National Applied Research Laboratories (NARLabs) is an institute under the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) established to cooperate with MOST to promote the development of science and technology nationwide. With the four missions of "establish R&D platforms, support academic research, promote frontier science and technology, and foster high-tech manpower", NARLabs aims to facilitate scientific innovation and technological breakthroughs. NARLabs' eight research centers are equipped with valuable hardware and software difficult for domestic universities to acquire on their own as well as a variety of professional R&D service platforms to actively assist academic and research communities in conducting cutting-edge science and technology R&D.
In recognition of the top scientific research achievements made by industry, government, academia, and research sectors using NARLabs' R&D service platforms, NARLabs held the inaugural "R&D Service Platform Achievement Award" contest this year. The High Distinction Award was presented to a team formed by Distinguished Professor Jer-Ren Yang of Department of Materials Science and Engineering, National Taiwan University (NTU) with researchers from NTU, Tsing Hua University, Yang Ming Chiao Tung University, Sun Yat-sen University, Chung Hsing University, Kyoto Institute of Technology in Japan, Integrated Service Technology Inc. (iST), and E.A. Fischione Instruments of the U.S., who earned $300,000 NTD in prize money for their use of the "Sub-Å Atomic Structure Research and Applications" R&D service platform from NARLabs' Taiwan Instrument Research Institute (TIRI).
The winning team, which integrates industry and academia, has collaborated extensively using TIRI's "Sub-Å Atomic Structure Research and Applications" R&D service platform, and have had excellent results in innovative R&D in areas such as phase transformation of materials, advanced semiconductor devices, 2D materials, and atomic 3D electron tomography techniques.
The "Sub-Å Atomic Structure Research and Applications" R&D service platform is equipped with the "Atomic Resolution Aberration-Corrected Scanning Transmission Electron Microscope" with a resolution of 0.78 Å, the highest in Taiwan. Using this unique R&D platform, the team has established the world's most complete atomic microstructure evolution mechanism of the precipitation phase transformation in aerospace-grade aluminum alloys, completed the analysis of the atomic structure and composition of next-generation 2D materials and quantum-dot semiconductor devices, and pioneered Taiwan's "atomic-resolution 3D electron tomography" analysis technology, which has opened new horizons in international academia and industry for investigating the connections between the structure, properties and performance of advanced materials.
In addition, Distinction Awards were presented to two teams, led by Yu-Ju Chen, Distinguished Research Fellow in the Institute of Chemistry at Academia Sinica, and Chia-Hsiang Yang, Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at National Taiwan University, respectively. Dr. Chen formed a cross-disciplinary Cancer Moonshot team from Academia Sinica and NTU and, using the "LIONS Biomedical Platform" from the National Center for High‑performance Computing (NCHC), analyzed the causes and progression of non-smoking lung cancer in Taiwan with deep proteogenomic technology, which will be extremely beneficial for lung cancer prevention, screening, and the development of treatment guided in-vitro diagnostic reagents. The next phase of clinical trial validation is being planned, with hopes that this research can help reduce the incidence of lung cancer and improve the survival rate of lung cancer patients.
The team led by Professor Chia-Hsiang Yang from NTU and Associate Professor Jui-Hung Hung from Yang Ming Chiao Tung University developed a Variant Discovery SoC for Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) using the AI SoC Design Platform built by the Taiwan Semiconductor Research Institute (TSRI). The SoC is the world's first dedicated chip that supports NGS sequencing data analysis for the whole human genome. It achieves a 60 times higher computing speed with less than 0.5% of the energy when compared with a high-end CPU. In the future, the SoC is expected to be integrated into a portable genome sequencing and genotyping device to meet the demands for real-time genetic disease detection, genetic engineering, plant & animal breeding, and cancer & pathogen detection.
Three teams received Honorable Mention Awards: a team led by Chair Professor Youn-Long Lin of the Department of Computer Science at Tsing Hua University, for use of the NCHC's "Taiwan Computing Cloud" platform to conduct "R&D, Application, and Startup Industrialization of Novel Neural Network Architectures"; a team led by Associate Professor Kuo-Hsing Kao of the Department of Electrical Engineering at National Cheng Kung University, for use of the NCHC's "simPlatform" to study "Sub-Threshold Swing Saturation of Ultra-Low Temperature Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor Field-Effect Transistors from Direct Tunneling Current"; and a team led by Professor Jau-Song Yu, Director of the Molecular Medicine Research Center at Chang Gung University, for use of TIRI's "Value-Added Service Platform for Industry-Academia Technology Linkage" to develop "Oral and Pancreatic Cancer Detection Methods and Immunoassay Reagents".
NARLabs President Kuang-Chong Wu stated that the vision of NARLabs is "Global Excellence, Local Impact", and with the support and guidance of MOST, it has established many kinds of R&D service platforms to assist academic and research communities in performing top-notch scientific research which can help foster emerging industries and contribute to people's well-being. Nowadays, much of the most future-oriented technological research relies on teamwork as well as advanced software and hardware, which are the key strengths of the various R&D service platforms set up by NARLabs. NARLabs hopes that the establishment of the "R&D Service Platform Achievement Award" will encourage Taiwan's academic and research communities to further collaborate with NARLabs and use the R&D service platforms developed through national strength to make globally competitive R&D achievements.