Sol-gel technology provides an alternative route to the production of ceramics and glasses. Compared to conventional techniques the sol-gel route offers a number of important advantages that make die method interesting for the production of materials tailored to specific applications. The main potential lies in the fact that non-metallic, inorganic solids can be produced and processed at temperatures which are considerably lower than those required in conventional methods. This allows the incorporation of organic molecules and polymers, leading to materials with added functionality which cannot be obtained otherwise. Another advantage is the fact that these materials are obtained from solution which allows the convenient production of films and bulk materials of any possible shape. The third major advantage of the sol-gel method is that it produces porous materials whose pore-size distributions can be controlled, both by the chemical composition of the starting material, as well as by the processing conditions. The added value of the sol-gel approach for a number of applications will be illustrated using some selected examples highlighting the specific characteristics of this technology.