Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company won headlines and subsidies. But Shima's technological capabilities extend far beyond his one company.
Only Taiwan's TSMC is an economic powerhouse. Cutting-edge small semiconductors are irreplaceable. The United States and Germany are subsidizing the company's new foundries to ensure security of supply.
However, Taiwan's technology is wide and deep. Policymakers need to be mindful and careful about funneling all of the public's support into a single measure. Taiwan's large and thriving technology ecosystem holds significant opportunities.
Modeled after Silicon Valley, Hsinchu Science Park was built in 1980. A one-hour train ride southwest of Taipei city, Hsinchu offers easy access for business travelers and an affordable commute for mostly male engineering workers. Many electronic and semiconductor companies are located here. Although Mediatek is just a 25-year-old startup, it has overtaken former smartphone chip industry powerhouses like Texas Instruments and Philips Semiconductor. It ranks second in smartphone system-on-chips behind powerhouse Qualcomm, and has made smart acquisitions such as the wireless assets of Britain's Analog Devices.
Hsinchu is also home to lesser-known but prestigious chip companies, including display chip company Novatek and connectivity and multimedia leader Realtek, both of which are widely prevalent in today's electronics industry. I could have been in California when I walked into their office.
Other large, small, and medium-sized companies such as Wistron, BenQ, Asus, and MSI are based in and around Taipei. These are incorporated into his chain of global electronics supplies such as PCs, peripherals, and displays.
Unlike TSMC, Western governments have not shown any favors to these Taiwanese giants. Am I missing something? Could small incentives, such as tax breaks, encourage these companies to engage in more friend-shoring to avoid risks from China? Or could some EU or US technology startup support programs be directed to Taiwan to share innovation and foster business collaboration?
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Taiwan's thriving tech startup scene has benefited from cleverly targeted domestic government support. The Garage+ program supports altruistic startups to make the world a better place, including those outside of Taiwan. As the COO of Spectral Edge, I joined StartUP@Taipei to look for local partnerships and investments. This program provides funding for overseas startups to come to Taipei and exhibit their products. This allowed us to build relationships and cooperation with Taiwanese companies and also meet potential Taiwanese investors.
This kind of innovative environment that is open to the outside world and contributes to global supply chains creates an open environment where entrepreneurs are an asset to governments, rather than being perceived as a threat as in authoritarian regimes. You can only thrive in society.
We can learn from Taiwan and benefit from its success. Taiwanese companies should receive targeted incentives, such as tax breaks and subsidies, to invest in Europe and the United States. TSMC doesn't need the large sums of money that a large foundry requires. UK-owned technology centers such as the Wales Compound Semiconductor Cluster could be encouraged to collaborate with Taiwanese industry that has signed and respected agreements drafted under California, Delaware or UK law. be. This legal adaptation allows Western partners to be confident that their intellectual property is safe and will not be stolen at the whims of the Chinese Communist Party.
Western governments should ignore concerns about upsetting China. The UK's Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult signed a memorandum of understanding with the Taiwan Institute of Industrial Technology in 2020. The EU has expressed its intention to deepen cooperation with Taiwan through the TIP Act. The Chinese government has not responded.
The United States may not go so far as to add Taiwan to its list of 20 countries with which it has free trade agreements, but it will do the same with Taiwan's electronics as it did with Japan with respect to its vital mineral trade. A customs and trade agreement may be formalized and announced. The EU could do the same, focusing on mutually beneficial technology trade with Taiwan.
Western countries want to maintain an advantage in the innovation race. Taiwan is an indispensable ally.
Christopher Cytera CEng MIET is a Non-Resident Senior Fellow in the Digital Innovation Initiative at the Center for European Policy Analysis and a technology business executive with over 30 years of experience in semiconductors, electronics, communications, video and imaging.
Bandwidth is CEPA's online journal dedicated to promoting transatlantic cooperation on technology policy. All opinions are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the positions or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.
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