Vice Premier Lin Hsin-yi (林信義) yesterday made his second inspection tour of the Nanotechnology Research Center at the Industrial Technology Research Institute (工研院) in Hsinchu, calling for greater government funding.
Lin said that the government has increased nanotechnology research funding to NT$23.17 billion (US$665.8 million) until 2008, up 20.68 percent from an original estimate of NT$19.2 billion.
"But approximately US$100 million annually is still not enough to develop the revolutionary sector -- where Taiwan's future economic miracle lies -- compared to the world's annual US$4 billion [invested in the sector,]" Lin said.
He encouraged the center to seek strategic alliances with the private sector, sharing capital, technological resources and talent to help upgrade the nation's industries -- both in the traditional and high-tech sectors -- as soon as possible.
According to accompanying government officials from the Cabinet-level Council for Economic Planning and Development, Japan is expected to allocate US$1 billion per year on nanotech research, while the US will spend US$750 million per year and West European countries are injecting US$1.2 billion between last year and 2006.
Taiwan, on the other hand, is catching up with South Korea, which spent US$166 million last year, and China, which plans to spend a total of US$300 million between 2001 and 2005 on nanotechnology research.
Despite being cash-strapped, the center envisions a bright future.
The institute's Executive Vice President Bob Yang (楊日昌) said world production value in the nanotechnology industry, which now sits at US$1 trillion, will grow 13-fold between 2005 and 2010, while the scope of its application is expected to increase by 25 times.
"The technology's applications in optoelectronics, where Taiwan enjoys a competitive edge, will expand, greatly benefiting the nation's economy," Yang said.
He also downplayed competition from China, reasoning that Taiwan controls more sophisticated technologies.
Electronics, advanced displays, photonics and high-density storage will be the center's major areas of focus for nanotechnology applications, he said.
Institute President Shih Chintay (史欽泰) said the center puts equal effort into nanotechnology's commercialization, which will soon become readily available to traditional industries, and on long-term exploratory research, that is expected to provide a boost to the biotechnology, semiconductor and information-technology sectors within the next five to 10 years.
Liu Yung-sheng (劉容生), the director of the Institute of Optoelectronics, said the government plans to replace traffic lights and street lamps nationwide with nanotechnology-applied light-emitting diodes, which will cost NT$4.6 billion to install, but is expected to save NT$9.6 billion in electricity in only five years.