China rapidly gaining in nanotechnology competition

In case you missed the China webcast by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, here’s a short summary from IT Week by Clement James:

China bets big on nanotech
Country takes aim at $3 trillion global market in nanotech products

Nanotechnology is key to the future economic success of China, according to a leading academic in the field.

Richard Appelbaum, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said that China is betting that its growing investment in nano-science will help the country capture a large share of what will become a $3 trillion global market in nanotech manufactured goods.

Breakthroughs in nanotechnology research and commercialisation will also confer economic superpower status on the country that attains first mover advantage in this cutting-edge technology, according to the professor.

Appelbaum made his remarks at an event co-sponsored by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, the Asia Program, the China Environment Forum, and the Program on Science, Technology, America and the Global Economy, at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

China and the US are seen as big players in the nanotech race, although each faces a number of significant competitive challenges and collaborative opportunities, including the need for internationally coordinated risk research strategies and effective oversight mechanisms.

A senior US Department of Commerce official recently claimed that China is rapidly “gaining on” the US in nanotechnology.

This news comes on top of the latest Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development forecast that China will have spent more on R&D than Japan in 2006, making it the world’s second highest investor in R&D after the US.

Find that last statement hard to believe? I dug around for a link at OECD, published in 2006:

China will this year for the first time spend more on research and development (R&D) than Japan and so become the world’s second highest investor in R&D after the United States, according to OECD projections based on recent trends.

“The rapid rise of China in both money spent and researchers employed is stunning,” said Dirk Pilat, Head of the OECD’s Science and Technology Policy division.

How long can China keep it up? OECD economist and China investment expert Ken Davies says that China does not have the same problems that limited the USSR and Japan from fulfilling predictions made about them in the 1970s. Of course, it may have different problems that also slow growth.

Just in case, it’s time to learn Mandarin. —Christine

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