Mon, Mar 12, 2018 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE: Biotech park to open despite controversy

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

The National Biotechnology Research Park’s Incubation Center, left, is pictured in an undated photograph of Taipei’s Nangang District. The center is connected to the Academia Sinica’s two other research centers, seen on the right and inback.

Photo provided by Academia Sinica

Encumbered by property and environmental controversies for more than a decade, the National Biotechnology Research Park in Taipei’s Nangang District (南港) is slated for completion on Wednesday, Academia Sinica officials said.

Once completed, the park’s seven buildings are to accommodate the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Food and Drug Administration, the Ministry of Science and Technology’s National Laboratory Animal Center, the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Development Center for Biotechnology, an incubation center, two Academia Sinica research centers, and a bioinformatics center.

The project, with a development budget of about NT$22.5 billion (US$767.92 million), is managed by a special committee made up of seven ranking officials from Academia Sinica — the nation’s highest research institution — and the three ministries.

It is “very exciting” to mark the completion of a “tremendous project” that is so critical to the growth of the nation’s biotechnological sector, said Academia Vice President Liu Fu-tong (劉扶東), who serves as committee head.

Located near Academia Sinica and the Nangang MRT Station, the park covers 25.44 hectares that used to house the Ministry of National Defense’s 202nd Arsenal.

The land was designated as the park’s site during former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) presidency, and the construction project was launched in 2007 by then-Academia Sinica president Wong Chi-huey (翁啟惠).

Wong’s indictment in 2016 on insider trading, corruption and misconduct charges involving biotech company OBI Pharma Inc (台灣浩鼎) case, which the Taipei Shilin District Prosecutors’ Office dropped last month, led to his resignation in May that year, making him unfit to continue leading the project.

There had been speculation that the project might be further delayed. Former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and President Tsai Ying-wen (蔡英文) each expressed concern about its progress.

Tsai, who helped negotiate the land use when she served as vice premier, in June last year said the park’s construction would be completed by the end of last year.

Academia Sinica President James Liao (廖俊智) was on Feb. 21 quoted by the Chinese-language Economic Daily News as saying that he expected “part of” the park to be inaugurated by May 20 and the first business to have been attracted by the end of April.

In an interview with the Taipei Times on Friday last week, Liu said the institution had obtained all the architectural licenses for the buildings by Feb. 14 and expected to mark the park’s completion on Wednesday.

However, he added that the date of its formal inauguration was yet to be determined.

Initial controversy over land use was the main reason for delays, as it took about six years for the Ministry of National Defense to hand over the land, Liu said.

One of the most vehement opponents to the project, literary writer Chang Hsiao-feng (張曉風), said the construction project would destroy a precious wetland on the site — what she called “the last lung lobe of Taipei.”

When construction was about to begin in 2010, Chang even knelt down in front of the media in a call to then-president Ma to stop exploiting the land.

It was not until 2014 that the park’s construction actually began and other factors, such as the environmental impact assessment process, heavy rainfall impeding construction and difficult deployment of workers, led to further delays, Liu said.

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