More than seventy percent of all technical innovations in a broad range of fields and applications today depend directly or indirectly on the development of advanced materials. For this reason, advanced materials have been identified by the European Commission as one of the 6 Key Enabling Technologies, of systemic relevance that feed many different cooperating business sectors, in very heterogeneous ways . Advanced materials together with the other Key Enabling Technologies enable a sustainable, smart and inclusive economic growth. They are enabling product and service innovation throughout the economy, cutting across many technology areas.
Exactly because of the complicated nature of their role as technology enablers, advanced materials many times miss the general public’s attention. People tend to underestimate the importance of advanced materials in everyday life, since they are mostly focused on the final products, instead of appreciating the underlying materials technologies. Citizens are not aware that most of the technological products that they use today exist because of the continuous improvement of the properties of functional materials. On the other hand, the more educated citizens that are aware of the role of the advanced materials do not have a clear view of how materials are being developed, and they seem to be unaware of the roles and the importance of the scientists and engineers that work on this field. Therefore, it does not come as a surprise that the general public cannot understand easily the multidisciplinary nature of R&D in advanced materials and so it underestimates the size and the role of the materials community. These misconceptions cause several problems when compared to other disciplines, including for example the relatively small number of students that are attracted to the field, (esp. in the poorer regions of the EU), despite the fact that most advanced EU programmes are focused on materials (e.g. the present NMP calls). This is clearly a bottleneck that needs to be unblocked in order to boost the ability of the field to promote economic growth in Europe and to prepare the European societies for the coming challenges.
The European Commission has identified these problems and has specified in the Call for Proposals that: “The proposed support action(s) should deliver media product(s) for a general public, often scientifically unprepared, presenting new materials (including nanostructured materials) and how they have helped, are helping and/or will help creating in Europe and world-wide an industrial economy that serves citizens better and is more favourable to the environment. One or more television productions, or a series of them, is a non-binding example of a product that is expected under the present call.” “A product dedicated specifically to children and younger people with the objective of attracting their interest to materials and its research would also be eligible within this call.”
This proposal tries to meet the above demands, aiming to attract the general public, and especially the younger people, to the field of advanced materials, highlighting the relevance of functional materials to the innovations that the market expects.
We propose a cross-platform approach, integrating onto a webportal, online educational resources, a web-based serious game and a character-leddocumentary film.
The serious game and the documentary are designed so that they can also stand alone in the media markets i.e. they will be able to be used also independently. In the proposal below the planned work on these two products will be placed in separate Workpackages (WP2 and WP3).
The educational, “Serious Game”, will be specifically targeted towards teenagers (esp. boys and girls between 14 and 17 years old). The character-led documentary will be targeted towards the general public and especially the younger people, with the aim to introduce them to this field and (in the medium to long term) to attract them to it. Both products will introduce people to a world of invention and innovation, where our imagination is the limit and the impossible does not exist! We aim to present how ideas can turn into market products, and give our audience a clear vision for a sustainable future, based on Knowledge (Research), Development and Innovation, with advanced materials at its central core.
Overlapping scientific content and cross-references between the two stand-alone media products (i.e. the Serious Game and the Documentary) will link them and promote their dissemination. For example, parts of the game will referto particular clips and the online resources of the portal, for the necessary information to solve a specific puzzle and advance in the game. The players of the game will also be able to watch in the documentary how materials, processes and material scientists work and do in the real world.
The written material, in turn, will referto the film clips and will provide guidelines for teachers for the combined use of the game and the audio-visual material in classroom and will suggest further resources.The documentary will show the teenage characters of the game and will encourage the viewers to try it themselves. The shorter individual versions of the film (for the internet) will refer to the online material through interactive pop-up menus and messages in its digital release format. This way we plan to increase the impact of the game for the teenagers and to make it easier for them to enter the world of science; we want to enhance their imagination, giving them a vision for the future, and to convince them how relevant advanced materials are in the creation of new jobs in a “green world”.
We will present all the sides of the materials community to the general public, including research, development and manufacturing with media products that will be translated in all the official EU languages. Dissemination of these products will take place with the use of the most relevant mass media tools, and with the exploitation of the expertise of a specialist in this field and the exploitation of the network of the European Materials Research Society (E-MRS), a broad scientific society with thousands of members.
Our effort will be in line with the current EU policy on Materials Vision and its relation to the Key Enabling Technologies, promoting the role of the Materials Community (Academia and Industry) in the creation of a knowledge-based economy and its vision for a sustainable future.
As we will show below, we are designing a set of media products that can have a real impact on the public’s perception of the advanced materials. We plan to open a window of optimism and uncover to the European Public the world of Materials Science and Technology Applications, where we are finding solutions to their problems for the benefit of our Planet. Our main target is to stimulate the European public towards a positive attitude in the field of advanced materials and make it realise the role of Science in our life.