Nanotechnology and advanced materials form a broad and inter-disciplinary area of research and development that can enable new or improved properties in products and engineering processes. The essence of nanotechnology is to manipulate atoms and molecules at nanoscale level and create nanostructures with fundamentally new organizations and properties.
In recent years, a combination of government funding, corporate-academic collaborations and funding by venture capitalists have been providing support for pre-competitive research and development on nanotechnology in many countries due largely to its enormous potential economic benefits. Sharing the same vision, nanotechnology has been introduced by the Hong Kong SAR Government as one of the key technology areas since 2001. Two nanotechnology centres have been established at local universities by the ITF. More recently, it has drawn the attention of many local enterprises, which have interest in exploiting nanotechnology and new materials on their new product development. It is vital to develop and introduce appropriate nanotechnology and advanced materials technologies to help local enterprises in developing niche markets for new and value-added commercial products from the near to long-term. Some successful examples include nano-structured liquid crystal display with fast response time, advanced encapsulates with low moisture and tailored modulus for electronic packaging, textiles treated with nanostructured materials and water repellent apparels with high air permeability, and air purification system that removes odour and kills bacteria by photocatalytic nano-coating.
To maintain the competitiveness and explore new business opportunities, the Hong Kong industries need to upgrade their products and improve their manufacturing processes and productivity. Nanotechnology and advanced materials technology offer a powerful enabling technology platform that will lead to a wide spectrum of innovative products. These technologies can be applied in sectors ranging from textile to telecommunications and biomedical, to add new features or enhance performance of products.
Strengths and Opportunities
It is believed that the nanotechnology era has just begun and, relatively speaking, Hong Kong can compete on equal footing with other economies in this technology area. There are many experts in the areas of nanotechnology and advanced materials in local universities and some of their research results are highly regarded in the international arena. We have already built up substantial research strengths and infrastructural support in nanotechnology.
The ITF has supported a number of projects that are relevant to nanotechnology and advanced materials. For example, the nano-photocatalytic coating technology developed under an ITF project has been successfully transferred to a local company for the development of air filter and water filter.
Moreover, the Greater PRD region is a major manufacturing base in the world. It provides an ideal platform for application for innovative ideas and commercialization of new technologies.
Risks and Weaknesses
Other countries and economies are investing heavily in nanotechnology and advanced materials. To stay ahead in this global competitive environment, Hong Kong needs to move quickly to avoid being left behind in this technology area. Apart from the global competition, there are considerable concerns with regard to environmental, health and safety implications of nanotechnology.
Hong Kong has built up a good technological infrastructure and strong R&D together with a pool of world class experts in nanotechnology and advanced materials technology areas. Under the R&D Centre Programme, we have invited the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology to set up an R&D Centre for nanotechnology and advanced materials by expanding the Institute of the NanoMaterials and NanoTechnology funded by the ITF in 2003. The R&D Centre supports development of new and value-added products; improved manufacturing processes through nanotechnology; and advanced material technologies for various local industries and industries in the Pearl River Delta region.