At his public presentation as the new head of the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory (INL), Lars Montelius identified the main challenge facing the centre as one of “making the INL a true international beacon, one that is clearly visible not only in Portugal and in Spain, but also in Europe, in the United States and in Asia”.
The Swedish physicist, with over 20 years’ experience in nanoscience, underscored the unique opportunity that INL has to set up closer regional collaborations, interact with society and establish more local, European and international connections. “It is a unique place for the development of nanotechnology. It is a fantastic place, to carry out fantastic research. In the international context, it is like a hidden gemstone: very few know of it’s existence, but it has the potential to become very important for research and innovation, not only in Portugal and in Spain, but also in the European context”, he claimed.
INL is the first international laboratory in Europe to be fully dedicated to nanotechnology and nanoscience. Set up in 2005 as a direct collaboration between the governments of Portugal and Spain, it starting operating in 2009. It’s activities centre around nanotechnology research, specifically in the areas of nanomedicine and environment and food quality control. In the past years, the Portuguese government has actively promoted opening INL to international collaborations, via connections with European networks and initiatives, as well as through bilateral agreements, with countries such as China, Brazil, Argentina and Algeria.
When introducing the new head of INL, the Secretary of State for Science, Leonor Parreira, acknowledged the dedication of the previous Board to setting up and consolidating the Laboratory, highlighting the “new cycle that is expected to be one of connecting internationally and also of integration in Portugal and Spain’s regional and national development policies”.
The Portuguese and Spanish governments set up a search committee of four leading experts in the fields of science and innovation, tasked with the job of selecting the new head of INL, of whatever nationality. Lars Montelius was selected, having taken office on 1 September 2014, for a 5-year period. He is Professor of nanotechnology at Lund University, Sweden, and his research interests lie currently in the interactions between nanotechnology and the life sciences, in particular in the field of neuronanoscience. Lars Montelius has more than 120 published papers, and 22 patents, and has set up several technologically-based companies. Between 2009 and 2011 he was director of the Oresund Science region, a collaborative initiative between Sweden and Denmark, that involves 12 universities, several regional bodies, six science parks, 2 000 companies and 12 000 researchers.