The Institute for Advanced Materials (IAM), part of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, has undergone considerable changes during 1998 and taken a special role as interlocutor between industry and policy makers in combining major policy issues such as industrial competitiveness and safe and clean technologies. This is the conclusion of the IAM's recently published 1998 annual report. The JRC's new mission statement emphasises its role in supporting European Union policy issues through research and technological development. The refocusing of JRC activities also introduced organisation changes, which in turn has had an effect on the IAM. For example, this restructuring brought the opportunity for IAM to concentrate its activities on a single site (Petten, The Netherlands), with activities in the fields of photovaltaics and energy saving transferred to the Environment Institute. The new focus of the JRC, and the IAM in particular, is seen also in the plans for the Fifth RTD Framework Programme. For IAM this means a change from broad generic materials research to targeted research in support of such policy issues as safety and health of citizens, and sustainable energy production and transport. Additionally, 1998 saw the end of the Fourth Framework Programme, and an assessment of IAM's achievements highlights: - The implementation of a European methodology for inspection qualification; - The elaboration of a large component neutron diffraction facility; - The completion of a device for manufacturing complex ceramic composite components. Furthermore, progress was made in the areas of: - Hydrogen induced damage prevention; - The development of an improved self-lubricant coating for dry machining.