As the next ten years are expected to be crucial, with digital technology progressing at a fast rate, reshaping and supporting every aspect of our lives, human-caused problems and, above all, climate change, will have to be addressed as part of the energy transition.
The collaboration of engineers and scientists will be a key aspect to enable our everyday life to be innovation-driven, and all sectors must be interconnected to respond quickly to fast and drastic changes in society, from basic research to applied research and industry.
Taiwan’s Minister of Science and Technology, Tsung-tsong Wu’s commitment is focused on this and his mission is driven by technological advancement.
In 1977, he graduated from National Taiwan University with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, as well as master’s and doctoral degrees in theoretical and applied mechanics from Cornell University in the United States. He has worked on ultrasounds, surface-acoustic–wave devices and related sensors, phononic crystals, and non-destructive material evaluation.
Tsung-tsong Wu – Taiwan’s Minister of Science and Technology
Wu addressed a variety of technological topics, including digital transformation and energy, as well as the main updates from the recent VivaTech 2021 Virtual Conference, which featured several Taiwanese startups.The global pandemic’s challenge has accelerated the pace of digital transformation in the IoT world. However, the pandemic has provided Taiwan with an opportunity to promote outstanding technologists and industry chains.Thanks to public and private actions over the last year, Taiwan has been able to preserve public life and industry operations. Despite recent upheavals, the number of cases has dropped significantly, thanks to the commitment of the community and international assistance.
Thanks to public and private efforts over the last year, Taiwan has been able to preserve public life and industry operations. Despite recent upheavals, the number of cases has decreased, thanks to the dedication of the community and international assistance. The sharp increase of cases in the middle of May (500 to 600 cases per day) created deep concern. As a result of various government regulations, there are now far fewer cases. Taiwan has received international praise for its successful coronavirus-fighting campaign, which includes the deployment of an “electronic barrier.”“Under this pandemic, we have demonstrated our skills and expertise in public health and digital technology” Wu said.
Digital Transformation and Energy
Digital transformation and green energy are both key elements. Since 2016, Taiwan has implemented Digital Nation and Innovative Economic Development Program (DIGI+) and 5+2 Innovative Industries Plan.
The future of our society will see everything connected. With digital technology, many traditional industries can be transformed. In the post-pandemic world, Taiwan will focus on six key industries: security, precision healthcare, digital transformation, semiconductor, space, and B5G & 6G next-generation internet infrastructure.
“Taiwan has focused a lot on digital policies and, in the next few years, we will hear about blockchain and IoT: everything will be connected and everything around us will revolve through digital. Because of the pandemic we have to speed up, we have to move forward in the digital transformation process even faster. I think the same situation is happening in Europe. For precision healthcare industry, we have owned health insurance and Taiwan Biobank databases since 1995. Along with existing advantages in ICT industry and a robust healthcare system, we support biomed/biotech startups. We are integrating multiple databases to ensure data is shared securely. We can develop many outstanding precision healthcare services with additional values”, said Tsung-Tsong.
Many big companies like TSMC are working very hard on digital transformation, and they are preparing very quickly. “They have a lot of automated plans. And they are using a lot of big data. Besides AI, 5G, IoT, and other digital technologies, we focus on supporting digital transformation in SMEs and microbusinesses. There are still a lot of companies in Taiwan, small or medium-sized, or even micro-enterprises, which account for about 80% of Taiwan’s workforce. Our goal is to have a digital platform so that information service providers can work closely with all those small businesses. We also want to guide them through this transformation process. Because of the pandemic, they are encountering some problems. But the pandemic will be the boost to make this digital leap”, said Tsung-Tsong.
Information security is also critical to digital and smart development. As IoT connects everything worldwide, companies should all take digital asset protection seriously. “Taiwan is planning to establish a Security Center of Excellence for high-end security professionals and technology innovations in Asia”, said Tsung-Tsong.
Taiwan has been building a smart green energy science park since 2018. It’s a demonstration site for digital and energy transformation. “This area accommodates multiple functions, including technology, meetings and exhibitions, commerce, academic research, and residence. Based on circular economy, it integrates digital and energy transformation scenarios. The first autonomous driving test site is also located here. Along with the new startup center in 2022, it can be a pilot town in technology, energy and security”, said Tsung-Tsong.
When we adopt digital technology, all pieces of information will be linked together. It makes our life comfortable, but we have to think about privacy. And a lot of people can see their privacy being jeopardized because attackers can hack their digital assets. So, you have to strike a balance on that. “Let’s take the global pandemic. People have praised Taiwan, and many have wondered whether the tracking process might invade the privacy of some people. We are paying extra attention to make sure that, when we use this data, we can ensure privacy” said Tsung-Tsong.
The minister pointed out that there are specific regulations in Taiwan that ensure that all data collected (due to the pandemic) remain exclusively in the government’s hands and must be removed or disposed of after a certain time. “And so, while we are safeguarding people’s safety and their lives, we also have to maintain democracy. And we have to strike a balance between democracy and security. And we hope that we can also share experiences with other countries, like the United States, for example. Japan has shown interest and, in these days of preparation and travel for the Olympic Games, our digital minister, Audrey Chen, will be in Tokyo to share our experience” said Tsung-Tsong.
The minister emphasized the fact that digital technologies, human rights and democracy are all linked together. “How to use technologies to ensure convenience while maintaining human rights is always a fine balance. We need more people and more countries to experiment and then share different experiences” said Tsung-Tsong.
Green energy is an important issue, and it is currently being analysed in Taiwan. Before 2016, green energy only accounted for a tiny percentage. Then, the new government adopted new green policies and by 2025, the Minister said that there will be about 20 gigawatts of solar energy.
“I believe that, in the coming years, we will see an even higher growth in solar energy. On the other hand, another green energy that we are focusing on is offshore green energy, or rather offshore wind energy. And before 2016, people thought it was unlikely that Taiwan could have offshore wind energy anytime soon. Taiwan is small, but we do have several great windfields in Taiwan. So, in the last five years, we have been promoting offshore wind energy. And several European companies have invested in it, such as Denmark and Germany. I spent a lot of time negotiating with other ministries. And I believe that in 2025, we will have five to six gigawatts of offshore wind energy. This is already a large-scale project, and we are probably one of the first in Asia. Other power sources like smaller hydropower or geothermal, are lower in percentage” said Tsung-Tsong.
Electric vehicles are still quite expensive, but they will be a valuable contributor to the energy transition. “I think electric vehicles are actually like a smartphone on the move. And we can make this kind of technology smaller, more compatible, and more affordable. I’m sure Taiwan can also play an important role in electric vehicle developments in the future. The battery or storage solution is the key element of electric vehicles” said Tsung-Tsong.
Electric mobility is a key driver of the energy transition, and it is expected to lead to an increase in the demand for electricity, generated by renewable sources. This means that the need for flexibility of electricity systems is growing at a fast pace. Energy storage will play a key role in the industry as the smart grid and renewable energy grow. As energy storage prices fall, many solutions will find room for backup and time-shifting applications. “There is no doubt that the future of the chip and related smart sensors will lead to even more electronic and less mechanical cars” added Tsung-Tsong.
Innovation is an essential aspect of our lives. The Minister Tsung-Tsong Wu defines innovation as something that only starts when closely observing everyday life. “In Taiwan, we see big changes and one aspect to consider is innovation of a traditional industry. For the next 10 years, we will see digital technologies integrated into the traditional industry. And so, like digital technologies and cybersecurity, these will be essential for young people both now and in the future, when resources will be more and more precious. Resources on this planet are not indefinite, and we all have to do our part by living on a connected planet. And that’s why I believe that, when we think about the future, we have to integrate everything together. We have to integrate technology, nature and society” said Tsung-Tsong.
We will surely be surrounded by satellites; humans will go into space more and more. In all of this, our daily lives will encounter some changes and the youth of the future will have to think outside the box to be competitive as well as technologically prepared. Not only in their specializations or disciplines but also in all interconnected factors.
“While AI and data management will erase some highly repetitive tasks, interdisciplinary professionals are much needed. For example, people who know AI technology and domain knowledge will be very popular. Younger generations should embrace new few fields. It will be necessary to have multiple professional skills in your learning and career journey. They should also sharpen their thoughts. As we have many more tech tools to assist our decisions, it would be very important to keep your value systems and treat people with kindness and inclusion” said Tsung-Tsong.
Taiwan Startups at VivaTech 2021
Viva Tech is a leading startup event in Europe. Many large companies including Google, Microsoft, and LVMH, participated this year. “It’s a great opportunity to take corporate orders. We can learn from and work with design and innovative thinking demonstrated by French companies. Despite the fact Viva Tech was organized virtually this year, we have seen great results. It’s a really good reference for Taiwan”, said Tsung-Tsong.
Over the past 30 years, government organisations in Taiwan have been providing support for the development of new technologies, not only in the field of telecommunications, but also in the areas of AI, IoT and VR. Startups in Taiwan have proposed many applications in these sectors. One example is GliaCloud, which uses artificial intelligence to convert texts into videos. It has worked with many media outlets and ecommerce retailers. “Its win at Female Founder Challenge this year is no surprise to us”, commented Tsung-Tsong.
“There are so many applications in this year’s VivaTech; our start-ups received awards in the telecommunications sector. Our goal is to use these events to advertise our businesses, chip manufacturers, and many interesting start-ups in various digital fields. Taiwan is known for OEM and ODM capabilities, but we are also equipped with a long innovation history. A proof of that is the fact our delegates won at LVMH Innovation Award, Orange Open Challenge (and Female Founder Challenge) at Viva Tech this year. I always tell start-ups in Taiwan that we also need to think about how these technologies can be connected to life and its daily needs, and work on technology. I think that in France, Germany or Italy, the companies you meet probably have a lot of experiences that Taiwanese start-ups can learn from. So, the reason we went to Viva Tech this year is that we want to connect with many countries and various companies”, said Tsung-Tsong.