European Community (EC)

The term "nanotechnology" is frequently defined in Europe as "the direct control of atoms and molecules" for materials and devices. A more specific definition from H. Rohrer (1997) is a "one-to-one relationship between a nano-object or nano-part of an object and another nano-, micro- or bulk object." The nanotechnology field as defined in this WTEC report includes these aspects, with the clarification that only the specific, distinctive properties and phenomena manifesting at length scales between individual atoms/molecules and bulk behavior are considered.

There are a combination of national programs, collaborative European (mostly EC) networks, and large corporations that fund nanotechnology research in Europe. Multinational European programs include the following:

  1. The ESPRIT Advanced Research Initiative in Microelectronics and the BRITE/EURAM projects on materials science in the EC are partially dedicated to nanotechnology.
  2. The PHANTOMS (Physics and Technology of Mesoscale Systems) program is a network created in 1992 with about 40 members to stimulate nanoelectronics, nanofabrication, optoelectronics, and electronic switching. Its coordinating center is at the IMEC Center for Microelectronics in Leuven, Belgium (see site report in Appendix B).
  3. The European Science Foundation has sponsored a network since 1995 for Vapor-phase Synthesis and Processing of Nanoparticle Materials (NANO) in order to promote bridges between the aerosol and materials science communities working on nanoparticles. The NANO network includes 18 research centers and is codirected by Duisburg University and Delft University of Technology.
  4. The European Consortium on NanoMaterials (ECNM) was formed in 1996, with its coordinating center in Lausanne, Switzerland. This group aims at fundamental research to solve technological problems for nanomaterials and at improved communication between researchers and industry.
  5. NEOME (Network for Excellence on Organic Materials for Electronics) has had some programs related to nanotechnology since 1992.
  6. The European Society for Precision Engineering and Nanotechnology (EUSPEN) was designed in 1997 with participation from industry and universities from six EC countries.
  7. The Joint Research Center Nanostructured Materials Network, established in 1996, has its center in Ispra, Italy.

It is expected that the European Framework V will introduce additional programs on nanotechnology, particularly by adding a new dimension in nanobiology in the next four-year plan.


The Federal Ministry of Education, Science, Research, and Technology (BMBF) in Germany provides substantial national support for nanotechnology. The Fraunhofer Institutes, Max Planck Institutes, and several universities have formed centers of excellence in the field. It is estimated that in 1997 BMBF supported programs on nanotechnology with a budget of approximately $50 million per year. Two of the largest upcoming projects are "CESAR," a $50 million science center in Bonn equally sponsored by the state and federal governments with about one-third of its research dedicated to nanoscience, and a new institute for carbon-reinforced materials near Karlsruhe ($4 million over 3 years, 1998-2001). BMBF is establishing five "centers of competence in nanotechnology" in Germany starting in 1998, with topics ranging from molecular architecture to ultraprecision manufacturing.


A network program (LINK Nanotechnology Programme) was launched in the United Kingdom in 1988 with an annual budget of about $2 million per year. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is funding materials science projects related to nanotechnology with a total value of about $7 million for a five-year interval (1994-1999). About $1 million is specifically earmarked for nanoparticle research. The National Physical Laboratory established a forum called the National Initiative on Nanotechnology (NION) for promoting nanotechnology in universities, industry, and government laboratories.


The Centre National de la Récherche Scientifique (CNRS) has developed research programs on nanoparticles and nanostructured materials at about 40 physics laboratories and 20 chemistry laboratories in France. Synthesis methods include molecular beam and cluster deposition, lithography, electrochemistry, soft chemistry, and biosynthesis. Nanotechnology activity has grown within a wide variety of research groups, including ones focused on molecular electronics, large gap semiconductors and nanomagnetism, catalysts, nanofilters, therapy problems, agrochemistry, and even cements for ductile nanoconcretes. It is estimated that CNRS spends about 2% of its budget and dedicates 500 researchers in 60 laboratories (or about $40 million per year) on projects related to nanoscience and nanotechnology. Companies collaborating to research and produce nanomaterials include Thompson, St. Gobain, Rhône Poulenc, Air Liquide, and IEMN. Also, there is the "French Club Nanotechnologie," aimed at promoting interactions in this field in France.


The estimated total expenditure for research on nanotechnology in Sweden is ~ $10 million per year. There are four materials research consortia involved in this field:

  1. Ångström Consortium in Uppsala, with a budget of ~ $0.8 million per year in 1998 for surface nanocoatings
  2. Nanometer Structures Consortium in Lund with a budget of ~ $3.5 million per year partially supported by ESPRIT (~ $1 million per year)
  3. Cluster-based and Ultrafine Particle Materials in the University of Uppsala and Royal Institute of Technology with a budget of ~ $0.4 million per year in 1998
  4. Brinell Center at the Royal Institute of Technology


There is a Swiss national program on nanotechnology with a special strength in instrumentation. The most advanced research centers are focused on nanoprobes and molecule manipulation on surfaces (IBM Research Laboratory in Zürich), devices and sensors (Paul Scherrer Institute), nanoelectronics (ETH Zürich), and self-assembling on surfaces in patterns determined by the substrate or template (L'École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne). See the site reports on all of these institutions in Appendix B.

The Netherlands

The most active research centers in the Netherlands are the DIMES institute at Delft University of Technology, which receives one-third support from industry, and the Philips Research Institute in Eindhoven, which researches self-assembling monolayers and patterning on metallic and silicon surfaces. The SST Netherlands Study Center for Technology Trends is completing a study on nanotechnology and aims at promoting increased funding and research networking in the Netherlands (ten Wolte 1997).


The Academy of Finland and the Finnish Technology Development Center began a three-year nanotechnology program in 1997. The program involves sixteen projects with funding of $9 million for a three-year period (1997-1999) for nanobiology, functional nanostructures, nanoelectronics, and other areas. Research on actuators and sensors is the Finnish area of strength.

Belgium and Spain

Since about 1993 both Belgium and Spain have established nanotechnology programs, centers of excellence, and university-industry interactions.

Multinational Efforts

Large multinational companies with significant nanotechnology research activities in Europe include IBM (Zürich), Philips, Siemens, Bayer, and Hitachi. Degussa Co., with headquarters in Germany, is a commercial supplier since 1940 of microparticles and, now, nanoparticles.

Western Europe has a variety of approaches to funding research on nanotechnology. These are discussed in detail in other studies. IPTS (the Science and Technology Forecast Institute) has conducted a study on nanotechnology research in the EC (Malsh 1997). Other European studies published recently include those by VDI (1996), UNIDO (1997), the U.K. Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (1997), and NANO network (Fissan and Schoonman 1997). The overall expenditure for nanotechnology research within the EC was estimated in 1997 to be over $128 million per year.

Published: September 1999; WTEC Hyper-Librarian