Taiwan Ministry of Economic Affairs spearheads tech matchmaking to empower SMEs

Chloe Liao, Taipei; Jerry Chen, DIGITIMES Asia 0

Credit: ITRI

After a successful technological collaboration with Foxconn in 2022, the Taiwan Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) has decided to further extend its outreach to other industries in 2023. This time, the MOEA joins forces with the Taiwan Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers' Association (TEEMA) with over 3,000 corporate members. Together, they have initiated a call for 40 innovative technologies from corporations and their affiliated startups to address the association's diverse needs.

The focus areas include AIoT and chip applications, advanced manufacturing and display technologies, intelligent vehicle electronics, and green energy. TEEMA Chairman Richard Lee emphasizes the importance of adapting to the growing significance of Southern Taiwan as an emerging innovation hub. He envisions expansions into Southern and Eastern Taiwan to accommodate further technological needs.

Technological matchmaking gains momentum

According to the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), the supply side of this technological matchmaking initiative involves various corporate entities such as the ITRI, Vehicle Center, Metal Industries Research & Development Centre, and Precision Machinery Research & Development Center. The proposal also includes innovations from corporate-affiliated startups like UniXecure, Blade Hydrogen Green Technology, and eTreego, totaling 40 innovative technologies. Notably, this matchmaking attracted participation from 70 companies, including major players like Foxconn, AcBel Polytech, Kenmec, and Teco, with nearly 70% being small and medium-sized enterprises(SMEs).

The MOEA has previously collaborated with BenQ Group and Foxconn to organize similar technological matchmaking events in the last two years. Following the success of the collaboration with Foxconn in 2022, this expansion reflects the industry's substantial interest in technology matchmaking. In 2023, with the extensive membership of TEEMA, the Ministry aims to connect with a more extensive pool of businesses requiring research and development resources, effectively bridging the industry's demand and the supply of innovative solutions.

Empowering SMEs with technological support

Lee notes that 90% of TEEMA's member companies are SMEs with limited research and development resources. The selected 40 technologies are crucial for these enterprises, aligning with TEEMA's focused themes of the last three years. The goal is to provide a platform for these SMEs to access technology swiftly, incorporating it into innovative business operations and product manufacturing.

Government officials also echo Lee's perspective, acknowledging the plethora of SMEs in Taiwan with limited research resources. Corporate entities collectively possess over 7,000 research and development personnel, acting as Taiwan's "Research and Development Central Kitchen" to support businesses in their innovation endeavors.

For two consecutive years, Foxconn has actively participated in this initiative, and the CEO of Foxconn Research Institute Wei-Bin Lee acknowledges that it is challenging to handle all research and development tasks independently. Foxconn, being no exception, views platforms like these as bridges to facilitate further communication and explore potential collaboration opportunities. As an illustration, past collaborations between the MOEA, Foxconn, and the BenQ Group have successfully facilitated negotiations for implementing 5G SA smart mobile edge computing systems in smart factories and applying packaging technology for process improvement.

Future expansion and industry inclusion

Looking to the future, Richard Lee suggests expanding matchmaking into more industries, especially in central and southern Taiwan, such as metal products, textiles, rubber, and plastics. This broader approach aims to benefit industries across Taiwan.

In this technology matchmaking initiative, companies have submitted demands in various areas, including 5G communications, autonomous driving, green manufacturing, and cybersecurity chips. Among the 40 technological achievements, six have received international accolades, including recognition from the Edison Awards and CES Innovation Awards.

Focusing on the three axes of interest, with AI's growing computational demands, ITRE's Electronic and Optoelectronic System Research Laboratories developed a VC Lid and AI chip jointing technology. This technology facilitates rapid heat dissipation, and its success has led Taiwanese companies to secure orders from major US high-performance computing chip manufacturers, according to MOEA officials.

Regarding advanced manufacturing, addressing the emphasis on heterogeneous materials mixing, the Metal Industries Research & Development Centre has developed 4D solid-phase layering manufacturing technology. Using friction stir welding for different metal materials achieves high material utilization rates and significantly reduces processing material waste. Currently applied in industries like aerospace low-orbit satellites and electric vehicle components, the technology is anticipated to benefit the welding industry in the future.

For applications in electric vehicles and green energy, eTreego, derived from the ITRI, focuses on developing electric vehicle charging solutions. Their proposal includes a cloud-based intelligent management platform that utilizes AI technology to identify electric vehicles' demand status, supplying charging services to the most undersupplied vehicles while recognizing peak power consumption periods.

Looking ahead to 2024, Richard Lee emphasizes that with inflation easing and inventory depleted, the market's recovery requires innovative products. Lee says most TEEMA members are optimistic for 2024, anticipating an improvement from 2023, even if it could not return to 2019 levels.