The Institute for Functional Nanomaterials (IFN) brings together 47 active research nano scientists and engineers, from two graduate and two undergraduate campuses in Puerto Rico, into three thematically coherent research clusters: Functional Dispersed Nanostructures (Cluster I), Functional Nanostructures at the Interface (Cluster II), and Multifunctional Nanostructures (Cluster III). These clusters will evolve into active Multicampus Interdisciplinary Research Groups (IRGs) that share infrastructure, develop new group research projects and proposals, and incorporate 15 new research faculty members to enhance the research capacities. It will boost the Puerto Rico's production of new knowledge as reflected by the increased number and quality of cutting-edge research publications and associated intellectual property. Project scientists and engineers will work with five external strategic partners, all nationally recognized centers for nano research, to bootstrap the Puerto Rico's capacity to compete for major center proposals such as Materials Research Science and Education Centers (MRSEC).
The IFN established a three-tier plan to achieve innovation in the area of functional nanostructures. First, the plan will accelerate the research and development activity, the generation of novel nanostructures, and the associated creation of intellectual property. Second, the IFN will develop testbeds for proof-of-concept and prototyping the development of new devices or products and assess the novel functional nanomaterials for their potential as commercially viable technologies. Third, the IFN will develop the capacity to commercialize the resulting technologies by networking with the NanoBusiness Alliance to reach national markets, and through the Puerto Rico's National Science Foundation Partnership for Innovation (PFI) project to use the incubator of the most important technology corridor in Puerto Rico, Inteco, in order to promote the creation of nanotechnology-oriented businesses in Puerto Rico. This three-tier approach will provide innovation paths for commercializing the increased nanomaterial-related technologies emerging from the accelerated production of intellectual property and know-how generated by the IFN.
The development of the IFN will increase the amount and quality of cutting-edge research and intellectual property. By establishing collaborations with five nationally recognized strategic partners that complement the resources and scientific capabilities of the three clusters, the IFN will bootstrap and accelerate Puerto Rico's capacity to reach national levels of competitiveness in nanoscience and technology. This development will enable Puerto Rico to successfully compete for national science and engineering centers and institute programs, which together with the University of Puerto Rico's institutional commitment will provide long-term sustainability to the IFN and the nano research and educational enterprise in Puerto Rico.
IFN will also contribute to the diversity of the national workforce in nanoscience by creating educational materials and courses centered in this discipline. The IFN activities will reach a population of students that is more than 90 percent hispanic at the undergraduate level and over 50 percent at the graduate level, and provide them with the opportunity to pursue careers in nanoscience and technology. The IFN will enhance Puerto Rico's research capabilities and provide research opportunities for undergraduates and dissertation projects for Ph.D. students, thus increasing the pool of future nanoscientists and contributing to the diversity of the national workforce in this field. The IFN's strategy for innovation and testbed development, together with its collaboration with two strategic partners and networking with the NanoBusiness Alliance will foster the commercialization of novel nanomaterials. Collaboration with a local technology corridor through Puerto Rico's NSF-PFI will stimulate the establishment of local nanotechnology start-ups that will help the local economy grow.