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Posted: May 21, 2012
Top nanotechnology group relocates to University of Twente
(Nanowerk News) The entire nanolayer Surface & Interface physics (nSI) department, headed by Professor Fred Bijkerk, which is currently located at FOM's DIFFER institute in Nieuwegein, is to become part of the University of Twente. This has been announced by the Province of Overijssel, the University of Twente, and the FOM Foundation. The provincial authorities have made 5 million euros available for the relocation. The nSI department is among the top groups in the field of nanotechnology. It excels in gearing fundamental research to the specific questions and needs of science and industry. The department's move to Twente will take place gradually. The entire department will be settled in its new home by mid 2014.
The nanolayer Surface & Interface physics (nSI) department specializes in manipulating light of extremely short wavelengths, such as extreme ultraviolet and soft X-rays. The group's work includes physics research to enable high tech applications to be implemented at the nanoscale. The main applications are in the fields of photolithography, materials analysis, and microscopy. The group's areas of specialization include multilayer mirrors (which are used in space telescopes, for example) and advanced forms of lithography to create a new generation of computer chips.
The nSI group's permanent nucleus of about ten scientists and engineers, who are currently part of FOM's DIFFER institute (formerly known as the FOM Institute for Plasma Physics Rijnhuizen), will be moving to the University of Twente. Here, the group - initially with some ten PhD students - will form the new Industrial Focus Group XUV Optics, part of the University of Twente's MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology. According to Prof. Bijkerk, MESA+ is the ideal place for his department. "Nanotechnology is an important part of our research into XUV optical systems, and now we are moving to the Nanotechnology Institute in the Netherlands." Gerard van der Steenhoven, Dean of the UT's Faculty of Science and Technology, sees the department as a real asset to the university. "This group will further strengthen our leading position in nanotechnology, especially in terms of our relationship with 'Big Business' and SMEs."
Richard van de Sanden, the Director of DIFFER, feels that the University of Twente is exactly the right place for the department. "We very proud of the fact that one of our institute's pearls has the opportunity to expand and grow in a challenging environment. Both FOM and the UT are more than happy to facilitate the department's relocation. We are convinced that Twente will provide the group with rock-solid guarantees for innovations in the field of nanotechnology."
Dave Blank, the Scientific Director of MESA+, is also delighted about the group's relocation. "The Industrial Focus Group's research perfectly complements the work being carried out at MESA+. Developments in the field of XUV optics are vital to the next generation of equipment for creating nanostructures. MESA+'s existing expertise in the field of optics and materials science and the group's research work will reinforce each other."
Collaboration with industry
The department's research is entirely in keeping with the Dutch government's "Top Sector" policy. This is because Prof. Bijkerk and his group excel in gearing fundamental scientific research to questions from industry. What we do here is not just "Art for art's sake". We do fundamental research, but always take our inspiration from practical problems." Accordingly, the group works closely with leading industrial partners. The cost of the group's relocation (for the period up until 2020) will amount to 19.8 million euros. No less than 86 percent of this amount has already been secured. That is nothing less than extraordinary at a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain research funding.
The Province of Overijssel is investing five million euros. "The high-tech Systems and Materials sector is a key component of our provincial economic policy. In Twente alone, this sector is expected to generate around 10,000 jobs over a 15-year period. This is vitally important to the economic growth of Overijssel and as a means of securing our residents' income", said Theo Rietkerk, provincial executive member for Economy, Energy and Innovation. "I am extremely proud of MESA+, which currently ranks fifth in the world in terms of research into innovations in the field of nanotechnology. In the long-term, following the incorporation of this research group, the institute's expansion will involve spin-off effects such as the creation of 250 jobs and numerous partnerships with local businesses. It will also attract additional major companies, as was the case with Carl Zeiss and ASML. Once again, Twente has delivered proof of its ability to effectively interconnect science, production, and customers."
In addition to the financial support from the Province of Overijssel, funding is being provided by the FOM Foundation, University of Twente, and various industrial partners, such as Carl Zeiss SMT, ASML, PANalytical, Demcon, VIRO engineering, and the Norma Group.