How can the progress of humankind be measured? One way is to take a look at the extraordinary evolution of man-made materials, how these materials have been developed and used over time, their range and variety, and their quality and performance. Even at a cursory glance – from the bronze and iron ages to the silicon age that dominated the end of the 20th century – the picture that emerges is quite clear: progress has been phenomenal.
Mastering the design, research and development of new and improved materials will remain key for achieving the goals of the European Innovation Policy, in agreement with the European Strategy for a smart, sustainable and inclusive growth EUROPE 2020. Research should respond to people's needs and concerns with integrated solutions that tie energy, natural resources and human health.
Materials can enable industrial and commercial success for both existing and not-yet existing products and processes: they may introduce new functionalities and improved properties adding value to existing products and process, thus representing an invisible revolution; at the same time, the engineered production of materials by design might allow the development of products and processes under a really sustainable systemic approach.
Materials research can be presented starting from the materials themselves (e.g. biomaterials, metals, polymers) or the industrial sector (e.g. metallurgy, chemistry) or their applications (e.g. energy, health, transport) as well through other approaches. Materials profit from a wide range of scientific disciplines, such as chemistry, physics, biology and engineering, as well as from all available technologies and multidisciplinary approaches, like nanotechnology and biotechnology. This is why several European funding initiatives support Materials Research within the structure of the EU 7th Framework Programme (e.g. research on materials for specific applications in Energy can be also funded under Theme 4 ENERGY, according to the public call for proposals) as well as with other EU funding schemes (see Innovation: Beyond Research and Research Funding Bodies)