In order to design, manufacture and implement micro and nanofabricated devices an enormous amount of knowledge and expertise is required. Firstly, the problem itself has to be understood. This may require knowledge of chemistry, biology, biochemistry or physiology but will also require an appreciation for what already exists on the market and what new technologies are of interest to healthcare providers, defense, industry and commerce. Next the device has to be designed and manufactured. This requires an understanding of current micro and nanofabrication techniques as well as the facilities in which to implement them; facilities in which, top-down and bottom-up fabrication technologies are being implemented. A solid understanding of materials science is also called for; new materials with unique properties are a driving force behind micro and nanotechnologies. Devices must then be interfaced with existing electronic systems for testing and application. This will require knowledge of electronics, of electromagnetic shielding and of programming. Finally the device will have to be thoroughly tested in a laboratory setting. This final step calls for the input from more traditional fundamental research groups, research groups that are familiar with the problem that is being addressed and possess the knowledge and skill to implement existing technologies and the new technology represented by the device being produced. Finally, an awareness of how to protect intellectual property, how to seek further funding and how to bring products to the market is essential.
This is an immensely complicated and demanding process and there is no single university or research center in Portugal that combines the multidisciplinary expertise and laboratory resources required in order to support the proposed AIM doctoral programme. This proposal brings together a unique team of top researchers, distributed throughout several Portuguese Universities and Research Institutes: a team that will provide doctoral students with knowledge, with deep practical “know-how” and a massive amount of infrastructure and equipment. This core team is further supported by external partners from academia, the military, and industry and from elsewhere in the business world. The proposers of this doctoral programme believe that the team assembled covers all of the areas discussed above and that there is a minimal amount of overlap between the expertise provided by each partner.
The doctoral students of the AIM programme should be able, by the end of their studies, to design and implement miniaturized multifunctional devices and systems fabricated using top-down and bottom-up micro and nanofabrication technologies for a particular application. The team members and host institutions are ideally matched to address these challenging goals. Overall, there are three main scientific and technological contributions to the project:
1) expertise in top-down micro and nanofabrication: the teams at INESC-MN and INL.
2) expertise in circuit and systems design and addressing: the team at INESC ID is a national leader in circuit and systems design.
3) expertise in applications in bioprocessing, biotechnology,biomedicine, pharmaceutical sciences, biosensing for biomedical, environmental, and food safety applications and physical sensing – optical, magnetic, electronic: the teams at IBB, INESC MN, ITQB, FFUL.
These three strands are closely integrated in this doctoral programme, both in the doctoral courses that offer advanced training in each area, and in the requirements for co-advising that ensures that the bridges between the different strands are integrated in the doctoral projects (see Section 4 Characterization of the Programme for details).
As a final thought, this programme itself would represent a unique network of partners. It is hoped that this will lead to sharing of knowledge, the generation of new ideas and the creation of jobs for the students of the programme and others.