Leveraging Silicon Valley Linkages: Taiwan's New Policies to Nurture the Med-Tech Innovation Ecosystem

Sunday, June 26, 2016: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
235 Dwinelle (Dwinelle Hall)
Momoko Kawakami, Institute of Developing Economies, Chiba, Japan
Silicon Valley is the world’s most successful breeding ground for new technology start-ups. It is also a trans-border innovation node that connects the high-tech ecosystem of the United States with Asian innovation clusters. Since the 1970s, Taiwan has successfully established strong connections with the San Francisco Bay area, with active interactions between Taiwanese immigrant high-tech entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and their counterparts at home contributing to the phenomenal growth of the semiconductor and IT hardware industries in Taiwan. Starting from the mid-2000s, however, Taiwan’s linkages with Silicon Valley began to shrink, mainly due to the decline in brain circulation between the two communities. Faced with this change, the Taiwanese government has launched a number of new projects to revitalize these linkages. In this paper, I study the case of the Stanford Taiwan Biomedical Fellowship Program (STB Program), which is an elite program that trains medical doctors and engineers for future entrepreneurship opportunities. I first investigate how Taiwanese policymakers have tried to create a new ecosystem of medical device innovation in Taiwan by tapping into their existing connections and creating new ties with Silicon Valley. Next, I investigate the results of STB program to date, compare the Taiwanese and the Japanese strategies, and argue that Taiwan’s long history of Silicon Valley connections have contributed to the success of the program. Together with India, Singapore, China, and Japan, Taiwan has collaborated with Stanford University by sending its trainees to the university’s famous Biodesign course, a training program for biomedical technology innovations. Unlike the other Asian countries, however, Taiwan adopted a unique detour route to pursue access to Stanford’s training program while offering trainees direct exposure to Silicon Valley’s innovation community. I argue that Taiwan’s strategy has been successful thus far, resulting in a high percentage of returnees becoming entrepreneurs.