T.C. Wu was in Taiwan for Christmas this year, probably not used to the balmy 25-degree-Celsius weather. For the past 40 years, Wu has spent most Christmases with his family in the United States, but he was in Taiwan for the opening of the Asia Silicon Valley Development Agency, in which he serves as the technology director.
It may be hard to believe that the humble, low-key Wu, who seems awkward in front of the camera, is the founder of Atmel Corporation, one of the three biggest suppliers of touch controller ICs in the world. The company was acquired by Microchip last year for US$3.56 billion.
The Asia Silicon Valley Development Plan, based in Taoyuan, represents a key part of the Tsai Ing-wen administration's initiative to transform Taiwan's industrial sector and is aimed at moving Taiwan up the value chain from IT "information technology" to IoT (internet of things). The opening of the agency responsible for the plan comes a third of a century after the launch of the Hsinchu Science Park, which had a profound effect on Taiwan by helping turn the country into one of the world's high-tech powers.
"Industries around the world are all moving forward and even several late-developing countries such as mainland China are engaging in internet innovation and have moved ahead of us," says Kung Ming-hsin, the deputy chief of the National Development Council who heads the Asian Silicon Valley project.
"If Taiwan continues to spin its wheels, it will be extremely dangerous."
The Gamble of a Lifetime
A longtime observer of the industrial economy, Kung has emerged as a new star in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Cabinet after being mentored by older DPP-leaning economists Chen Po-chih and Wu Rong-I. When candidate Tsai Ing-wen first announced the Asian Silicon Valley plan on the campaign trail over a year ago, Kung was sitting beside her.
"This is the gamble of a lifetime for Kung Ming-hsin," says Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan. When the Asia Silicon Valley Development Agency (ASVDA) celebrated its launch on Dec. 25, 2016, Kung maintained a low profile, hiding behind others during both the opening ceremony and the press briefing, but he sat in the first row listening attentively during a more than three-hour seminar.
Both before the presidential election on Jan. 16, 2016 and after, Kung has been to Silicon Valley several times, visiting Google and internet equipment provider Cisco and also attending the Demo