During the past decades unprecedented progress has been achieved in research and technology for development of new, advanced materials with high added value. Materials represent nearly half the costs of most manufactured products in leading economies, and play a pivotal role as enabling platforms in all areas of industrial production, in healthcare, civil infrastructure, energy supply, and in ensuring high quality of food and water. The current revolution in information and communication technologies, and in the biomedical field, has been enabled by the swift progress in advanced materials development. If further progress is to be made in this central field in the Netherlands, substantial investments are needed in all relevant areas of materials science and engineering. 4TU.HTM, a concerted effort by four Dutch universities (Delft, Eindhoven, Twente and Wageningen), will function as a nucleus for new materials research, and will pave the way to further growth.
Achieving technological breakthroughs requires fundamental insight into the complexity of advanced materials. Materials performance is based on their intricate structure at the micro- and the nanoscale. Therefore, state-of-the-art analysis tools and modelling techniques must be employed and further developed to enable the design of advanced materials. New performance materials must be developed hand-in-hand with the technology application areas, and must address the entire hitherto relevant knowledge chain from developing design principles, synthesizing new compounds, and processing these in an environmentally conscientious way, while the smallest possible environmentally negative footprint is maintained. Issues such as integrating different classes of materials from metals to ceramics and organics in systems with ever increasing complexity and functionality, bottom-up by using the means of nanotechnology and materials chemistry and physics, should be tackled. This must be complemented by biological (or renewable) materials and by modelling efforts. The breadth of this field is enormous; hence choices must be eventually made.