Materials are addressed as possible enablers for solutions to many global societal challenges. A foresight exercise has been conducted to identify research paths to design, with a new approach, a generation of materials which can provide multi-functionalities. These material systems have been named “stem”, in analogy to living cells where a base of primitive units can be designed and assembled for self-reacting to external inputs. These materials will embed a concept of “internet in things”, where their processing capacity will enable the systems to interact with the environment and express diverse functionalities. Stem materials do not exist yet, but many clues from different theoretical and experimental results suggest they can be developed, and because living organisms exist. This article aims at launching this new approach and promoting the structuring of a multi-disciplinary community to fill the research gaps.
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