Lightweight composite materials consisting of polymeric matrices with embedded carbon nanotubes (CNTs) offer a unique combination of stiffness and strength with very high thermal and electrical conductivities. Insufficient knowledge on tailoring functionalities by manipulating CNT properties and processes is currently preventing their widespread commercial use. The EU-funded project 'Carbon nanotube confinement strategies to develop novel polymer matrix composites' (POCO) addressed this issue with a focus on the CNT–polymer interface. Critical work was done to achieve controlled dispersion of CNTs, anchorage in the polymer and optimisation of properties in the solid state from nano-structuring. Case study applications were defined by end users in the aerospace, automotive, construction and biomedical sectors. Consortium members investigated the chemical functionalisation of CNTs. Electrical and magnetic fields were used to aid in confinement, positioning and alignment of the CNTs in the polymer matrix. Scientists successfully functionalised CNT surfaces to control polymer growth on CNT surfaces as well as self-assembly concepts to control the growth of CNTs. Scientists delivered a 5 % to 15 % improvement in mechanical properties of carbon-based composites for structural components in the aerospace and construction industries. Controlled modification of electrical properties enabled the production of polymer-based coatings (suitable for anti-static protection in aerospace applications) and light-weight hybrid metal–nanocomposites (for the automotive industry). Preliminary work on the use of CNTs as reinforcement in biodegradable polymers for bone repair showed promising results in terms of mechanical stability and non-toxicity. POCO established a successful collaboration between academia and industry to bring novel concepts to commercial fruition while training the next generation of scientists. Thirteen doctoral theses benefited from the project and more than 24 articles were published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The wealth of data and techniques generated by the consortium together with demonstration of important industrial applications ensure continued high impact of POCO outcomes.