Nanosciences, nanotechnologies, materials and new production technologies (NMP)

The field of ’Nanosciences, Nanotechnologies, Materials and new Production Technologies’ (NMP) is a still-young area of research and development and a thematic focus of both EU and USA. Nanosciences and nanotechnologies are new approaches to research and development that aim to control the fundamental structure and behaviour of matter at the level of atoms and molecules. As a consequence, different application sectors are concerned by the approach, so the aim is to strengthen the competitiveness of industry by generating ‘step changes’ in a wide range of sectors and implementing decisive knowledge for new applications between different technologies and disciplines.

Indeed, a study funded by the US National Science Foundation projects that 6 million nanotechnology workers will be needed worldwide by 2020, with 2 million of those jobs in the United States (Roco, Mirkin, and Hersam, 2010).

The United States is committed to the long-term, sustainable growth of this burgeoning field through federal funding programs and an extensive infrastructure of research and development centers, networks, and user facilities. US-American nanotechnology research is world-leading and there is high cooperation potential with EU experts.

EU-USA cooperation in the field of nanotechnology has been initiated in December 1999 through the EU-USA Agreement on Scientific and Technological Co-operation and in particular by the Implementing Arrangement between the European Commission and the National Science Foundation (USA) for co-operative activities in the field of materials science. Under the umbrella of the EU-U.S. S&T agreement, specific “implementing arrangements” were indeed signed between the European Commission and the U.S. funding agencies to organise collaboration in particular areas of research. As a result, since 2003, several implementing arrangements have been initiated, for instance in the field of environmental research with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Other formal cooperation arrangements have been launched in metrology with the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) and in materials science (including nanotechnology) with the NSF.

In the extension of the EU-USA Agreement to another five years, signed on 13th October 2004, nanotechnology was for the first time mentioned explicitly. Following the renewal of the Agreement, the Implementing Arrangement was automatically extended in 2009.

In the NMP cooperation programmes between EU and USA the emphasis is given to the following activities:

  • Nanosciences and nanotechnologies — studying phenomena and manipulation of matter at the nanoscale and developing nanotechnologies leading to the manufacturing of new products and services.
  • Materials — using the knowledge of nanotechnologies and biotechnologies for new products and processes.
  • New production — creating conditions for continuous innovation and for developing generic production ‘assets’ (technologies, organization and production facilities as well as human resources), while meeting safety and environmental requirements. Integration of technologies for industrial applications — focusing on new technologies, materials and applications to address the needs identified by the different European Technology Platforms.

During the EU-U.S. Joint Consultative Group Meeting on Science and Technology Cooperation which took place in February 2013 in Washington, EU and US officials met in order to discuss ways to enhance science, technology and innovation cooperation. With regard to the field of Materials science, where the two sides could already evoke successful work between the EU, the U.S. and Japan in the area of critical raw materials research, they agreed to explore possibilities for collaboration opened up by new U.S. initiatives on advanced materials, particularly in the field of computational modelling.

On a practical level, the cooperation has been put into place through the EC programme "Competitive and Sustainable Growth" of FP5 which organised three co-ordinated calls for proposals with NSF, including mainly research but also education activities. The NMP priority of FP6 organised one co-ordinated call for proposals with the NSF in the field of computational materials research. A joint call has equally been published under the Nanosciences, Nanotechnologies, Materials and new Production Technologies theme in FP7 regarding “Modelling toxicity behaviour of engineered nanoparticles” with funding from the US side having been provided through Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).