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Leading Edge R&D on Micro-Nano-Bio-Info Technologies and Integrated Systems: An Overview of EU-Funded Activities

[ Vol. 8 , Issue. 2 ]


Ana Sofía Morillo-Candás, Andreas Lymberis and Eric Fribourg-Blanc   Pages 66 - 78 ( 13 )


Background: Research and development at the edge of micro & nano electronics, nanotechnologies, photonics, materials and biotechnology and their integration into smart miniaturised systems open new opportunities for better quality of life. The area has received substantial public funding and support from the late 90s from the European Union Research Framework Programmes, including the currently running Horizon 2020. We undertook data collection, clustering and analysis of 119 projects (with about 500 M€ EU funding and 890 public and private organisations) covering the area of Micro-Nano-Bio-info technologies and Systems (MNBS) to document the allocation of public money spent on research, development and innovation in this field, to identify synergies, gaps and major trends as well as to verify the alignment with the relevant EU policies and define future challenges and next opportunities for support.

Methodology: The projects, funded through several topics of the EC programmes, e.g. Bio-electronics, Biophotonics, Nanomedicine and Healthcare & Well-Being, have been clustered through a semi-automated process based on text mining, using RapidMiner software, with the text describing the projects and their tasks as the input. Text mining-based clustering is grounded in the words contained in the documents provided, and includes basically 2 steps: (i) document pre-processing and (ii) document clustering based on the word frequencies. The hierarchical clustering obtained provide us information related to the proximity of the projects with regard to the meaningful words related to the technologies, processes, applications, etc., which have been kept. This type of grouping provides certainty that projects are grouped with the closest projects in terms of overall content (e.g. objectives, tasks and technologies involved).

Results: Classification: Eleven differentiated project categories have been defined, each containing from 6 to 17 projects. These categories can be further re-grouped in broader categories in several ways depending on the purpose, e.g. considering the link to either in-vivo (patient-centred devices) or in-vitro (portable devices and systems and analytical detection platforms) applications, to the level of portability (portable devices vs. platforms), or to the manufacturing importance. Participating (EU and non-EU) organisations include research and academic (37%), private companies (56%), end-users e.g. hospitals or clinical related institutions (4,7%) as well as public authorities and endusers associations in health, food and environment sectors (2,3%).

Participation: The participants come from European countries and from Russia, Australia, Japan and the United States. The EU funding is spread all over Europe, though higher concentration is observed in the Western part of Europe.

Driving forces: the large majority of projects is driven by two main requirements i.e. avoid the use of specialized laboratory- based (mainly hospital-centred), skilled labour-handled, expensive and time-consuming bio-samples and data analysis; and achieve lower cost, quasi-real-time monitoring or analysis using non-specialized infrastructures, at the Point of Care/Need (out-of-lab).

Achievements and Challenges: overall the projects have delivered significant technological progress beyond the state-of-the-art and in some cases integrated prototypes have been validated at the laboratory and in fewer cases tested in real application environments. However, further R&D effort is needed in order to achieve better and compatible interfaces, higher system integration and technology readiness level, better connectivity, efficient manufacturing processes & technologies and validation in real application conditions. Additionally, a critical collaborative effort should be put on effective technology translation of research into new products, speeding up product development, market introduction and cost reduction. This should encompass product design, supply chain setup, user targeting, clinical validation, manufacturing and commercial roll-out.

Conclusion: The projects' portfolio analysis allowed sizing the EU funding and clustering of MNBS research and innovation activities, as well as identifying synergies, major trends, gaps and lessons to be learned for future public investment. Supporting further system integration and validation in real life environments as well as the creation of collaborative interdisciplinary platforms and innovation ecosystems will strongly contribute to new business and markets. It will accelerate the digitization of the European industry in key sectors like healthcare, food and security and support innovation through the full supply chains, thus will positively impact the EU's single market fit for the digital age.


Key Enabling Technologies, ICT, Bio-electronics, Bio-photonics, Nanomedicine, EU Research and Innovation, MNBS, Projects Analysis.


European Commission, Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG Connect), Competitive Electronics Industry, 1049 Brussels, European Commission, Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG Connect), Competitive Electronics Industry, 1049 Brussels, European Commission, Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG Connect), Competitive Electronics Industry, 1049 Brussels

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