Tue, Mar 04, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Local nanotech effort draws attention

By Bill Heaney  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan is proving a magnet for overseas academic and trade delegations looking to learn more about the nation's burgeoning nanotechnology industry, an official from the nation's top nanotech research center said yesterday.

"Many overseas delegations are visiting us to understand Taiwan's position in the nanotechnology industry," Tsai Pin-pin (蔡嬪嬪), manager of the Nanotech Research Center at the government-funded Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), said yesterday. Delegations from the North of England, Poland and Canada have all visited the center within the last week, looking for ways in which the Taiwanese can cooperate with nanotech programs in their universities and industry, Tsai said.

Nanotechnology involves the manipulation of atoms and molecules on the scale of the nanometer -- one-billionth of a meter.

Some theoretical applications of the technology are the creation of tiny robots that can hunt down and destroy cancer cells, or new computer storage devices that reduce corporate storage disks to the size of a postage stamp.

But the scale of nanotech research needs international cooperation, one expert said.

"To do good science these days, it takes a multi-disciplinary team, especially in nano-science," said Karan Kaler, director of the Calgary Institute of Nanotechnology in western Canada.

Kaler is part of a 21-member nanotech delegation brought to Taiwan by Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

The fact-finding mission to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan aims to develop partnerships between Canadian academics and Asian researchers to accelerate developments in nanotechy, Dave Murphy, trade and investment director at the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei said.

"Ultimately, the objective is to develop projects and relationships that can derive economic and social benefits," Murphy said. "We're looking at [nanotech] in a practical and pragmatic way, and that's establishing a better understanding of the programs and activities that are underway on both sides."

For four days the delegation is meeting with nanotech experts from the National Science Council, ITRI, National Tsing-hua University and National Chiao-tung University. Professors from different fields of nanotech are giving presentations on the developments in their specific fields of research to find out if local researchers are interested, or able, to cooperate in their research. The delegation will travel to South Korea tomorrow and return to Canada on Saturday.

Hamid Mostaghaci, the leader of the delegation, estimates that the nanotech industry will be worth US$1 trillion within 20 years. The Canadian government has already provided C$120 million (US$81 million) to the Canadian National Institute for Nanotechnology in Edmonton, C$110 million (US$74 million) in NanoQuebec, which is an initiative linking industry and academia in the Province of Quebec, and C$200 million (US$135 million) in the Canadian Fund for Innovation, a fund awarded to nanotech researchers.

Some delegations may be headhunting in Taiwan. Professor Federico Rosei of the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique at the University of Quebec is looking for 11 new nanotech professors to work in his labs next year.

Taiwan's National Science Council and the Canadian National Research Council have a collaborative nanotech-research program, Murphy said. Small delegations have visited Canada as part of this collaboration over the past six years.

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