The two institutions will create MIT-INL, a new education and research enterprise focusing on nanotechnology. The collaboration will create 10 senior research positions for scientists who will launch an aggressive new nanotechnology research agenda, and it will enable approximately $35 million (25 million euro) of new sponsored research with MIT in its first five years. José Rivas, director-general of INL, and Subra Suresh, dean of engineering at MIT, formalized the agreement at a signing ceremony on Saturday in Lisbon.
This is the INL's first major alliance with an American academic institution. Conceived in 2005-06, founded in 2007, built in 2008-09 and opened in 2009, INL is an international research facility located in Braga, Portugal, and is a joint project of the governments of Portugal and Spain. The MIT-INL agreement leverages the Institute's especially strong reputation in materials science, engineering, nanotechnology and biotechnology.
"INL is the first nanotechnology laboratory in the world with international legal status," said INL Council President, Luis Magalhães. "We offer in nanotechnology an open and flexible environment for researchers of any nationality to work together in world-leading projects." Models for the MIT-INL collaboration can be found in other international laboratories such as CERN in Geneva, for particle physics, and EMBL in Heidelberg, for molecular biology.
"The INL aims to promote nanoscience and nanotechnology through strategic collaborations that can lead to practical applications," said Rivas. "This bilateral co-operation between MIT and INL represents a watershed for both institutions, and it opens a number of opportunities for increasing competition, new research projects, and the potential for mobility and exchange between researchers."
"This new collaboration provides a unique opportunity for faculty and students at MIT to engage in exciting new fundamental research with the potential for great societal impact," said Suresh, who is a bio-nanotechnology researcher as well as the Ford Professor of Engineering at MIT. "This enterprise will build on MIT's world-renowned expertise in nanotechnology, and it will help create a major new international research center that will draw talent from all over Europe and beyond."
As part of the first step in their collaboration, the organizers of MIT-INL have already selected a number of current MIT research projects, in the Microsystems Technology Laboratories and the Materials Processing Center, to benefit from MIT-INL. These projects include research on nanoparticles that can selectively adsorb water contaminants, autonomous microsystems that can move around water supplies and sense contaminants (while sustaining themselves on power scavenged from their environments), new materials for energy storage, revolutionary tools and technologies for monitoring our food supply, and others.
There will be an Institute-wide call for additional proposals in the near future. MIT faculty will also play a key role in helping develop new capabilities at the INL facilities, and in the training programs for scientists and students on the MIT campus and at the INL. In addition, INL will immediately begin recruiting senior researchers to work in new applications and technologies in nanoscience and nanotechnology.
Professor Anantha Chandrakasan, director of the Microsystems Technology Laboratoties, will serve as MIT's inaugural director of MIT-INL; Professor Carl Thompson, director of the Materials Processing Center, will serve as co-director. They will work closely with Paulo Freitas, deputy director-general of INL.