THE STATE AT THE CENTRE
T he first of Taiwan's three government-owned and -managed tech parks opened three decades ago and it has added one every ten years since then, “every time we ran out of space,” as Andrea Hsu, Director of Investment Services Division at the Southern Taiwan Science Parks Bureau, puts it. The Northern, Central and Southern Taiwan Science Parks Bureaus all function under the auspices of the Ministry of Science and Technology and, unique among the STPs we have spoken to, involve the highest levels of government involvement. “All of us who work for the bureau are government officers,” says Chun-Wei Chen, the Director- General of the STSPB, who also believes that they won't have the free rein on resources that they currently do otherwise. Also interesting is that these STPs are not financed by tax payer's money but rather by private borrowing through government credit. “Taiwan is not a big country; it's the size of Switzerland. So the government's role in allocating resources fairly and efficiently to all companies is key for the success of our STPs,” Hsu says. Chen also says he has heard a lot of talk at the conference in Doha about combining manufacturing and R&D in STPs. “We did it 30 years ago!” he says, talking about their operation mod-
el which has earned Taiwan its place among the top five machinery exporting countries in the world. “When manufacturers earn money, it is invested back into R&D and thus sustains itself without just depending on government funds.” It all began back in the day with the ubiquitous semiconductor. “The first STP wanted to recreate the Silicon Valley experience in Taiwan and hence was established near two of the biggest universities in the country. It was also in close proximity to ITRI, the Industrial Technology Research Institute. The primary sectors when we started off were semiconductors and electronic components and they still make up 90% of our annual sales,” says Hsu. In southern Taiwan, with two large industry clusters around integrated circuits and opto-electronics, the annual revenue is in the league of $20 billion (QR73 billion) and involve the combined efforts of more than 80,000 people who work with the 360 companies there.
Such is their two-fold strategy, according to Hsu. “In the past the accent was on attracting foreign companies to build manufacturing capability and boost development. But now we are also sponsoring companies to create enterprises in the STP through our incubation and innovation centres.” This is evident from the fact that less than 15% of the companies based out of the southern STP are foreign-based.
Director- General of the Central Taiwan Science Park Wayne Wang, who heads the STP that houses several high-tech industries like ICT, machinery and biotech, says that Taiwan's big plus points are its strong regulation and legal environment and large human resource pool, most of whom are university-educated, and the national focus on R&D. Three percent of the country's GDP is invested into R&D and the importance of getting returns is highlighted at every stage, right from the university level where professors ask their charges to think long and hard about how their research can contribute to the larger picture. In this tech park, more than 30% of the 120 companies are MNCs, mostly from Japan, Hong Kong, US and Germany. “We are constantly learning from their experience and innovation and this has resulted in a local supply chain giving plenty of local companies an opportunity to improve their capability,” he says. While the STPs keep a close eye on several KPIs like annual revenue, number of personnel, talent cultivation, number of new companies and their investment in R&D, they also know they have a big role to play outside in advising other sectors of government that can affect some of the external factors that influence their functioning. “For example, early-stage tech research is very important. Universities here do a lot of research but they need to think about how to transform it into a technology and then a new industry,” says Wang. The government encourages this by generously financing university research grants and allowing them to own their work
“THE MINISTRY OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY HERE HAS A THREE-PRONGED STRATEGY THAT PROMOTES SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY INNOVATION, ACADEMIC RESEARCH AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF STPS.”
CHUN-WEI CHEN (Centre) Director-General Southern Taiwan Science Park bureau with
WAYNE WANG Director-General Central Taiwan Science Park, and
ANDREA HSU Director of Investment Services Division Southern Taiwan Science Parks Bureau