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ETSF members at the ETSF conference, Coimbra, 2012

The ETSF was developed within the Nanoquanta Network of Excellence, a network which was funded by the European Union for 4 years from 2004 to 2008. However, the idea for its creation stems from 15 years of ongoing and expanding collaborations between a number of Condensed Matter Theory groups in Europe. With the growing success of ab initio calculations, the demand for collaborations using the developed software and support for these calculations was and still is growing rapidly amongst theoreticians and experimentalists.

Researchers in both the public sector and private companies are challenging their theoretical colleagues to provide methods and computer programs to explain their experimental findings. The Nanoquanta Network of Excellence was set up in 2004 with the major aim to find a long-term answer to this challenge.

The structure of experimental synchrotron facilities served as a role model in setting up the ETSF. Just as synchrotrons provide a service to experimentalists worldwide by supporting the performance of their experiments, the ETSF provides a service to experimentalists all over the world by offering theoretical support to interpret the results of those experiments.

In early spring 2007, the fully established ETSF had its first call for proposals and created a central ETSF node in Belgium. To date, a total of 280 proposals have been submitted to the ETSF, and 221 have been approved by the steering committee. The ETSF is now an operational virtual facility with funding under the European Union Seventh Framework Programme.