Based on a suggestion of the Austrian Council for Research and Technology Development the Austrian Nano Initiative was founded to strengthen the national activities in the field of NanoScience and Technology. In 2004 FFG and FWF, the two funding agencies initially administering the program, issued the First Call for Program Line I: Project Clusters in this emerging interdisciplinary field. The Johannes Kepler University (JKU) and Upper Austrian Research (UAR), the research institution of the province of Upper Austria, brought together a consortium of three companies and four research institutions, which participated in the First Call with their proposal Nanostructured Surfaces and Interfaces (NSI). Following the suggestions of an international refereeing board, five out of a total of eight consortia proposals submitted to the First Call were awarded funding for a two-year period each. At a total budget of € 1.8 M, the project cluster NSI received for its six interlinked projects funding of € 1.5 M for the first two-year funding period. NSI is coordinated by F. Schäffler from the Institut for Semiconductor Physics at JKU; and co-chaired by O. Höglinger from UAR. Project work of the first funding period commenced in March 2005.
In 2006 the Third Call of the Austrian Nano Initiative was issued, the main purpose of which was the extension for another two-year period of the project clusters funded in the First Call. Again, full proposal were requested, which went through the same international refereeing procedure as before. The NSI-consortium members used this opportunity to refocus their activities, and to increase the number of projects from originally six to nine. Additional companies were recruited, to enhance the application aspects of NSI, and also a EUREKA project was incorporated to strengthen international collaboration. All nine projects of the second NSI proposal were approved with less than 10% funding cuts. NSI-2 started in March 2007 with a total budget of € 2.6 M, of which € 2 M are funded by the Austrian Nano Initiative.
In 2008 the Fifth Call of the Austrian Nano Initiative was issued, again focused on the extension of the project clusters from the odd-numbered Calls for, this time, a maximum period of three years. Simultaneously, the total maximum funding period of a cluster was limited to seven years, i.e., for clusters from the First Call, like NSI, the Fifth Call will provide the last funding period. In addition, the funding rules were substantially changed to those of the industry-oriented FWF funding agency. NSI participated in the Fifth Call again with dynamical adjustments to both the development of the NanoScience/Technology field as a whole, and the development within the cluster and its industrial environment. The total number of projects is now eight, half of which are led by industrial partners. In addition, the number of industrial partners was increased. With these measures, NSI-3 follows the general concept of the Austrian Nano Initiative, namely to develop research results gained in the initial phases of a cluster into mid-term industrial applications. NSI-3 started in March 2009 with a total budget (for three years) of € 3.6 M, of which € 3.1 M are funded by the Austrian Nano Initiative.
The general purpose of NSI is, to link the expertise and infrastructure in the field of NanoScience and Technology, which was systematically developed since the early 1990s in Linz and Upper Austria, and to make them available to both the Austrian industry and to education inside and outside the university. NSI is on its way to convert the originally rather loosely linked NanoScience and Technology activities in Linz into a nationally and internationally competitive center of excellence. It is intended to develop NSI into a local node in the emerging Austrian NanoScience and Technology Network, located in Upper Austria, the leading industrial center of Austria. In terms of education, the research projects of NSI provide qualified research positions for the students of the first Austrian NanoScience and Technology course, which was launched in 2002 at the Johannes Kepler University in Linz. Meanwhile, a Master Course in this field has been worked out, which will start in fall 2009.
NSI covers three of the four main competence areas of the NanoScience and Technology activities in Linz and Upper Austria, and makes them available to the concept of the Austrian Nano Initiative. These three competence fields are Biocompatible Nanostructures, Polymers and Nanocomposites, and Metallic Clusters. Semiconductor Nanostructures, the fourth core competence in Linz, is already more advanced regarding its national and international integration and will mainly be pursued in the recently installed, Austrain-German Spezialforschungsbereich IR-ON funded by FWF, as well as in the PLATON project cluster form the Second Call of the Austrian Nano Initiative. Links between NSI, IR-ON and PLATON exist via participation of the Institute for Semiconductor and Solid State Physics in several of the NSI projects. This way the expertise and infrastructure available in and around the cleanroom of the institute is made available in an interdisciplinary approach to the other core competence areas.
For suggestions and requests please contact the NSI-Project Coordination