The FinnSight 2015 report published in 2006 underscores the fact that materials research is a cross-disciplinary exercise: new materials are increasingly being developed on a multidisciplinary platform. The report also urges Finnish materials research to step up its efforts to explore the more advanced properties of new materials that are still partly unknown.
Most new materials today are typically static by nature. They are composed of components that have a specific function or quality, but they do not respond to their environment as such. Programmable materials, by contrast, are composed of components that respond in a specific, programmed way to environmental stimuli and signals. Depending on the initial state or code of these components, it is possible to produce various complex, even macroscopic, structures in a controlled way.
Programmable materials represent a new emerging research field in which Finland can play a pioneering role. The programmable properties of different materials are continuing to develop with advances in such fields as nano- and biotechnology, and programmable materials may completely revolutionise applications of functional materials. Programmable materials have the built-in capacity to process environmental information, and they have applications in both microscopic and macroscopic systems. Materials research also figures centrally on the agenda of many Strategic Centres for Science, Technology and Innovation.
Goals of the Programme
The programme’s primary goal is to open up internationally promising new breakthroughs in programmable materials research. This requires that the teams working on different projects commit themselves fully to the aims of their research plan. We expect to stimulate new research collaboration and in this way to produce articles for publication in high-impact-factor journals.
Programmable materials is a relatively new concept and field of study. This presents a special opportunity for Finland in that there are still no established methods, let alone any standards in the field. A major strength of the Finnish materials research community is that it is well networked and has close links with industry. Furthermore, the community has well-established international contacts, as is indicated by the large number of joint international calls organised in this field with the Academy of Finland, and Russia and Japan, for instance. Finnish scientists and researchers are well aware of what is happening internationally. The research programme aims to identify areas in which Finland could act in the forefront of materials science.
Special attention is given to the scientific quality of the research plans submitted and to the applicants’ qualifications and competencies. Targets must be ambitious by international standards and at a higher level than the current state-of-the-art. The people involved must have the necessary competencies and be prepared to branch out into new areas. The Academy welcomes such high risk – high gain proposals as long as risks are recognised.
The research projects may help discover new materials or methods, which can then be further developed in future materials research. Another at least equally important goal is to improve understanding of the characteristics of new types of materials by testing research hypotheses. The projects selected to take part in the research programme are expected to contribute to a deeper understanding of the phenomena under study and to incorporate new kinds of multidisciplinary perspectives. The research programme will integrate Finnish excellence from various disciplines.
In line with the common objectives of Academy of Finland research programmes, participating researchers are encouraged to step up international cooperation. This is particularly important in the case of young scientists. In frontline research, the role of international collaboration with world-leading research teams is particularly pronounced. The research programme aims to foster cooperation with teams at the international cutting edge and to encourage researcher mobility between teams.
The programme will tackle next-generation research issues within an interdisciplinary framework. Research in programmable materials is based on a solid grounding in nanoscience, biosciences and information technology.
More information about the research themes can be found in the Programme Memorandum.
The programme is being prepared as a joint effort involving three of the Academy’s four Research Councils: the Research Council for Natural Sciences and Engineering, the Research Council for Biosciences and Environment, and the Research Council for Health. The programme initiative has points of contact with the Tekes technology programme Functional Materials.
Materials programming is an emerging, all-new field of research. The aim of this programme is to work with the best international research teams and solidify Finland’s position at the international forefront of research. The strongest countries in this field include the United States, Japan, Russia, India and certain European countries. In addition, China has a strong emerging materials research field.