Understanding the synthesis, structure and performance of heterogeneous catalysts is a complex challenge that requires a multidisciplinary approach. In my talk I will summarize our studies on the nature of the active sites in Sn using advanced ex and in situ characterization techniques. In the second part of my talk I will present our recent progress on understanding the two-dimensional dispersion of group V metal oxides on silica. Anchoring mechanisms, as well as practical ways to improve the dispersion beyond the state-of-the-art will be addressed. Supported metal oxides are key-catalysts for the Oxidative DeHydrogenation (ODH) of propane, a promising on-purpose production method for propene from shale gas. Improvements in the space-time-yield, and unprecedented selectivity will be discussed.