Goals and facts
SMART (Foresight Action for Knowledge Based Multifunctional Materials Technology)
within Priority 3 „Nanotechnology and nanosciences, knowledge-based multifunctional materials, new production processes and devices“ of FP 6, funded by EC, contract no. SSA 517045 SMART (total costs: 576 k€ and funding: 478 k€, 2 years)
The SMART-Report is now available.
The report "Future Perspectives of European Materials Research" summarises the results of the SMART-project.
Objectives of the SMART Project
Materials research and science are among the main driving forces for innovative products and processes, albeit usually with long lead times. The SMART Project aimed to map excellent groups and identify highly relevant research areas in the field of knowledge-based multifunctional materials within the perspective of the next 5 to 30 years. Its focus, therefore, was put on materials-related fields which were relatively new or which still required long time periods for successful technology implementation. The SMART Specific Support Activity consisted of a combination of forecast processes (including the interviewing of more than 300 experts) for areas of scientific and technological relevance and the analysis of available foresight studies, accompanied with considerations of issues impacting economic prosperity, environmental and societal change and public safety and security.
Following a broad screening the search was focused to a limited number of highly promising fields (so-called materials “hot spots”) by involving experts from academia and industry. On this basis, roadmaps were developed to supply information on scopes, time horizons and probable bottlenecks. These in turn were used to identify future research requirements and actions.
Impact of the SMART Project
Progress in materials research and technology is one of the key drivers of innovation. The diversity and width of the field of materials research coupled with the strong impact of rapid progress in neighbouring disciplines often results in difficulties in identifying the most suitable candidates for funding activities.
The SMART study provided an expert overview of the most promising research topics in materials research for the time period 2007-2035. It summarised and complemented various other studies and roadmaps which have attempted to identify the directions in which material research were expected to proceed. Because of its focus on themes strategically relevant for European research and the fact that many of the preceding studies were slowly becoming obsolete, the collaborative SMART project was able to provide an up-to-date basis for the preparation of research initiatives for the future.
One of the main potential addresses was the European Commission, which at that time was discussing the aims, form and content of its 7th Framework Programme (FP7). Here, the roadmaps were of assistance for drafting the technical content. The foresight and forecasting studies of SMART were also beneficial for the further development of national research initiatives and for joint activities such as materials ERA-NETs.
Other interested recipients were the individual participants involved in the research and innovation process, strategists and scientists working in industry (including small and medium-sized enterprises), academia and in research institutes.
The involvement of a large number of experts from varying disciplines and from many countries contributed to a better structuring of the future materials research field. A more unified view of key individual research topics and on their relative importance was developed which supported the dialogue on future research directions in Europe by more closely defining the areas requiring action. This process was particularly enhanced through the workshops where European research representatives jointly discussed the findings of the study.
Another impact of SMART was the identification of the infrastructures and techniques required for the unhindered advance of materials research. This concerned not only hardware such as radiation sources or analytical equipment but also included innovative means for networking and education.
Contribution to policy developments
SMART also delivered an important contribution to the European Research Area by making transparent the specific skills (and deficits) of European excellence in materials research. Such a transparency is the pre-requisite for healthy competition and for synergies between European researchers, enterprises and innovation systems. It also gave impulses for multinational governmental or regional research programmes by the identification of “hot topics” in materials research on the medium-to-long term. Moreover, the identification of fields of long-term importance also had a positive effect on the education sector. Finally, the benchmarking of Europe’s position within the world-wide context contributed to a clearer definition of future required measures on the European scale.