The development of (molecular) sciences for materials, food and health critically depends on Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. As a non-invasive method, modern NMR represents one out of very few widely applied analytical methods that grows with the development of sciences and has continuously found new and abundant application in virtually all research fields in biology, chemistry, physics and medicine. In fact, the versatility of NMR in characterizing equally well all kinds of materials, biomolecules, processes and living organisms makes it an indispensable tool for understanding the fundamentals of nature and for searching for new solutions to major societal challenges.
To address these challenges, the major Dutch centers for magnetic resonance research in structural biology, materials science, and structural, functional and metabolic imaging, together with the public private partnership (Community of Innovation) for analytical science and technology COAST (www.ti-coast.com), formed a national consortium in 2011. The aim of the national ultra-high field Nuclear Magnetic Resonance facility (uNMR-NL) is to provide nation-wide, open access to NMR equipment and analysis, including a new generation of NMR instruments operating at up to ultra-high field strength, across scientific disciplines and industrial research.
As a first step in the direction of such a distributed grid facility, the uNMR-NL consortium received funding in the 2011 call of the NWO National Roadmap for Research Infrastructures to place the first ultra-high field instrument, a 1.2 GHz standard bore NMR spectrometer, in the Netherlands. Together with the manufacturer (Bruker), a two-phase implementation plan was developed: a 950 MHz system was installed in late 2015 at the central UU site, which will be replaced by the 1.2 GHz system in 2021. In addition, an NWO Graduate Program project (NMARRS) was established in 2014 aimed at educating a new generation of NMR scientists directly involved in cutting-edge research projects at the uNMR-NL facility.
Our current ambition is to capitalize on the complementary expertise and facility track record of each partner to establish a national uNMR-NL grid of magnetic resonance facilities around the central, ultra-high field system. Our mission is to bundle cross-disciplinary, cutting-edge molecular magnetic resonance research in the Netherlands to facilitate rapid progress in a large number of research fields. In a combined effort, we strive to (i) provide and develop beyond-state-of-the-art instrumentation, and (ii) foster the development and application of new methods to advance and support both academic and industrial research.
Indeed, NMR research has a strong tradition in the Netherlands, from the inception of the spin concept in the 1920s to the present day – the Netherlands has always had strong representation in the NMR field. The uNMR-NL partners, as well as the four associated members, have been operating at the forefront of science in a complementary way. The core sites in Utrecht, Leiden, Wageningen and Nijmegen not only house substantial NMR instrumentation but they also have been active as national and/or European infrastructures. Correspondingly, important components of uNMR-NL are the long-standing national and European NMR Research Infrastructure for Biomolecular NMR at Utrecht, the paramagnetic bioNMR center in Leiden, the metabolic profiling & micro-imaging center for plant, food and bio-nanotechnology in Wageningen and the solid-state NMR facility for advanced materials research in Nijmegen.
This distributed uNMR-NL infrastructure caters for the need of research communities ranging from catalysis to health sciences and nutrition by providing access to top of the line NMR facilities providing an indispensable tool in the search for solutions for major problems that our society faces.