The Sixth framework programme for research and technological development is structured in three main blocks of activities. 'Focusing and Integrating Community Research', 'Structuring the European Research Area, and 'Strengthening the foundations of the European Research Area'. The 'Nanotechnologies and nanosciences, knowledge-based multifunctional materials and new production processes and devices' is one of the thematic priorities laid down in the 'Focusing and Integrating Community Research' programme of FP6. The priority thematic areas (seven in total) of the 'Focusing and Integrating Community Research' represent the bulk of expenditure under the Sixth framework programme 2002-2006.
Nanotechnologies represent a new approach to materials science and engineering. Europe enjoys a strong position in the nanosciences but this position needs to be translated into a real competitive advantage for European industry. The transformation of industry towards high-added value organisations necessitates real integrated approaches either 'vertical' combining materials sciences nanotechnologies and production technologies as well as other technologies based e.g. on information technologies or biotechnologies or 'horizontal' combining multi-sectoral interests.
European production industry as a whole needs to move from resource-based towards knowledge-based, more environment-friendly approaches, from quantity to quality, from mass produced single-use products to manufactured-on-demand multi-use, upgradable product-services and from 'material and tangible' to 'intangible' value-added products, processes and services. These changes are associated with radical shifts in industrial structures, involving a stronger presence of innovative enterprises, with capabilities in networks and mastering new hybrid technologies.
The primary objective of 'Nanotechnologies and nanosciences, knowledge-based multifunctional materials and new production processes and devices' is to promote real industrial breakthroughs, based on scientific and technological excellence. Radical breakthrough can be achieved through two complementary approaches:
- creation of new knowledge;
- new ways of integrating and exploiting existing and new knowledge.