LISBON Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero Friday hailed the opening of a joint scientific research center with Portugal as the dawning of a new age of discovery for the two countries.
Zapatero and Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates were among dignitaries who attended the opening of the Iberian nanotechnology research center in northern Portugal, which is expected to attract the world's top minds in the field of submolecular research.
"In the age of discovery, we had a lot of success. With this project, Portugal and Spain will chart a new atlas of innovation and will make new discoveries," he said during the televised ceremony in Braga, 375 km (230) miles) north of Lisbon near the Spanish border.
The center will work in the fields of nanomedicine, environmental monitoring, nanoelectronics and molecular nanomanipulation. Nano research, which is conducted at submolecular and subatomic levels, has possible applications in medicine, robotics, computers, food and even cosmetics.
With an initial investment of $140 million and an expected annual costs of 30 million euros to be paid by Spain and Portugal, the center will be the first nanotechnology lab with the status of an international organization. This will make the hiring of scientists from other countries easier.
A total of 200 scientists and 100 doctorate students will work on 160,000 sq ft of research space. Forty have already been hired and are undergoing specialized training. The center will be fully operational by mid-2010.
"The institute will attract and engage the world's greatest investigators in these areas," Socrates said.
Spain's King Juan Carlos, who attended the ceremony, said: "Especially during the serious economic crisis, it is important to assure our institutions and societies that our progress and well-being depend on more innovation and education."
(Reporting by Andrei Khalip)