Nanosized transition metal particles are important materials in catalysis with a key role not only in academic research but also in many processes with industrial and societal relevance. Although small improvements in catalytic properties can lead to significant economic and environmental impacts, it is only now that knowledge-based design of such materials is emerging, partly because the understanding of catalytic mechanisms on nanoparticle surfaces is increasingly improving. A knowledge-based design requires bottom-up synthesis of well-defined model catalysts, an understanding of the catalytic nanomaterials “at work” (operando), and both a detailed understanding and a prediction by theoretical methods. This article reports on progress in colloidal synthesis of transition metal nanoparticles for preparation of model catalysts to close the materials gap between the discoveries of fundamental surface science and industrial application. The transition metal particles, however, often undergo extensive transformations when applied to the catalytic process and much progress has recently been achieved operando characterization techniques ... mehrunder relevant reaction conditions. They allow better understanding of size/structure–activity correlations in these systems. Moreover, the growth of computing power and the improvement of theoretical methods uncover mechanisms on nanoparticles and have recently predicted highly active particles for CO/CO₂ hydrogenation or direct H₂O₂ synthesis.