There are significant research programs on nanotechnology in Japan, as well as in China, Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore.


The term "nanotechnology" is frequently used in Japan specifically to describe the construction of nanostructures on semiconductors/inorganic substrates for future electronic and computer technologies, and to describe the development of equipment for measurement at nanometer level (Sienko 1998). There are, however, Japanese programs in a number of other areas related to nanotechnology in the broader definition used in this report.

Government agencies and large corporations are the main sources of funding for nanotechnology in Japan; small and medium-size companies play only a minor role. Research activities are generally grouped in relatively large industrial, government, and academic laboratories. The three main government organizations sponsoring nanotechnology in Japan are the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), the Science and Technology Agency (STA), and Monbusho (the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports, and Culture). Funding for nanotechnology research should be viewed in the context of an overall increased level of support for basic research in Japan since 1995 as a result of Japan's Science and Technology Basic Law No. 130 (effective November 15, 1995), even if the law has not been fully implemented. The data presented below are based on information received from Japanese colleagues during the WTEC visit in July 1997 (see site reports in Appendix D). All budgets are for the fiscal year 1996 (1 April 1996 to 31 March 1997) and assume an exchange rate of 115 = $1, unless otherwise stated. The first five-year program on ultrafine particles started in 1981 under the Exploratory Research for Advanced Technologies (ERATO) program; an overview of the results of that program was published in 1991 (Uyeda 1991).

It is estimated that the Agency of Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) within MITI had a budget of approximately $60 million per year for nanotechnology in 1996/97 (roughly 2.2% of the AIST budget). The National Institute for Advancement of Interdisciplinary Research (NAIR) hosts three AIST projects:

  1. Joint Research Center for Atom Technology (JRCAT), with a ten-year budget of about $220 million for 1992-2001 ($25 million per year in 1996)
  2. Research on Cluster Science program, with about $10 million for the interval 1992-1997
  3. Research on Bionic Design program, with $10 million for 1992-1997, about half on nanotechnology

Other efforts supported to various degrees by MITI include the following:

It is estimated that STA investment in nanotechnology research was about $35 million in 1996, mainly within five organizations:

  1. Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN), where nanotechnology is included in the Frontier Materials Research initiative
  2. National Research Institute for Metals (NRIM)
  3. National Institute for Research in Inorganic Materials (NIRIM)
  4. Japan Science and Technology Corporation (JST-formerly called JRDC), which manages the ERATO program, including four nanotechnology-related projects, each with total budgets of $13-18 million for five years:

Monbusho supports nanotechnology programs at universities and national research institutes, as well as via the Japan Society for Promotion of Science (JSPS). The most active programs are those at Tokyo University, Kyoto University, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tohoku University, and Osaka University (see Appendix D). The Institute of Molecular Science and the Exploratory Research on Novel Artificial Materials and Substances program promote new research ideas for next-generation industries (5-year university-industry research projects). The "Research for the Future" initiative sponsored by JSPS has a program on "nanostructurally controlled spin-dependent quantum effects" (1996-2001) at Tohoku University. Monbusho's funding contribution to nanotechnology programs is estimated at ~ $25 million.

In total, MITI, STA, and Monbusho allocated ~ $120 million for nanotechnology in 1996.

Large companies also drive nanotechnology research in Japan. Important research efforts are at six institutions: Hitachi (Central R&D Laboratories, where nanotechnology is ~ 25% of long-term research)-Hitachi has ~ $70 billion per year in sales (see site report in Appendix D); NEC (Fundamental Research Laboratories, where nanotechnology is estimated to be ~ 50% of the precompetitive research)-NEC has ~ $40 billion per year in sales (see site report in Appendix D); NTT (Atsugi Lab); Fujitsu (Quantum Electron Devices Lab); Sony; and Fuji Photo Film Co.

An allocation of 10% of sales for research and development is customary in these companies, with ~ 10% of this for long-term research. Some Japanese nanostructured products already have considerable market impact. Nihon Shinku Gijutsu (ULVAC) produces over $4 million per year in sales of particles for electronics, optics, and arts. Also, there are in Japan, as in the United States, private consortia making an increased contribution to nanotechnology R&D:

Strengthening of the nanotechnology research infrastructure in the last years has been fueled by both the overall increase of government funding for basic research and by larger numbers of academic and industry researchers choosing nanotechnology as their primary field of research. Potential industrial applications provide a strong stimulus. A systems approach has been adopted in most laboratory projects, including multiple characterization methods and processing techniques. A special Japanese research strength is instrumentation development. The university-industry interaction is stimulated by the new MITI projects awarded to universities in the last few years that encourage temporary hiring of research personnel from industry. Other issues currently being addressed are more extensive use of peer review, promoting personnel mobility and intellectual independence, rewarding researchers for patents, promoting interdisciplinary and international interactions, and better use of the physical infrastructure.


Nanoscience and nanotechnology have received increased attention in China since the mid-1980s. Approximately 3,000 researchers there now contribute to this field (Bai 1996). The ten-year "Climbing Project on Nanometer Science" (1990-1999) and a series of advanced materials research projects are the core activities. The Chinese Academy of Sciences sponsors relatively large groups, while the China National Science Foundation (CNSF) provides support mainly for individual research projects. Areas of strength are development of nanoprobes and manufacturing processes using nanotubes. The Chinese Physics Society and the Chinese Society of Particuology are societies involved in the dissemination of nanotechnology research.


India's main research activities are on nanostructured materials and electronic devices (Sikka 1995). These involve a combination of research institutions (the Central Electronics Engineering Research Institute in Pilani, the Space Application Center in Ahmedabad, and others), funding organizations (the Centre for Development of Materials in Pune, the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, and others), and industry.


Taiwan's major nanotechnology research effort is conducted in the area of miniaturization of electronic circuits. The research is conducted in academic institutions and at the Industrial Technology Research Institute. Government funds for fundamental research are channeled via the National Science Council. (See site reports in Appendix E.)

South Korea

A national research focus on nanotechnology was established in Korea in 1995. The Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) in Taejon, Korea's science city, targets advanced technologies for information and computer infrastructures, with a focus on nanotechnology (ATIP 1998). The emphasis is on nanoscale semiconductor devices and particularly on semiconductor quantum nanostructures and device applications (lasers, modulators, switches and logical devices, resonant tunneling devices, self-assembled nanosize dots, single-electron transistors, and quantum wires).


Nanotechnology research received a considerable boost in Singapore by the initiation of a national program in this area in 1995.


The National Research Council (NRC) of Australia has sponsored R&D in nanotechnology since 1993 (ASTC 1993). Research groups work on synthesis of nanoparticles for membranes and catalysts (University of New South Wales), nanofiltration (UNESCO Center for Membrane Science and Technology), and use of nanoparticles in processing minerals for special products (the Advanced Mineral Products Research Center at the University of Melbourne). AWA Electronics in Homebush has the largest industrial research facility for nanoelectronics in Australia.

Published: September 1999; WTEC Hyper-Librarian