ROC Yearbook

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Taiwan’s first two-armed industrial robot, designed by the Precision Machinery Research Development Center, boasts flexible seven-axis joints and can move in nimble and more human-like ways. (Courtesy of Taiwan Review)

 

Rise of a High-tech Powerhouse

Much of Taiwan’s achievement in science and technology (S&T) is attributable to the public sector’s support for applied scientific development. The Republic of China’s (ROC) first comprehensive set of S&T policies, the Guidelines for the Long-range Development of Science 國家長期發展科學計畫綱領, were formulated in 1959. Over the following half-century, a raft of S&T policies and programs were implemented.

 

The 1990s saw the launch of a series of national science and technology programs 國家型科技計畫 to address needs ranging from telecommunications to disaster prevention. Meanwhile, the Fundamental Science and Technology Act 科學技術基本法 of 1999 provided a sound legal framework for government promotion of S&T progress. As stipulated in the act, the government drafts national S&T development plans every four years.

 

The private sector has also played a major role in fostering Taiwan’s S&T development. Firms such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Ltd. 台灣積體電路製造股份有限公司 and United Microelectronics Corp. 聯華電子股份有限公司 have dominated the global market for custom-designed integrated circuit (IC) chips and a vast variety of other products. Taiwan is a major supplier of high-end components used in the manufacture of the products of internationally famous companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Intel and Sony. It also boasts world-renowned electronics brands of its own such as Acer, ASUS and HTC.

 

The public and private sectors continue to promote S&T advancement today. In 2014, Taiwan’s research and development (R&D) expenditure totaled NT$483.49 billion (US$14.50 billion), of which 21.7 percent came from government funding and 78.3 percent from private investment.

 

In the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017, Taiwan is ranked No. 12 in company spending on R&D, No. 17 in university-industry collaboration in R&D, and No. 24 in capacity for innovation among the 138 economies surveyed.

 

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S&T-related Government Agencies

Ministry of Science and Technology

In 2014, the former National Science Council 國家科學委員會 was upgraded to a ministry named the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). The MOST is responsible for drawing up long-range national S&T development policies, reviewing S&T budgets and supervising the operations of science parks. It also oversees the National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction 國家災害防救科技中心 and R&D activities of the National Applied Research Laboratories (NARLabs) 國家實驗研究院.

 

MOEA Department of Industrial Technology

The Department of Industrial Technology (DoIT) 技術處 of the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) is mandated to boost the private sector’s technological sophistication and help create vibrant new enterprises. Both goals are powerfully advanced through R&D and startup incubation services performed by researchers and other specialists at the DoIT-administered Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) 工業技術研究院 and Institute for Information Industry (III) 資訊工業策進會, as well as at university laboratories and NARLabs facilities.

 

Technology Development Program (TDP) 科技研究發展專案計畫 grants provided by the DoIT have helped integrate the R&D and innovation efforts of research institutes, industries and academia. In 2016, the budget for TDP projects totaled over NT$18.26 billion (US$547.53 million), of which institutional, industrial and academic projects accounted for 86, 12 and 2 percent, respectively.

 

Atomic Energy Council

The Cabinet-level Atomic Energy Council 原子能委員會 is the country’s  nuclear safety regulator. Its major tasks include the following:

  • Oversight of nuclear power plants.
  • Control of ionizing radiation in medical, agricultural, academic and industrial applications.
  • Formulation and enforcement of regulations concerning handling, treatment, storage and disposal of radioactive waste and nuclear materials.
  • Planning of and preparation for nuclear emergency response.
  • Monitoring of environmental radiation in air, water and foodstuffs, including operation of a real-time gamma radiation monitoring system.

     

Under government reorganization, the agency will become the Nuclear Safety Commission 核能安全委員會 and maintain its independent authority to oversee nuclear safety issues.

 

Publicly Supported R&D Institutions

Institute for Information Industry

Since 1979, the III has been a key contributor of technology to Taiwan’s information and communications technology (ICT) industry while performing a number of important roles, including serving as a think tank on ICT policy, providing innovative R&D and interoperability standards for the industry, promoting ICT applications and bridging the digital divide. The III fosters cooperation across disciplines, between academia and industry, and with other countries, while striving for balanced development of culture and technology. The institute has provided a variety of training courses for over 450,000 information technology (IT) professionals in the past 30 years. It has also endeavored to incubate enterprises, helping over 230 startups in the past five years to become more competitive and commercially appealing to global tech companies.

 

With around 1,700 employees (76 percent of whom have a master’s degree or higher), the III also serves as Taiwan’s national software R&D center, focusing on bolstering the infrastructure, applications, services and technologies for smart living. It supplies techniques through technology transfer and supports the development of novel software applications to help domestic manufacturers cut the cost and time of developing new products.

 

Industrial Technology Research Institute

Established in 1973, the ITRI is internationally renowned for its diverse R&D capabilities, its voluminous output of innovative technologies and its success in incubating vibrant new enterprises. It played a vital role in transforming Taiwan from a labor-intensive economy to a high-tech island. With around 6,000 employees, the ITRI focuses on three application domains—sustainable environment, quality health, and smart living—and had fostered more than 240 startups as of early 2016. In 2015, the ITRI collected four of R&D Magazine’s R&D 100 Awards, being named a winner for the eighth successive year. It also received the Frost & Sullivan 2015 Best Practices New Product Innovation Award.

 

The ITRI has partnered with numerous overseas research institutes and also offers the international community a wide spectrum of services such as contract research, product and process development, pilot runs for technological upgrades, industrial analysis, and talent training. To enhance international collaboration, it now operates branch offices in the United States, Japan, Germany, Russia and the Netherlands.

 

National Applied Research Laboratories

NARLabs, a nonprofit organization established in 2003, focuses primarily on cutting-edge research in applied sciences to meet the nation’s long-term S&T development needs. It also establishes R&D platforms to serve academia and industries as it strives to keep pace with technological trends via exchanges and cooperative efforts with renowned research institutes around the world. NARLabs was a winner of R&D Magazine’s R&D 100 Awards in 2015.

 

NARLabs’ 10 research laboratories focus respectively on chip implementation; instrument technology; high-performance computing; earthquake engineering; nanotechnology; laboratory animals; space technology; S&T policy research and information; ocean research; and typhoon and flood research.

 

Latest Endeavors

With forward-looking policies and a dynamic and enterprising private sector, Taiwan has become one of the world’s leading manufacturers of a wide range of IT products. It has also been bolstering development in a few specific fields, as described below.

 

Information & Communications Technology

Cloud Computing

Launched in 2010 under public- and private-sector efforts, the Cloud Computing Association in Taiwan (CCAT) 台灣雲端運算產業協會 aims to make Taiwan a major exporter of cloud computing services by consolidating the resources of hardware and software producers. The CCAT in 2013 created an incubation center to cultivate enterprises pioneering innovative applications of cloud computing as well as the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, and Industry 4.0. Through the incubation platform, startups have formed strategic partnerships with established corporations in expanding markets. A Gold Member of the OpenStack Foundation, the CCAT supports the OpenStack cloud operating system extensively used globally and in 2013 founded the Taiwan OpenStack User Group to help domestic industries explore more business opportunities.

 

Since 2012, the ROC government has systematically created clouds in agriculture, environment, transportation, police administration, food, health, culture, education, and disaster prevention and relief in order to bring convenient government services to the public and spur the nation’s cloud computing industry. This goal has been greatly advanced by the MOEA’s Cloud Open Lab 雲端開發測試平台 established in the same year. From 2016 to 2021, the government clouds are set to become even smarter with the integration of big data and IoT technologies. The MOEA estimates that government clouds will help generate up to NT$450 billion (US$13.50 billion) in value for the domestic industry.

 

The MOEA in 2014 launched the Cloud IDC Solution 國產雲端資料中心解決方案, a project to comprehensively integrate domestic hardware and software products and services as well as facilitate exports to target markets. The project is expected to help generate NT$3 billion (US$89.96 million) in exports of cloud applications and services by 2017. In January 2015, the MOEA also inaugurated a cloud industry service team operated by the III to assist domestic businesses with cloud upgrades, and its target is to set up 100 successful models to attract over 5,000 enterprises to take part. According to the III, Taiwan’s mobile cloud applications and services are expected to reach NT$688.5 billion (about US$21 billion) in 2016.

 

With the MOEA’s support, the III has developed and advanced a cloud system software technology named CAFÉ (Cloud Appliance for Enterprise), which had facilitated 124 patent applications and 14 cases of technology transfer to the IT industry as of February 2016.

 

Public- and private-sector efforts to develop the industry attracted the world’s biggest cloud computing service provider, Google, to establish Asia’s largest and most energy-efficient data center in Taiwan, which commenced operations in 2013. Taiwan was also where the IT powerhouse launched its cloud platform for Asia in 2014.

 

Internet of Things

 

Networked Communications

Taiwan is ranked 19th among the 139 economies assessed on the Networked Readiness Index of the Global Information Technology Report 2016 released by the World Economic Forum. Taiwan was peerless in mobile network coverage as well as Internet and telephony competition.

 

By the end of 2015, Taiwan had 7.62 million wired broadband subscriptions. The country has one of the world’s highest optical fiber penetration rates. Since it launched fourth-generation mobile Internet services in 2014, the number of subscriptions has soared, nearly reaching 11.57 million as of the end of 2015. Meanwhile, plans are afoot to gain a head start in fifth-generation mobile Internet technology.

 

In 2014, the Ministry of Education began to team up with the Academia Sinica 中央研究院 and NARLabs’ National Center for High-performance Computing 國家高速網路與計算中心 to upgrade Taiwan’s academic Internet infrastructure. The initiative has introduced next-generation optical network technologies to bolster data transmission capabilities, facilitating research and testing. In July 2016, Taiwan finished upgrading the Internet infrastructure for education and research to 100 gigabits per second in network bandwidth.

 

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Biotechnology

To encourage companies to develop new biotechnologies and drugs, the Act for the Development of Biotech and New Pharmaceuticals Industry 生技新藥產業發展條例, promulgated and enforced in 2007, has provided incentives for investing in relevant technology, talent and capital.

 

Under an action plan initiated in 2009 to strengthen Taiwan’s biotechnology, the Supra Integration and Incubation Center 台灣生技整合育成中心 was launched in 2011 to provide pharmaceutical firms and inventors with comprehensive consultative services, including technical and management support, fundraising and legal advice. Further, the Food and Drug Administration 食品藥物管理署 under the Ministry of Health and Welfare has helped establish an integrated regulatory system for pharmaceutical products and spurred the industry’s development. A revised version of the program kicked off in 2013, focusing on turning academia R&D successes into commercially viable products and promoting the export of health care management services.

 

By mid-2015, the biotech program had helped double the production value of domestic pharmaceuticals to over NT$280 billion (US$8.78 billion). Going forward, the government is slated to map out a bioeconomy development plan encompassing not only biotech but also the agricultural, industrial and health sectors.

 

The National Research Program for Biopharmaceuticals 生技醫藥國家型科技計畫 being implemented from 2011 to 2017 is mandated to advance the following goals: discover and develop new medicines, biomedical devices and therapies and strengthen R&D processes; concentrate and deepen the knowledge and skills of domestic researchers in related fields; and enhance academic and public research institutions’ collaboration.

 

Since 2009, the government has promoted a medical device industry cluster at the Southern Taiwan Science Park 南部科學工業園區. Ongoing efforts are focused on building a one-stop service platform for the cluster; enhancing close collaboration among industry, academia and research institutes; strengthening international marketing; and creating an innovation environment. The Hsinchu Biomedical Science Park 新竹生物醫學園區, scheduled for completion in 2018, will facilitate research and clinical trials and also serve as an industry incubation center. The establishment is expected to help Taiwan’s biotech companies lower R&D costs, ensuring a firm footing for the domestic industry.

 

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Nanotechnology

Established in 1988 and now a member of NARLabs, the National Nano Device Laboratories (NDL) 國家奈米元件實驗室 explores nanotechnology applications in nano-CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor) devices, optoelectronics, energy and microelectromechanical systems. It also cultivates talent in semiconductor technology and nanotechnology, offering training courses to over 5,500 people each year and providing assistance for over 300 postgraduate theses and dissertations. The NDL has recently unveiled technology that can harvest light energy and extend the battery lifespan of IoT chips.

 

Instituted by the MOEA’s Industrial Development Bureau 經濟部工業局 in 2005, the nanoMark 奈米標章 logo is the world’s first system for certifying genuine nanoproducts sold on the market, such as anti-bacterial tiles and textiles.

 

Space Technology     

Established in 1991 and currently a member of NARLabs, the National Space Organization (NSPO) 國家太空中心 is in charge of national space programs and space technology development in Taiwan. It implements the nation’s space policies and is itself a space technology research institute.

 

The NSPO currently operates FORMOSAT-2 and FORMOSAT-3/COSMIC (Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate) satellites. The NSPO’s first high-resolution remote-sensing satellite, FORMOSAT-2, provides daily images of the earth’s surface for environmental monitoring and land survey, disaster rescue and academic research. FORMOSAT-3/COSMIC, a constellation system consisting of six satellites, offers accurate data for weather forecasts, space meteorology monitoring and climate change observations.

 

Ongoing Satellite Projects

Technologies and experience acquired from previous satellite programs are contributing to the first domestically developed satellite, FORMOSAT-5, a continuation of the FORMOSAT-2 program scheduled for launch by early 2017. Meanwhile, to follow up on the universally acclaimed FORMOSAT-3/COSMIC mission, Taiwan is collaborating with the U.S. to develop the FORMOSAT-7/COSMIC-2, which is to be launched in two rounds respectively in 2017 and 2019.

 

Disaster Prevention Technology

As it is located in the subtropics on the borders of the Eurasian and Philippine Sea plates, Taiwan is frequently visited by typhoons, floods and earthquakes. To mitigate damage from natural disasters, the government has implemented a number of large-scale disaster prevention programs since 1982. The MOST’s National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction is tasked with supporting disaster reduction and relief efforts with its technological research. The National Center for Research on Earthquake Engineering (NCREE) 國家地震工程研究中心 and the Taiwan Typhoon and Flood Research Institute 台灣颱風洪水研究中心, founded respectively in 1990 and 2011 as part of NARLabs, have also greatly enhanced Taiwan’s ability to respond to natural disasters.

 

The NCREE has developed a service platform to support the R&D, inspection and certification of dampers used in buildings and bridges to increase earthquake resistance. The service will lower testing costs and help improve structural safety. The NCREE is also building a new laboratory in Tainan City 臺南市 for simulating near-fault motions and advanced seismic research.

 

In October 2015, NARLabs unveiled the world’s first cloud-based early warning system for flooding and bridge collapses. The mechanism, which uses underwater sensors to collect precipitation forecasts and real-time data, can issue alerts as early as six hours ahead of potential disasters. It is expected to safeguard the nation’s bridges during periods of torrential rain.

 

Science Parks

 

Science Parks

Taiwan’s science parks are designed and administered to provide ideal conditions for high-tech business operations. The parks also provide excellent environments for developing powerful synergy among clusters of related enterprises and public R&D institutions. Taiwan is ranked No. 3 in the “state of cluster development” index of the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017.

 

As of the end of 2015, a total of 905 companies had taken up residence in the parks. Their combined revenue of about NT$2.31 trillion (US$72.41 billion) amounted to around 13.8 percent of Taiwan’s GDP in 2015.

 

Taiwan has 13 science parks, organized into three core park groups: the Hsinchu Science Park 新竹科學工業園區, Central Taiwan Science Park 中部科學工業園區 and Southern Taiwan Science Park.

 

Related Websites

Ministry of Science and Technology: http://www.most.gov.tw

Department of Industrial Technology, Ministry of Economic Affairs: http://www.moea.gov.tw/Mns/doit

Atomic Energy Council: http://www.aec.gov.tw

National Applied Research Laboratories: http://www.narlabs.org.tw

Industrial Technology Research Institute: http://www.itri.org.tw

Institute for Information Industry: http://www.iii.org.tw

Hsinchu Science Park: http://www.sipa.gov.tw

Central Taiwan Science Park: http://www.ctsp.gov.tw

Southern Taiwan Science Park: http://www.stsp.gov.tw