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Thursday, 04 February 2021

A new Strategic Plan for the future of ICN2

After intense reflection and attentive consultation across the centre, the ICN2 has launched its second Strategic Plan, which updates and expands the current mission and vision of our institute, defines research and governance goals, and identifies key priorities for the next four-year period.

The ICN2 has consolidated over the past period becoming a reference research institute in the nanoscience and nanotechnology field. New challenges and opportunities are arising and our centre is in a good position to further excel and gain influence, as well as to catalyse local, regional and international scientific and technological developments. With these drivers in mind, the ICN2 has launched a second Strategic Plan, spanning the period 2021-2024. This comes as a result of a profound reflection process, which has involved both the research and the administration communities of the institute. 

The ICN2 2021-2024 Strategic Plan is conceived as a live project, which aims to provide a roadmap for the next four years that keeps the centre's mission and vision firmly on the horizon at all times. Priority areas of attention and objectives have been defined – fruit of internal workshops and consultations involving all profiles within the ICN2 community – and a number of measures have been proposed to address them.

Nanoscience and nanotechnology is set to have a relevant impact on science and society in the coming years. It is our aim to play an influential role and participate in leading this scientific and technological progress. The ICN2 is committed to producing excellent science, proposing innovative solutions to global challenges based on scientific knowledge, and engaging with society in a dialogue about the benefits and also potential risks of the new technological advances. We wish to be able to provide collaboration and expert advice to public and private institutions, and to be an actor that facilitates the adoption of the newly generated knowledge by the industry, the health sector, and society at large.

Sustainability is the key driving force for this Strategic Plan, being present in its core and in each of its priority areas. Our commitment to contribute to the changes required to meet the United Nations “Sustainable Development Goals” is also reflected. In this context, health is one of the main fields of applications of our technologies, and even more attention and resources have been directed to it due to the recent events.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the world during the preparation of this Strategic Plan, and will certainly continue to have a strong effect over the next months or even years. While the role of science in our society has been dramatically highlighted by this crisis and institutes like the ICN2 are providing science-based solutions, COVID-19 has also brought significant challenges to the activities of our centre. As a result, the ICN2 has become better prepared in aspects such as remote work, internal organization and communication, which should prove beneficial after the pandemic situation is finally overcome.

Strategic Plan Priorities

The Strategic Plan encompasses three priority areas of attention: ensuring a sustained international scientific leadership; delivering enhanced impact in society; and continuous responsible leadership.

International scientific leadership: Scientific excellence across the full spectrum of ICN2’s research activities and international leadership remains at the core of our mission. As a consequence, we will work hard to ensure the availability of resources and infrastructures needed to sustain high-level research at the ICN2. We will also foster collaboration and partnerships, which we consider as pivotal to staying relevant and sparking true breakthroughs.

Delivering enhancing impact to society: Primary interest of the ICN2 is also to be proactive and effective in translating the results of the scientific research and technology developments into concrete impacts on society. This includes contributing talent by training and empowering young professionals, bringing close to the market innovative technologies that tackle societal needs, and engaging with all levels of society in an inclusive, two-way dialogue on all aspects related to nanoscience and nanotechnologies.

Responsible leadership: Since research in these fields has the power to transform the future, we also need to be aligned with broader social values. Therefore, we are committed with upholding the principles of responsibility and accountability at all levels, both in research and management. We will continue implementing the many aspects of Responsible Research and Innovation in our modus operandi and promoting inclusiveness, sustainability and ethical practices.

Mission and Vision: revisited

The founding mission and vision statements have been revisited to reflect the current reality, ambition and potential of the ICN2, which differ from those of when the first Strategic Plan (2015-2020) was drafted. “As a flagship research centre in nanoscience and nanotechnology, our mission is to open and explore new frontiers of knowledge at the nanoscale, and bring value to society in the form of new understanding, capabilities and innovation, while inspiring and providing broad training to the next generations of researchers,” recites the new mission statement. Our determination to increase our influence in the field and focus on responsible research are highlighted in our new vision: “ICN2 aims to be influential in the scientific community for its ground-breaking research, and in society for its ultimate impact in innovative, transformative and sustainable solutions to tackle societal challenges.”

Specific goals have also been defined to complement and expand the mission statement, as follows:

  • Pioneer fundamental understanding of physical, chemical and biological phenomena found in the emerging properties of matter at the nanoscale, and use this knowledge to develop new materials, techniques, and devices.
  • Present convincing opportunities to industry based on these developments, and explore ways to be a source of inspiration, advice and collaboration in sectors like ICT, health, energy and environment.
  • Engage society in the game-changing potential of nanoscience and nanotechnology, by providing collaboration and expert advice to public and private institutions and fostering a responsible and transparent dialogue between researchers and society at large, ultimately facilitating the adoption of the newly generated knowledge.
  • Nurture talent at all career levels, with the particular long-term view of preparing the next generations of scientists to lead the challenges and opportunities of the future.

We hope that you share our excitement and commitment to take the ICN2 to the next stage of research excellence and international leadership in nanoscience and nanotechnology.