Taiwan is one of the great technological success stories of our modern age. It is an economy built on translating ideas and research into the products the world wants to buy. That’s why Stephen Ezell, VP of global innovation policy at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation calls Taiwan “the most important 14,000-square-mile island in the world”.
With a population of under 24 million people, Taiwan ranked still 7th out of 63 economies in 2022 in technology and communications. It had 27% of the market for IC design in 2021 and is home to the world’s largest supplier of outsourced semiconductor assembly and test (OSAT) services. This success is not restricted to local technology companies either – foreign semiconductor-related companies are also building capacity in Taiwan.
But for Taiwan to continue to succeed, it needs to remain connected to the ideas and potential of a new generation of scientific and technological innovation. Taiwan Science and Technology Council acknowledges that, as Taiwan’s interconnected economy evolves, “global cooperation becomes crucially important for maximising the impact of research and innovation, and for effectively addressing challenges derived from global, regional, and societal circumstances.”
This interconnection and cooperation though relies not only on technology but on people. That’s why one of the key priorities of the Taiwan government is to “cultivate scientific research talents and increase international influence”. This includes joint research projects, joint conferences, sharing of major research facilities, reciprocal visits of researchers and scientists, and the exchange of information.
But real understanding between the next generation of Taiwanese science and technology leaders and the rest of the world will begin even earlier. It will start with young people meeting and talking as they study together in one another’s great universities. It will result from their diverse perspectives mixing as they get to grips not only with the latest developments in quantum computing and AI, but as they challenge one another about how to think about the great challenges of the world – how we can live together peacefully as fellow citizens of a sustainable planet, managing resources and developing new ways to feed, power, educate and care for a population of 8 billion and rising.
As I visit Taiwan, these are the connections I hope to build. Each year 7,000 to 8,000 Taiwanese students travel to the UK to study, and this number is growing rapidly. Taiwanese families know that supporting their children’s opportunity to live, study and work for a period overseas will give them but only a great education, but invaluable connections for their future lives and careers.
Taiwan also has in Taipei a world class institution in the National Taiwan University, and with other institutions following my hope is that as the 21st Century unfolds we will see more international students taking an interest in Taiwan as a place of study. This can only serve to create closer ties and global co-operation.
The extraordinary success story of the Taiwanese economy cannot be ignored. It is home to 92% of the world’s leading-edge chip manufacturing operations and a vital centre for producing other tech components. And it is at the heart of the world’s great trade routes – 80% of container ships go through the Taiwan Straits.
But the true super-conductor of ideas is education. The most important connections in our global Information are not between machines but between people. And it is nurturing and enabling a new generation of ideas and a globally connected society which will really secure Taiwan’s future.
Ian Crichton is the CEO of global education provider Study Group which operates international colleges with leading universities around the world.