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* Industry-academia links for innovation-driven economic niches

In years past Taiwan’s economy was primarily efficiency-oriented, using improvements in production efficiency and reductions in cost to capture a foothold in the international market. The tide of globalization, however, has confronted the island with the rapid rise of competition from mainland China, Southeast Asia, and places with even lower costs. Hence, the main issues that Taiwan now needs to address are how to strengthen innovation orientation and build consensus on development.

In an exclusive interview, National Science Council (NSC) Minister Cyrus C.Y. Chu pointed out that innovation may be the best way for Taiwan to reinforce its competitiveness. Universities have always been the engines of innovation, he explained, and so the key to boosting innovation is to transfer the fruits of academic research to society and industry.

If Taiwan is to turn toward innovation, he said, it must first resolve the disconnection between academic research and industry. Over the next six months, the NSC and the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) will work to solve this problem by bringing government agencies, academe, and industry together to set up a linking mechanism that will facilitate the direct transfer of the results of academic research to industry and this will lengthen the international lead enjoyed by industries that possess competitive advantage, and by organizing an academic team that will maintain close communication with industry and help overcome the technological obstacles that industry faces.

Taiwan’s innovative prowess has been recognized by the world in recent years, and the island is also in the top ranks worldwide in number of patent applications, but still the island is unable to make the fullest use of its technological and industrial advantages. The NSC is mapping out plans for a seed fund that will help transform Taiwan’s intellectual property (IP) into industry by investing in IP development projects with good potential.

Because the three science parks in northern, central, and southern Taiwan were established at different times and are now at different stages of maturity, Mr Chu wants to use different strategies and methods for their development.

Industrial services in the Hsinchu Science Park, for example, are fitted to develop in the direction of innovation, and the NSC is thinking of using Silicon Valley’s experience in innovation to break away from the past emphasis on the efficiency-orientation model and formulate plans for the strengthening of industrial services.

Central Taiwan is a base for the precision machinery industry, and the NSC will organize a team of professors from mechanical engineering departments to go to the Central Taiwan Science Park and exchange ideas with manufacturers there about boosting the development of that industry. In response to the precision industry’s need for a venue to display its products, and of other manufacturers for the exchange of know-how, the NSC will consider setting up a large exhibition hall in central Taiwan and working with the convention and exhibitions industry to attract foreign buyers to come to Taiwan for exhibitions or interchange. The Southern Taiwan Science Park intends to develop in the direction of medical equipment, and the NSC will work with the National Cheng Kung University Medical College and Kaohsiung Medical University to form a team that will help develop medical apparatus in the park.

But Chu believes that Taiwan’s most advantageous industry of the future will be the cloud. The island has an outstanding advantage in the medical cloud, he said, because it is one of the few countries in the world to have national health insurance and has accumulated more than 10 years of related electronic records. This databank offers the finest possible background for the medical cloud, without which it would not be possible to provide long-distance care and carry out drug-response evaluation.

If Taiwan can work out a good medical cloud business model, it will be able to sell the model to Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, and other areas. This is because Taiwan has a powerful advantage in information and communications technology (ICT), which combined with medical care constitutes the medical cloud and combined with agricultural product traceability makes up the product traceability cloud. This is wherein Taiwan’s superiority lies, and it is a potential niche for future industrial development.

Chu said that ever since taking office he has worked hard at promoting innovation and transformation in science parks, and at the building of a mechanism for linking academe and industry. At a time when competition from Korea and mainland China is growing stronger by the day, he noted, the development of technology industries in Taiwan has arrived at a crossroads of transition that demands greater encouragement of innovation and stronger promotion of the industry-academic linkage by the government.

 
 The issue date:2012-08-17  
     
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