To facilitate the development of AI and bring about concrete results, the Industrial Development Bureau (IDB) under the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) in Taiwan has initiated a series of strategies targeting at different aspects of the AI industry. Below are the five main areas of achievements so far.
(The AI Taiwan Action Plan includes a set of policies rolled out by the central government in 2018, and several governmental units are in charge of different programs. A brief introduction can be accessed from this link.)
As mentioned earlier, The AI Taiwan Action Plan encompassed different axes of development, and the IDB is mainly responsible for cultivating talents, inspiring industrial applications, and fostering industry chain. The IDB also seeks to introduce AI to all industries if applicable. As the number of AI-enabled companies increase, clusters are expected to form and help achieve technological breakthroughs with enough players in the industry. Among them, the IDB is targeting at traditional manufacturers and SMEs, as their businesses may be suffering from a stagnant growth or even regression.
All the efforts above lead to the goal of 1) increasing the production value of Taiwan’s AI industry (thereby increasing the tax revenue of the government) and 2) increasing the employment rate of AI talents in domestic companies. In the end, the industry clusters are also expected to bring more applications of technology as more companies are involved to accumulate more R&D momentum.
Below are the five main axes of action conducted by the IDB.
1. Talent Cultivation
If companies have the need for the introduction of AI technology but do not have an R&D department, they can contact the AIGO platform. AIGO will then conduct an interview to outline the needs and offer training for the companies. The goal is to equip the companies with the ability to develop AI by themselves after the program, so that they can contribute to the AI industry in Taiwan in the long term. In the end, the private sector will be leading the trend of innovating technologies and applications.
Also, if a company already has a specific need, it can also contact AIGO to call for solutions from startups and other great minds. For example, two local universities developed a chatbot to guide people through the arduous process of looking for information on the official website of the Department of Statistics under the Ministry of the Interior. In this way, most of the requests are now automatic, thus alleviating the burden on manpower.
Another example is the application of AOI. A supermarket reported that customers would usually select fruit (apples in particular) without due care. The bruised fruit would go bad very soon and cause a huge amount of waste. Thus, by introducing the AOI technology, apples can be sorted by their sweetness levels and customers now have a better shopping experience as well.
Last but not least, the IDB is also organizing competitions and events to attract high school and university students into the field of AI. In this way, there will be more potential AI talents in the future, thereby consolidating the foundation of Taiwan’s AI development.
2. Stable Support for Startups
For many startups, they have brilliant ideas and are prepared to execute projects, but the most pressing issue is the source of funds. Therefore, the IDB serves as a matchmaker and has founded an investment alliance which accumulated more than NT$10 billion of capital. Through competitions and other events, startups can have access to the funding they need, and established companies can acquire concrete solutions of AI. The startup is also very likely to enter a partnership with the company, so it’s a win-win situation which can lead to technological upgrade in the long run.
3. Industrial Networking and Validation
To facilitate large-scale industrial transformation of AI, the IDB has worked withassociations of different professions (since they can help circulate the information among all members efficiently). Each year, the IDB shortlists 10 associations via open application and help identify their specific needs and pain points. So far, industries which have received this service include the textile industry, the optoelectronics industry, the surface processing industry, and the occupational hazard prevention (work safety) industry.
By conducting interviews with associations and companies, the specific needs for AI application will be identified. Then, based on the digital maturity index, one or a few pioneer case(s) will be shortlisted to undergo the POC process to test the feasibility of proposals. During this phase, the cases are all supported by the subsidies from the IDB as an incentive. In other words, even if the case ends up a failure, they will not suffer from any financial loss. Till now, the IDB has helped more than 1,000 companies to identify their needs for AI (if any and if applicable).
A great example is the yacht manufacturing industry. Yacht manufacturers often have trouble checking whether the paint/coating is evenly applied. In the past, it had to be checked by experienced technicians, but the process was time-consuming and tiring. Also, the accuracy rate was not stable as human factors were at play. Now, by introducing supersonic waves and AI testing technologies, the time of manufacturing has been shortened significantly.
In other words, the results of AI introduction can be translated into concrete numbers, as the capacity and production value for the yacht manufacturers have both increased.
4. International Marketing
The IDB is also serving as a channel to promote Taiwan’s cutting-edge AI technology to international partners (such as Southeastern Asian countries, in accordance with Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy). To this end, the IDB set up platforms and holds webinars on a regular basis to increase the exposure of Taiwan’s AI technology.
5. Introduction and Convergence of Resources
As mentioned in the preface, the AI Taiwan Action Plan is executed by many governmental agencies. For example, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) is in charge of academic-industrial cooperation, and the National Center for High-performance Computing (NCHC) offers support for Internet and hardware services.
The IDB and other agencies also organize events to facilitate horizontal cooperation among agencies and with organizations. What is more, the IDB also organizes events with international tech giants such as AWS and Microsoft, so that domestic companies can always keep up with international trends and latest developments.