By Lars Montelius
The year 2020 was special in everything that was bad and good. We have all witnessed how hard the whole society has been affected by the pandemic caused by the Sars-Cov-2 virus, with tragic consequences in all countries. We will all remember this for many years.
At INL, we act as a family that is committed to dealing with the situation created by Covid-19 with clarity and efficiency, always with the safety of INLers as our main priority, but also serving society at full steam and continuing to do so what we do best, which is to deliver our knowledge and skills to society, breaking new ground, and expanding our space of knowledge.
In early spring, we quickly set up an in-house production of thousands of protective visors which, during the first wave of Covid-19, were distributed by health systems in Northern Portugal and Galicia, reaching hospitals, homes, fire departments and police forces.
The year 2020 was also characterized by a large increase in external financing and we had notable success in major European and national projects. I could not fail to emphasize the increase in activities related to the fight against Covid-19. Here, it is worth mentioning the cascading financing project INNOV4COV-19, led by INL, which will accelerate a total of 30 projects in this area. In addition, at INL, from the beginning, we established a joint and interdisciplinary action related to the detection of the Sars-Cov-2 virus, having quickly identified innovative forms of diagnosis and screening of the disease. Some of them are, after a remarkable internal research and engineering effort, practically ready to be launched on the market. In addition, our ambitions in the areas ofGreen Deal
, Batteries and Hydrogen put INL in a favorable position in the European context.
In short, 2020, although overshadowed by the pandemic, was a successful year for INL. I am therefore very grateful to all INLers for their passion and hard work, which make INL continually develop and manage to generate new knowledge for the benefit of society.
Another way of looking at science
I am convinced that this year has brought us an unparalleled understanding of the importance of science and its role as one of the centerpieces for building a prosperous society. The need to work together, across national borders, has also become obvious. Cooperation and knowledge sharing are essential ingredients for the success of society in general. So it has also become evident that science alone is not the answer. There is a growing need for efficient integration of scientific knowledge in systemic construction. Above all, we have a role that we cannot give up. It is our behavior that makes the big difference. We have witnessed this clearly during this pandemic year through things as simple as washing hands, keeping physical distance, or wearing a mask.
Due to the surge in news and information related to Covid-19, this year also marked the change in scientific debate and discussions, which started to be made in the media. Normally, science is communicated in the media only after scientists have discussed the new findings internally and agreed with the new knowledge generated in the meantime. This new form of public scientific debate probably made it difficult to understand science and may have conveyed the idea that the scientific community was not united, and may have contributed negatively to creating a feeling of insecurity in society. However, in the end, I am sure that the public scientific debate has created a broader general understanding of the need to integrate science into everyday life and that we in the scientific society simply do not have all the answers. So we have to work together.
The lesson learned is that the steps taken by each of us count. In this context, the biggest challenge facing us is the issue of climate. And we have to act now. Today’s generations are the last to do anything. We are at a critical point. Together, we can make the necessary changes, allowing the planet to continue to have conditions that ensure our survival. And science is, of course, an absolute necessity to solve this problem. At the beginning of next year we will launch innovative technologies as well as Start-Ups. Among them, there will be new ways to make Covid-19 diagnostics available as a service, allowing each of us to have the confidence of not being a disease spreader, as well as systems for rapid tests. In addition, based on our clusters
research established in 2020: Intelligent Digital NanoSystems, Advanced Materials and Computing, Clean Energy, Custom Precision Health Technology, Sustainable Environment and, last but not least, FoodTure (Food for the Future), let’s take the next steps to achieve the objectives of the INL 2030 Strategic Vision.
In addition, we have already started the process to build solid competence in the field of nano-security and we are now in the stage of establishing an engineering support team that will be instrumental in achieving our ambition for the next decade with regard to a substantial increase in research activities in connection with industry.
As an integral part of this ambition, we have further simplified access to INL’s scientific facilities: the Micro and Nanofabrication Laboratory, the Nano-photonics and Bioimaging Laboratory and the Advanced Electronic Microscopy, Image and Spectroscopy Laboratory, capable of ensuring internal and external. In addition, we will continue to boost the digitization processes, namely the scientific conferences organized by INL. In early 2021, the launch of the new European Union (EU) support framework,Horizon Europe , is a major paradigm shift in Europe. The fact that it becomes the host state of the EU gives Portugal many possibilities to organize important meetings that will allow scientific research developed in the country to become even more visible and flourish. In particular, theGreen Deal , with the sustained development of greater electrification of our society, offers ample opportunities for Portugal in the areas of Batteries and Hydrogen, in the sense of becoming an important player
on the European stage through the integration of the entire value chain, from lithium mining, to refinery and battery production in Portugal (and neighboring Spain), as well as opportunities for the production of hydrogen fuel cells.
The current situation created by Covid-19 will significantly reduce business travel, which can, at first glance, be perceived as something that will hinder the possibility of capitalizing on the Portuguese Presidency of the European Union. On the other hand, this gives Portugal the opportunity to take the lead and stand out in the digitalization and opening new frontiers in digital meetings, paving the way for the new normal that will establish itself after the expected end of the pandemic. This is a great opportunity for Portugal to become a high level player in the digitalization industry.
In our field, Nanotechnology and Nanoscience, one of the most important meetings and for which we are very much looking forward, EuroNanoForum 2021, will be held in May, organized and hosted by INL. Due to Covid-19, the meeting will most likely be a totally digital event and we intend to make the most of this possibility, creating the biggest event ever, which will definitely put Portugal on the world map in this important field of science, which is, since 2008, the reason for the INL.
Director-General of INL – International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory