Project updates
07 May 2024

The NFFA-EU Calls for Proposals: An Overview

The NFFA-Europe Pilot project, thanks to the support of the EU Horizon 2020 program, aims to provide researchers from academia and industry with the resources needed to tackle the intricate challenges of nanoscience and nanotechnology. By combining the capabilities of leading academic laboratories and Analytical Large-Scale Facilities, NFFA-Europe offers access to cutting-edge tools for investigating and manipulating matter at the nanoscale.

Central to the mission of NFFA-Europe is its Calls for Proposals, inviting European and eligible Third Country scientists to harness the infrastructure’s state-of-the-art facilities for their research endeavors. These calls provide users and researchers with the opportunity to access, free-of-charge, a wide range of specialized installations, each tailored to address different aspects of naoscience research.

From lithography and nano-patterning to the synthesis and growth of nanomaterials, users and researchers can explore a diverse array of techniques and methodologies through NFFA-Europe’s installations. Whether investigating the structural and morphological properties of nanostructures or delving into the electronic and magnetic characteristics of materials, the possibilities for exploration are vast and varied.

The Proposal Process: Turning Ideas into Reality

Four times per year, NFFA-Europe opens a new Call for Proposals. To date, a total of 26 calls have been launched, resulting in 888 proposals submitted from 63 countries, with a 63% acceptance rate. The current Call for Proposals is open until June 3rd, 2024.

The guidelines and rules to apply for access to NFFA-Europe infrastructures are well detailed in the Apply section of the website. Now let’s take a look at how the process of submitting a proposal works.

The Single Entry Point (SEP) portal provides the overall list of tools and methods available and is the portal to submit a proposal. Proposals can be submitted at any time but are periodically collected for scientific evaluation. These periodic collections take place at the beginning of March, June, September and December each year.

After submission, the technical feasibility of each research step is assessed by the Technical Liaison Network (TLNet). If proposals are submitted well before the collection deadlines, possible technical problems will be promptly identified and solutions worked out and proposed to the users.

Feasible proposals are then evaluated and ranked according to scientific merit by an external panel of reviewers. The best-ranked proposals are assigned to the most suitable NFFA-Europe sites, where users and researchers gain free access to a tailored combination of methods and instruments.

The Proposal Management System: A Step Forward with the SEP

The development of the Single Entry Point (SEP) portal for proposal submission and management has ushered in significant advancements in both the system’s infrastructure and reporting mechanisms. The initial phase focused on streamlining proposal management, involving a thorough overhaul of the system’s modules to enhance reliability, performance and project-specific alignment. Improvements included code optimization, resource localization and user interface enhancements to provide a more intuitive and user-friendly experience. A key operational enhancement was the implementation of a ticket-based user support system, which allows users and providers to send requests about their proposals and receive timely responses.

The focus on creating an interactive and accessible reporting framework through the SEP portal underscores NFFA-Europe’s commitment to transparency, collaboration and continuous improvement in managing and analyzing proposal submissions and access to Research Infrastructures.

Opening Doors, Breaking Barriers

With its commitment to open access and collaborative research, NFFA-Europe is not just a network of tools and facilities; it is a distributed research infrastructure made of a community of innovators pushing the boundaries of nanoscience. By promoting open access to state-of-the-art tools and fostering transnational collaborations, NFFA-Europe paves the way for groundbreaking discoveries and technological advancements.