In the knowledge-based economy, scientific, and technological innovation are necessary steps to moving forward in the 21st century. As our interconnected economy evolves and adopts an open innovation model, international cooperation becomes crucially important for maximizing the impact of research and innovation, and for effectively addressing challenges derived from global, regional, and societal circumstances.
The Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) has signed over 119 international cooperation agreements and MoUs with over 43 countries and 3 international organizations. International cooperation takes the form of joint research projects, joint conferences, sharing of major research facilities, reciprocal visits of researchers and scientists, and the exchange of information.
The Ministry's Department of International Cooperation and Science Education is the main contact window for researchers, foreign ministries, and foreign representative offices or economic and culture offices in Taiwan. Several international cooperation liaison officers are responsible for the implementation of bilateral agreements signed with partner countries via joint calls for proposals with counterpart agencies, and also handle courtesy visits of foreign representatives and plan overseas missions.
Sixteen Science & Technology (S&T) divisions abroad serve as MOST branch offices; these divisions are located in Washington (United States), Los Angeles (United States), San Francisco (United States), Houston (United States), Ottawa (Canada), London (United Kingdom), Paris (France), Bonn (Germany), Brussels (Belgium), Prague (Czech Republic), Moscow (Russia), Canberra (Australia), New Delhi (India), Hanoi (Vietnam), Tokyo (Japan), and Tel Aviv (Israel), and serve as the chief contact windows for foreign counterpart agencies or S&T funding authorities overseas. The S&T divisions seek to maintain contact with S&T-related institutions within major regional countries in order to support bilateral cooperation; their main roles include:
- Establishment of bilateral S&T cooperation mechanisms via negotiation of cooperative agreements;
- Facilitation and promotion of joint research projects;
- Facilitation and promotion of joint research workshops, seminars, and conferences;
- Facilitation and promotion of the bilateral movement of outstanding researchers and scientists;
- Facilitation and promotion of training mechanisms for students and researchers;
- Publicization of the advancement and development of science and technology in the countries concerned.
With regard to multilateral cooperation, since Taiwan is considered a high-income country by the European Commission, it is not eligible to receive EC contributions. MOST has therefore established a funding scheme for Taiwanese researchers who wish to participate in the EU's Horizon 2020 program. MOST has also established a National Contact Point (NCP) office at the National Applied Research Laboratories (NARLabs) to help academic researchers with queries associated with the Horizon 2020 program. The Ministry of Economic Affairs has established a separate NCP office at the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) to help industrial companies interested in the EU program. In general, these NCP offices not only provide consulting services and assist with project applications, but also seek to increase awareness of multilateral cooperation opportunities in Europe and provide a certain degree of matching-up service.
MOST has further assigned its five S&T divisions in Europe to serve as Taiwan NCPs directly participating in Europe's NCP network, which expands Taiwan's network of European contacts and provide a better understanding of the Horizon 2020 program's latest trends. In addition, MOST has also been actively participating in numerous EU ERA.NET projects, issuing multilateral joint calls in partnership with European funding agencies, and assisting Taiwan researchers in forming research consortiums with their European partners.
Apart from sharing research results and enhancing the country's R&D capabilities through such international activities as joint research projects and conferences, joint use of major research facilities, reciprocal visits of personnel, and the exchange of information, MOST has adopted the "Smart Country Smart Strategy" policy by continuing to strengthen cooperation and interchange with technologically-advanced countries, while employing S&T assistance to further the government's diplomatic policies.
For example, the “New Southbound Policy” aims to deepen agricultural, business, cultural, educational, tourism, and trade links with the 10 ASEAN countries, 6 South Asian countries, plus Australia and New Zealand (a total of 18 countries). The strategic thinking behind the New Southbound Policy is to take advantage of Taiwan's technological soft power to promote regional scientific and technological cooperation with countries to the south for the purpose of solving common regional problems and achieving mutual benefit. Beyond being open to sharing our research and resources, MOST also seeks to promote industrial linkage and incubate talent as part of this policy.
Under the New Southbound Policy, MOST has introduced the Overseas Science and Technology Innovation Centers (STICs), which provide researchers with long-term stay arrangements in the southbound countries, help local personnel tackle regional and societal problems, facilitate people exchange, and assist with industrial development missions in the southbound countries. Six STICs located in Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos and Malaysia have been approved, and individually focus on technical topics such as the humanities, medicine, natural science, agriculture, and engineering.
We have sought to increase industrial competitiveness based on science and technology innovation by introducing a number of initiatives and policies over the past two years. The “5+2 Industrial Innovation” policy, for instance, not only focuses on the energy, biotechnology, smart machinery, and defense industries, as well as Asia Silicon Valley vision, but has also assigned priority to the circular economy concept and advanced agricultural technology. The science park administrations under MOST play important roles in this industrial policy, and are also open to international cooperation.
Looking ahead to the future, MOST will take investigation of new science and technology and integration of S&T resources as its mission, continue to strengthen the country's academic capabilities, establish an honest, effective academic research environment, fine-tune academic research award and grant regulations, induce outstanding personnel to engage in practical research areas, create innovative S&T ecosystems, train world-class innovative and entrepreneurial manpower, and inject boundless vitality into Taiwan's S&T innovation and industrial development.