Soft matter plays an important role in nearly every aspect of our daily lives and soft matter research is a driving force for a broad range of innovation fields with a large number of big and medium sized European companies involved. Despite its undisputed importance, the soft matter research landscape used to be fragmented. Its various subfields included surfactants, polymers, colloids, biomatter, etc., and different disciplines used to work on related topics such as physics, computational science, chemistry and biophysics. The Network of Excellence (NoE) SoftComp has lined up to proactively work towards a change with the goal of strengthening the scientific and technological excellence in this important area of science and industry. In other words — SoftComp brings together a critical mass of resources and expertise to provide leadership and elevates strategic integration of soft matter research in Europe to a new level.
A shared infrastructure was created enhancing the opportunities for each partner far beyond their own laboratory capabilities. This infrastructure provides access to the most advanced colloidal and polymer synthesis, and to experimental techniques such as state of the art laboratories for spectroscopy, imaging and scattering as well as a joint computer cluster for simulation work. The focus on education and dissemination generated numerous schools, workshops and conferences. The major event was the first International Soft Matter Conference in Aachen, Germany, which attracted more than 600 participants from all over the world. This great success stimulated so far three follow-up conferences to be held in 2010 in Granada, Spain, in 2013 in Rome, Italy, and in 2016 in Grenoble, France.
With these accomplishments at hand, we are proud to say that the concept has developed extremely well: The integration created additional value, not only for the SoftComp members, but also for soft matter research in general and therefore for society. Observing the creation of numerous new university chairs in soft matter science and the growing industrial importance, SoftComp is well positioned strategically and anticipates further significant developments now bringing together soft matter science and life sciences.