NanoNed was officially launched with the approval of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs earlier this month. This national research programme is designed to unite Dutch strengths in the nanosciences and nanotechnology in a single national network.
Professor David Reinhoudt from Twente University /MESA+ is the secretary of NanoNed, and Technology Foundation STW provides the secretariat for this extensive research programme.
The food industry is under a great deal of pressure at the moment. Crop disease and drought continually threaten the profit margins of the $600bn agricultural sector at a time when transport raw material costs are at a record high, and put millions of lives at risk through famine.
In addition, the threat of bioterrorism has made food safety along the supply chain a government as well as an industry priority. And if all this weren't bad enough, the industry also finds itself under increasing pressure from environmental groups and governments to clean up its act.
Nanotechnology involves the use of materials at an extremely small scale - at sizes of millionths of a millimetre - and exploit the fact that some materials have different properties at this ultra small scale from those at a larger scale. The science is attractive to global food production because it promises the possibility of new answers to these key challenges.
It could soon be used in food production, for example to detect how fresh food is.
Interestingly, a recent study by the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics, which ranked ten nanotechnology applications currently in development with the greatest potential to aid the poor, put agricultural productivity enhancement second. The possibilities of maximising agricultural productivity are evidently huge.
NanoNed is an initiative by eight centres of excellence and Philips, and covers investments in experimental facilities, scientific research and knowledge dissemination. With this the consortium partners aim to further enhance Dutch expertise within the nanosciences and nanotechnology.
Moreover they are jointly seeking to increase the future potential of nanotechnology in the Netherlands as a source of economic growth in a highly productive and sustainable knowledge economy.
The Dutch government has granted the consortium €95 million in the form of a Bsik subsidy (decree on subsidies for investments in the knowledge infrastructure). Together with the funds inherited from its predecessor NanoImpuls and the contributions of the consortium partners this gives the program a total budget of more than €235 million.
NanoNed will run until the end of 2009.