CSIC). Since it started functioning, about one and a half year ago, in January 2008, the Council has had six meetings. The Laboratory is headed by a Director-General, José Rivas, and a Deputy Director-General, Paulo Freitas, appointed by the Council on May 28, 2008 (see Council of the INL Nominates Officers and Sets Maximum Guidelines Initial Laboratory (in Portuguese)).

In December 2007, it was held the 1st meeting of the INL International Advisory Council (in Portuguese), whose members are: Roberto G.M. Caciuffo, Director of Research on Actinides, Institute for Transuranium Elements of the European Union Joint Research Center, Karlsruhe, Germany; Thomas Jovin, President of the Molecular Biology of the Max-Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, Germany; Emilio Mendez, Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research 1998, Department of Physics and Astronomy, State University of New York at Stony Brook, and since November 1, 2006 Director of the newly created Center for Functional Nanomaterials of the Brookhaven National Laboratory, USA; Christopher B. Murray, Award of the American Chemical Society's Nobel Laureate Signature in 1997, Richard Perry University Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania since October 2006, was Manager of Nanoscale Materials and Instruments at IBM, TJ Watson Research Ctr , Yorktown Heights, New York, USA, where he worked since 1995; Aristides A.G. Requicha, Gordon Marshall Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, Director of the Laboratory for Molecular Robotics, University of Southern California, appointed in November 2006 Editor in Chief of the journal IEEE Transactions on Nanotechnology, Los Angeles, USA; Mihail C. Roco, Carl Duisberg Award, Burgers Professorship Award, Engineer of the Year Award (1999, 2004), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Nanoscale Science and Technology of the National Science Council of the USA, Coordinator of the Engineering and Technology Initiative Funding Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Senior Advisor for Nanotechnology at NSF, he worked on setting up the National Nanotechnology Initiative of USA approved in 2004, Arlington, Virginia, USA; Heinrich Rohrer, Nobel Prize in Physics for inventing in 1986, with Gerd Binnig, the Scanning Tunneling Microscope, when he worked at the IBM Research Laboratory in Zurich, Wollerau, Switzerland.

INL was conceived to lead in developing an innovative research and entrepreneurial ecosystem, unique in this field of research. It will work closely with Universities, Research Centers and Business Incubators from around the world to identify projects in four areas related to nanotechnology which are very promising for research and development: nanomedicine, environmental monitoring and safety and food quality control, nanoelectronics (beyond CMOS) and nanomanipulation.

"By combining technology with human capital and knowledge, INL will work in a results-oriented strategy, taking advantage of its international legal status to deliver added value," said José Rivas, Director-General of INL. "We believe that with everyone's input, we can disseminate scientific results of high level throughout the world, with impact on the economy and society."

The research work that will be done on the premises of the INL, as well as in the framework of partnerships that the INL has been establishing all over the world, has as main objectives to contribute to the production of cutting-edge science and the creation of spin-offs and other commercial results. Research and Development will therefore be related to the real economy, health care and society. Working closely with companies, researchers and investors, the INL will generate economic results and impact on the way the future is created.

Of the total of 400 people who will work in the INL premises, 200 will be scientists who will develop projects in the four main research areas of the Laboratory. The recruitment process of personnel is currently underway, and these scientists will join a group of nearly 40 PhD students and postdoctoral researchers who are already working at Universities and Research Centres in Portugal, Spain and other countries in Europe, North America and Asia.

Due to the highly specialized requirements needed for each project, leading scientists who are hired will actively participate in the design of special laboratories and in the selection and acquisition of most of the equipment to be used in these laboratories.

"We believe that our cutting-edge facilities, one of the most advanced in the world, will enable us to elevate research in nanotechnology to a new level," said José Rivas. "Working closely with the Portuguese National Laboratory of Civil Engineering (LNEC) and leading international companies specialized in nanotechnology facilities, we tested and applied construction techniques never used in the Iberian Peninsula before."

With a total construction area of 26,000 m2, the main building includes the following research areas: a central clean room for micro and nanofabrication, the Central High Accuracy Laboratories of (vibration and controlled environment for structural analysis and electron microscopes, laboratory scanning probe, laboratory of analysis of surfaces and interfaces, NMR, and others), the central laboratory of biology and biochemistry, and two wings with 40 laboratories for research groups to be led by Principal Investigators to hire internationally.

The facilities dedicated to research were built taking into account stringent vibration limits required for the specialized work to be conducted. To ensure these conditions it was necessary to simulate multiple real situations during the various stages of the building construction. Moreover, to ensure that all research work is performed under the best conditions of safety and cleanliness, a great effort was invested in reducing the electromagnetic fields of the energy supply systems, of electrical connections to ground and of air purification.

Nanotechnology can be regarded as engineering at the atomic and molecular scale. To investing in nanotechnology can have great economic and social impact in the near future. The research areas have the potential to produce results that can be applied to multiple areas, such as medicine, data storage and new ways of producing and storing energy.

Given that the future is uncertain, the main building, whose structure and facilities for the first collaborators are now completed, will not be fully occupied next year, when it is expected that the laboratory will be operational. At that time only an initial part of the 200 scientists will be developing projects in the INL, as the recruitment process of scientists should take place within 5 years. Consequently, these facilities have been built taking into account the flexibility needed for the future occupation and adjustments needs. Some of these rooms will be equipped over the 5 five years according to new technological developments as yet unknown and future research activities whose details cannot be anticipated. The building is prepared not only to our current reality, but also for future needs.

Portugal and Spain wish to play a pivotal role among the few nations that will lead this important technological area. To achieve this, they want to attract some of the best world talent in nanotechnology and at the same time to open new opportunities for their researchers in this area to work at worldwide top level and to influence the future of this crucial technology of major strategic interest.

Comunicado de Prensa (in Spanish): El Laboratorio Ibérico Internacional de Nanotecnología abre sus puertas: Portugal y España desean desenpeñar un papel importante entre los países que lideran la nanotecnología

Press Release:The International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory opens its doors: Portugal and Spain want to play a major role among the nations leading on nanotechnology

Last updated ( 11/03/2011 )