Singapore's Institute of Microelectronics (IME) launched a research foundry this week to promote research and development (R&D) in the semiconductor industry, according to Xinhau Online. S. Iswaran , China's minister of state for trade and industry, said the foundry is "poised to ride on the re-emerging waves of silicon photonics and microelectromechanical systems," the newspaper reported. "In particular, the R&D foundry plays an important role to provide a seamless conduit for technology jointly developed by IME and its partners to be transferred to industry for manufacturing," Iswaran said, adding that such a business model will contribute to the growth of the country's semiconductor industry. The semiconductor industry is both the biggest contributor to Singapore's electronic output and a major job creator, according to Iswaran, who noted that the production of semiconductors rose by 33.7 percent year-to-year in the first half of 2006. At present, there are some 20 chip assembly and test plants and 14 wafer fabrication facilities operating in Singapore; they include "the world's top three wafer foundry companies, the top three assembly and test subcontract companies, as well as four of the world's top ten integrated circuit (IC) design companies," he said.