Asia Venturing VI: All eyes on Asia innovations

Annjil Chong, DIGITIMES, Taipei 0

In Asia, a few factors make the impact of innovation more pronounced than in other markets, including the "Big 4" semiconductor players – China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan – within the Asia Pacific region alone, consumers' openness to new technologies, competent tech talents, mobile internet. At the sixth round of Asia Venturing, hosted by Anchor Taiwan and DIGITIMES Asia, Tina Lin, GM in Google Taiwan, along with Sascha Pallenberg, chief awareness officer of Germany's first sustainability platform aware_ shared their insights about Asia innovations in the panel, moderated by Elisa Chiu, founder & CEO at Anchor Taiwan on December 14th. Below is a summary of the panel discussion:

The apple in the panels' eyes

Given the question of describing a groundbreaking innovation in Asia, Pallenberg replied, "I have to mention a company like TSMC because the semiconductor industry is somewhat the backbone of Taiwan's economy. It indeed changed the world as a whole."

"Flashback to over 20 years ago, approximately 300 million units of personal computer (PC) were sold in the market per year during the high times of the PC industry. The architecture that both Intel and AMD adopted back then was x86. While many people were still trapped in the sheer power stage, TSMC aimed for efficiency, performance per watt instead and had successfully disrupted the industry with its highly integrated chipsets. Fast forward to 2021, we, taking full advantage of the advancement of technology, sometimes forget about what led us to this mobile computing era. It is, by definition, an era in which devices allow people to access data and information from wherever they are," said Pallenberg.

"What is still puzzling me is I have a device in my pocket that is as powerful as a PC like 6 or 7 years ago, and it only uses one-twentieth of the power consumption."

Recalling that the first time he got to Taiwan, Pallenberg, at the Computex Conference 2002, was in discussion with several participants on "how they're going to enable the next billion people." He didn't expect that mobile computing would revolutionize the landscape even though HTC already built mobile devices and handsets for Compaq, Dell, and HP at that time. The whole world then changed abruptly when Steve Jobs announced the very first iPhone in 2007 and that's the underpinning of this smartphone industry.

"I believe at the end of the day; the world is running on silicon and most of the silicon is being produced over here [Taiwan]."

Lin, on the other hand, highlights the consumer trend and application. According to Lin, Asia accounts for 60% of the population all over the world, 98% of the population have mobile internet access, and 40% among the populations are under 25 years old. In other discourse, it's a very young population who are open-minded and willing to discover new technology. Taking the example of short videos, she said with a solid and robust infrastructure, consumers can either easily ride on 5G or mobile to consume the video. In other words, consumers can access and create video content swiftly by leveraging all these infrastructures. "I think Asia is leading the way on this and even changing the whole consumer behavior," she continued.

Credit: Anchor Taiwan

[From Left to Right] Sascha Pallenberg, Tina Lin, and Elisa Chiu, in "Asia Venturing VI, Is Asia Leading Innovation?" panel discussion; Photo credit: Anchor Taiwan

Hardware and software are meant to complement each other

When being asked the question of the proportionate distribution between hardware and software in terms of their future growth, Lin disagreed with the idea of separation between hardware and software. She stressed that although all the software applications heavily rely on hardware capability, and hardware-based innovation can also be the driving force for the software application. "I won't see that [the question] as what's the portion between these two [components]," she argued. In short, it is important to recognize that the two components need to co-exist or co-create together to steer innovation onto its best track.

Another example is Google had launched its Pixel 6 earlier this year. and gained good feedbacks typically for its tensor which helps to shore up the Pixel 6's security, camera too. Lin said, "Probably over 60% of all the product developments were developed by the Taiwan team. So, this is something that we [Taiwan team] are really proud of."

The suppliers' role in building a better tomorrow

Pallenberg believes that we are standing on the edge of an era of profound change. This change includes not only the green industrial revolution but also the green societal revolution. The automotive industry has a consensus account on E-mobility among all its members and is in the verse of transitioning into the EVs era. To achieve a circular economy, they felt the urge to offset carbon emissions. This will subsequently put pressure on the supply chain. More precisely, a total of approximately 2,000 suppliers across the globe will be the ultimate key success factor in transitioning into a clean energy economy.

Pallenberg explains, "In the sustainability industry, you [supplier] actually position yourself not only over a fancy little public relation promise claim underneath your brand name, but you have to proactively do it as the promise undoubtedly carriers a lasting impression. It is also a way for you to differentiate yourself from your competitors. The sooner you start with it, the bigger your competitive advantage will be."

Taiwan as a role model for other countries in the governance of urban mobility

The Taiwanese government had put together a successful urban mobility system. From Pallenberg's perspective, there are two main factors that contribute to the success: one, it is heavily driven by the payment system. Easycard integrates the buses of Greater Taipei, the MRT system, and extended its reach to island-wide public transit, such as Taiwan High-Speed Rail, Taiwan Railways, intercity coach services, YouBike, and Blue Ferry. The other one is Giant, the biggest bicycle manufacturer in the world with over 40% of global market share, created the YouBike system with the goal of promoting the bike as the last-mile public transit vehicle. Pallenberg is impressed by the convenience and opportunities that connectivity can bring and aspire to share it with his fellows in the European countries.

He said, "It's a very holistic approach that we have over here. The Taiwanese government looked at it [the urban mobility system] from the perspective of a user, not from the perspective of a singular company. And that makes a huge difference."

He added, "There are only 5 or 6 profitable subway systems in the world. You may guess where they all are? They are all in Asia. This fact tells you a lot about how advanced mobility in an urban environment is in Asia."

Besides the urban mobility system, Gogoro is one of the most inspiring brands coming out of Taiwan when it comes to E-mobility. In 2016, the company already made it over to Berlin, Germany. Collaborating with Bosch, Gogoro created a smart e-scooter sharing service called Coup.

Pallenberg claimed that he truly believes Gogoro's vision. What most people don't get about Taiwan were, firstly, Taiwan has a density of 389 motorcycles per square km, making it the world's highest. Secondly, Taiwan has 20 million scooters over 23 million citizens. Up to date, electric scooters have a market share of almost 20%. And by far, the market leader is Gogoro.

Future trends from Asia that will have global impacts

Responding to the question related to the future trend, Pallenberg's prediction includes that mobile computing will dim the spotlight of the ambient computing as devices-as-a-whole such demand is no longer important; there is not only the 'mobile-first' but the 'artificial intelligence' first too, and the value of 'efficiency' is duly exported from the semiconductor industry and 5G. Whereas, Lin foresees that companies will start to consider having their own manufacturing capability as well as how the younger generation define a brand will subsequently impact a brand.

(Editor's note: Asia Venturing is a series of monthly roundtables with roadmaps to the future focusing on the hype v.s. the reality of Asia's supply chain-boosted innovation ecosystem, jointly powered by Anchor Taiwan and DIGITIMES. We bring together leading industry luminaries, corporate strategists, experienced investors, and entrepreneurs to expand your network and redefine the possibilities of cross-border opportunities. The replay of the latest session can be seen on Anchor Taiwan or DIGITIMES)