The government-funded Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF) is seeking projects focused on applied research in nanotechnology in its second call for proposals this year. A previous solicitation focused on themes introduced earlier, making nanotechnology a new direction for the ITF. The aim will be to support midstream projects which go beyond pure research and develop technology that can be used by local industries, according to the proposal documents. 'It is envisaged that the development of nano-materials will increase the competitiveness of local manufacturers through improvement of product performance, durability and quality. It is also an initial step to achieve new technological applications in nanotechnology,' according to the solicitation sent out by ITF. Professor Vincent Shen, one of the government technology advisers involved in the project, said an information session earlier this month drew great interest and he expected at least one co-ordinated proposal would be put forward by the October 15 deadline. 'We believe several institutions are, indeed, preparing to submit,' he said. Special preference will be given to projects that have support from industrial partners, draw from international expertise and collaborate with local universities. Nanotechnology, which involves manipulating molecule-sized materials, is drawing attention for its potential to revolutionise many areas of science, including medicine and information technology. Hong Kong's University of Science and Technology last year established an institute dedicated to pure research in nanotechnology and studies there have produced internationally recognised results. The most high-profile result has been the discovery of the world's smallest nanotubes, which could be used to make inexpensive and bright computer displays. Other potentially useful research includes studies into materials that can deflect radiation or alter their physical qualities. ITF is a HK$5 billion initiative by the government to bridge the gap between Hong Kong's laboratory research and its industrial companies, which invest very little in studying new methods and materials. The nanotechnology proposal does not state any budgetary requirements but says projects are to start in the first quarter of next year and last no more than five years. Previous areas of focus featured in ITF proposal calls included finding methods to secure wireless transactions and modernise Hong Kong's transport logistics. Other projects funded by the ITF include the HK$3 billion Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (Astri), which last week unveiled its first project, a voice-recognition program it hopes to commercialise through partnerships with publishing houses and Internet portals. The first phase of Hong Kong's Science Park opened in June, after about 10 years of planning. The intention is to move Astri, the Hong Kong Institute of Biotechnology and other government-backed research programmes to the new facilities.