Nanotechnology promises to transform many areas of our lives and deliver radically different products in sectors as diverse as sports equipment and health care. The economic impact could be huge but realising this potential requires considerable investment and resources. Although several European regions already have significant infrastructure for nanotechnology, this needs to be expanded if the continent's businesses and regions are to compete at the global level. An EU-funded project, 'Knowledge and excellence in European nanotechnology - Regions' (KEEN-REGIONS), developed links between three established regional research clusters in the nanotechnology field. Together, Veneto Nanotech in Italy, Minatec in the Rhône-Alpes in France, and Gaia in the Basque Country have more than EUR 200 million in funding, 2 000 researchers and 200 research laboratories. Turning research into successful innovation requires expertise, resources and investment at a number of levels. Of course, there must be excellence at the scientific level and up-to-date equipment, but equally as important are strong business structures and productive relationships with public authorities. The KEEN-REGIONS initiative looked at all these aspects to forge stronger links between the three regions to enable them to pool resources and collaborate in better ways. The first step was to map the infrastructure available in each area, enabling the project partners to discover each others' capabilities and assess how they could cooperate. Next, they developed joint solutions to common problems, and launched a number of concrete actions to help businesses and researchers collaborate across borders. By promoting wider cooperation, mutual learning and the pooling of resources, KEEN-REGIONS has boosted the EU's nanotechnology capabilities and should lead to increased competitiveness in this rapidly emerging field.