Scouting for new cooperation in Taiwan
Three of LTH’s professors were recently in Taiwan, together with the Vice-Chancellor of Lund University, Per Eriksson. The aim of the trip was to find out whether LTH and Lund University could develop new strategic cooperation initiatives with universities and companies there.
During the week, the delegation visited seven different universities and a couple of companies. In addition, Taiwan’s minister for education Wei-Ling Chiang invited the Lund delegates to a meeting at the Ministry for Education. The efficient innovation system at Lund University and the Swedish exception for lecturers – that researchers and lecturers at Swedish universities hold the rights to the outcome of their research findings – were two things that impressed the minister for education. During the meeting with the LTH delegation, he became so enthusiastic that there and then he invited himself and his family on a study visit to Sweden.
”The Swedish approach sounds very interesting. I will come and visit you in Lund, and I will bring a couple of university vice-chancellors from some of our best universities”, said Wei-Ling Chiang.
Taiwan, together with South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore, constitute the so-called tiger economies – four fast-growing Asian economies that have created prosperity for their citizens through industrialisation and high growth rates. There is a feeling of speed and innovation here that permeates the entire society.
LTH is not the first to sniff around Taiwan, however. For several years, Chalmers University of Technology has been cooperating with the National Chiao Tung University in the high-tech city of Hsinchu, located a hundred kilometers south of Taipei. In the University’s main building, Chalmers has had an office for the past ten years, staffed by its own exchange students. The students do not get paid for their work, but are provided with an annual budget that funds Christmas and Lucia celebrations, floorball tournaments and suchlike.
National Chiao Tung University is located next door to National Tsing Hua University in Hsinchu. Close to both universities, there is a research centre for synchrotron radiation, and this year will see the launch of a new project, “Taiwan Photon Source” with a power of 3 GeV. So there are opportunities here for cooperation and exchange of experiences with both Max IV and ESS.
Text and images: ANDERS FRICK
OVERCROWDING AND CHALLENGES GENERATE INNOVATION
Taiwan is smaller than Denmark and consists for the most part of compact forest and mountain ranges with peaks of around 4000 metres. In spite of this, 23 million people live on the island. Overcrowding has forced the Taiwanese to come up with many clever and efficient solutions. The world’s second tallest building, Taipei 101, stands here, reaching half a kilometre straight into the sky – in spite of the fact that Taiwan is hit by around one hundred major earthquakes per year.
The island was formerly known as Formosa, and for the past 30 years or so it has seen enormous growth which has transformed it from an island of poor rice-growers into a high-tech nation. The growth curves are still pointing upwards, even though Taiwan has already overtaken most countries today – in particular on the IT front. Much of Taiwan’s success depends on investment in semi-conductors as an area of future growth. Major resources were poured into research and development, which led to results in the form of today’s successful research institutes and semi-conductor companies.
The world’s first producer of semi-conductors, United Microelectronics Corporation, started as an off-shoot of the Industrial Technology Research Institute, ITRI. The world’s largest producer of semi-conductors, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, TSMC, also started as an off-shoot of ITRI. Last year, the company’s turnover amounted to just over SEK 100 billion with a profit margin of 33 per cent. These figures are among the reasons why Taiwan’s GDP per capita is at approximately the same level as that of the Nordic countries.
TSMC was one of the companies that the LTH delegation visited; among the company representatives they met was Jack Sun, who is COO responsible for research and development. The company has several factories in Hsinchu Science Park and the main building houses not only a hyper-modern production facility but also a gym, swimming pool, karaoke bar, dentist, bank and the company’s own Starbucks café.
A little bit further away in the Science Park is the Epistar company, which is the world’s largest producer of light-emitting diodes. There, the delegation got to view production and hear the company founders describe their journey of barely 20 years from research project at ITRI to independent company with 4000 employees.
“TSMC, Epistar and the other high-tech companies have fantastic back-up from the Taiwanese education system, which supports the company with skilled people. The link between industry and the university here is impressive”, says Lars Samuelson.
Usually he conducts research into nanotechnology at LTH. He has started several nanotechnology companies himself, among them Glo AB, which is developing light-emitting diodes based on nanowire technology from the research environment at LU.
Per Tunestål from the Division of Combustion Engines is responsible for a third of LTH’s doctoral student programmes. He has studied for several years in the US and sees great value in international exchanges of doctoral students and researchers with universities and companies.
“I thought that ITRI was a brilliant example of how good research institutes should work. It really shows how research can be put to good use”, says Per Tunestål, but adds that he finds it difficult to see the advantage of the large number of universities (approx. 160) present in Taiwan.
His LTH colleague Anders Robertsson agrees.
“One reflection is that the Taiwanese education system is largely similar to the American model, with professors who have their own doctoral students and research labs. At LTH, several departments and groups share a lab, which we believe brings benefits in the form of boundary-crossing research and a holistic view. So here perhaps LU and Taiwan can learn more from each other”, says Anders Robertsson.
Quick facts on Taiwan
Name: Republic of China
Population: 23 million
Languages: Mandarin, Taiwanese
Time difference: +6h
Democracy: Yes, since 1996
Currency: New Taiwan Dollar
Facts / Stint grants to Taiwan
Last year, Lund University received funding from the Foundation for the internationalisation of higher education and research to showcase world-class Swedish research, which is done through seminars in Brazil and Russia. Now, LU has reconsidered the planned initiatives in Russia and decided instead to conduct the activities in China and Taiwan. Already this autumn, a “Lund Day” will therefore be organised with the participation of LTH researchers among others.