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Taiwan’s Technology R&D spending

The Ministry of Science and Technology said technology-related research and development (R&D) spending last year made up 3.63% of the nation’s GDP, with most of it coming from private businesses. The ratio of R&D spending to GDP has been setting new records over the past few years, rising from 3.09% in 2016.

Last year, the nation’s overall tech-related R&D expenditure was NT$ 718.8 billion (US$ 25.96 billion), up by 8.8% over 2019. Among the total, 83.2%, or NT$598.2 billion, came from non-government sectors — such as higher education institutions, non-profits and private enterprises — while 16.8%, or NT$120.6 billion, came from the government, up by 10.6% and 0.7% respectively, the data showed.

In 2016, non-government sectors contributed 78.6% to the nation’s total R&D spending on technology, while the government contributed 21.4%, the data showed. Thanks to the nation’s success in curbing the COVID-19 pandemic, its economic activities last year were not halted. Rising demand for products related to 5G, Artificial Intelligence (AI) of things and remote operations have spurred the nation’s R&D in semiconductors.

The business sector remains the main pillar of the nation’s research and development efforts. Its contribution to the nation’s total R&D spending has been exceeding 80% since 2018. The overall R&D workforce is also growing, with researchers making up 58.5% of the workers, followed by technical and support staff at 36.5% and 5% respectively.

However, the R&D workforce is ageing, with the number of personnel aged 45 or older rising over the past few years, the data showed. The nation’s R&D funding and personnel are growing despite barriers presented by COVID-19, but there are still many challenges ahead in the post-pandemic era.

Additionally, a bill on the ministry’s reorganisation on Tuesday passed a third reading in the Legislative Yuan, meaning the ministry is to be restructured into a national science and technology council. A bill for the establishment of a new digital development ministry also passed its third reading.

The ministry said that a council would be better equipped to facilitate interagency negotiation and connect advanced research and industrial applications. The council, to be comprised of tech leaders and representatives from various agencies, would be more beneficial for the nation’s development.

The government’s technology budget this year is forecast to reach NT$126.4 billion (US$4.52 billion), a 10.8% increase from the previous budget. Among the spending plans, NT$43.7 billion is allocated for basic research governed by various ministries.

The ministry’s own budget for next year stands at NT$44.7 billion, a rise of NT$4.5 billion over this year, including NT$32.5 billion allocated for science research projects. With the budget, the government plans to support advanced long-term research and cultivate talent.

The ministry has also identified areas for development according to the government’s focus on six core industries: digital information, cybersecurity, precision health, national defence, green and renewable energy sources, and strategic stockpile industries. The ministry is to focus on advanced semiconductors, precision medicine, disease prevention science and technological start-ups, it said. Scientific research and development on space technology is also a potential area.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, Taiwan’s 5+2 innovative industries plan will soon materialise as the Cyber Security and Smart Technology Research and Development Building in Shalun. Under the island’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), the building aims to be the hub for startups and high-tech companies and the south Taiwan headquarters for Taiwan Tech Arena (TTA), a deep tech startup ecosystem building program.

The 5+2 innovative industries plan was initiated with seven areas of focus: intelligent machinery, green energy, biomedicine, new agriculture, circular economy, national defence, and aerospace, and transforming Taiwan into Asia’s Silicon Valley.

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