Asia-Pacific governments invest in nano labs and research centers

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TOKYO, Jan. 22, 2004 — A number of new research parks have opened in the Asia-Pacific region in the past few months, illustrating an increased level of commitment by local governments toward investment in nanotechnology and related fields.

Among the new centers is Singapore’s Biopolis research park, aimed at establishing bio and nanotech businesses. Biotech firm Novartis AG has already set up labs and Edison Liu, formerly of the U.S. National Cancer Institute, now heads the Genome Institute of Singapore, which took the lead in sequencing the SARS virus in 2003. Biopolis also hosts the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology.

Also in October, Malaysia opened its InventQjaya Sdn Bhd (IQJ) research laboratory housed in a new facility in Cyberjaya. It’s a joint venture between the Malaysian government and Reveo Inc., a technology incubator based in Elmsford, N.Y.

The following month, China and Taiwan started construction of the Nano Sci-Tech Industrial Park in Xi’an, the capital of northwest China’s Shaanxi province. The research and development center has already launched 20 programs focusing on nano and superconductor research, including development of nanofilmed glass for the construction industry. Xi’an, an ancient capital of China, is rapidly emerging as a high-tech center.

Asia also hosted a number of major conferences, including two SEMICON meetings focusing on MEMS. In September, SEMICON Taiwan at the Taipei World Trade Center concentrated on MEMS, with more than 500 companies taking part. SEMICON Japan 2003 in early December featured a special MEMS/NEMS pavilion, with more than 55 booths.

Labs work overtime

Meanwhile, a number of the region’s major research labs redoubled their commitments to nanotechnology research and investment.

In September, Japan’s two major government nanotechnology laboratories, the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) and National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) said they had founded a company, the Materials Design Technology Laboratory, to develop and supply new materials to Japan’s automotive and electronics industry.

In November, Taiwan’s National Science Council (NSC) announced that the country will expand its international collaboration programs with other research institutes, focusing in part on nanotechnology. The NSC plans on spending $23.2 billion on nanoscience and nanotechnology research from 2003 to 2008.

Taiwan also showed that it can attract investment as well as develop breakthrough technologies. In September, Lin Yi Fu, Taiwan’s minister of economic affairs, announced that direct investments from foreign- and overseas Chinese-owned companies posted significant increases in both July and August. Lin said the total amount invested was $1.94 billion, which includes optoelectronics and nanotechnology. Lin said that foreign business groups have promised to begin 73 other investment projects worth $2.09 billion.

There were also a number of moves to boost international nanotech cooperation. In September, South Korea and Germany agreed to establish a committee to look into joint research and development in advanced technologies, including nano and biotech. In November, Deng Nan, China’s vice minister of science and technology, addressing a conference at Texas A & M University, called for more U.S.-China cooperation in science and technology, including nanotech.


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