Taiwan to invest $ 300 million in colleges to stem brain drain


TAIPEI – Taiwan authorities and major chipmakers invest at least $ 300 million to create graduate programs for the semiconductor industry over the next decade, aiming to protect the economy fleas from the island as the United States and China seek to cultivate their own talent and bring production ashore.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world’s largest chipmaker, and local peers such as MediaTek and Powerchip Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. told Nikkei Asia that they would support the campaign to build more top chip schools. range. The companies said talented employees are essential to keep the chip industry competitive, an industry directly linked to national security.

President Tsai Ing-wen and Vice Premier Shen Jong-chin pushed the talent development plan when large companies asked for state help in solving the talent shortage around May last year. a person with first-hand knowledge told Nikkei Asia.

“More than a dozen chip companies – from design and manufacture to packaging and testing – have actively participated in discussions for chip schools, as they anticipate the demand for highly skilled chip talent. will be even higher in the years to come, and that it is an imminent problem that must be resolved quickly, ”the person told Nikkei Asia.

Taiwan’s move comes as the United States and China – the world’s two largest economies, battling to gain control of the global tech industry – also accelerate their own semiconductor talent cultivation plans.

A White House supply chain review report last month said the country “has an immediate need for highly skilled workers in the semiconductor industry,” as 77% of chip executives surveyed said the industry faces a critical talent shortage. “As China increasingly seeks out foreign talent, retaining these students in the United States serves both to strengthen the domestic semiconductor industry and to prevent competitors from acquiring the talent needed to outperform states. -United, ”the report says.

China, meanwhile, said the lack of chip talent was one of the country’s biggest obstacles to building a competitive local chip industry. The world’s second-largest economy has increased the number of microelectronics schools in recent years and reports that 230,000 additional engineers will be needed by 2022 to meet demand.

Peking University, a leading university in the Chinese capital, inaugurated its first integrated circuit school on Thursday. Officials from the Ministry of Science and Technology and academics from the Chinese Academy of Sciences participated in the ceremony.

Taiwan’s semiconductor industry – the second in the world after the United States – has suffered from a talent shortage for years as the industry continues to seek out cutting-edge technologies. The number of doctorates. students specializing in technology-related fields increased from 23,261 in 2010 to 16,950 in 2020, according to data from the Department of Education.

China is also aggressively attracting highly skilled and experienced chip engineers. Two chip projects supported by the Chinese government in 2019 and 2020 together hired more than 100 senior TSMC engineers and managers. By 2019, more than 3,000 people had left the island for China over the years. The Tsai administration in April asked local and foreign recruiting platform operators and headhunters to cut all job openings in China, in an aggressive move to prevent the outflow of talent across the country. Taiwan Strait.

Chip companies in Taiwan have called on President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration to address the talent shortage. © Reuters

Chip companies in Taiwan have called on the Tsai administration to address the talent shortage. Lawmakers this year passed a bipartisan law relaxing rigid education-related laws and allowing universities to establish graduate schools that can be run independently and receive funding from leading tech groups and the National Development Fund. – Taiwan’s main industry funding vehicle – specifically for vital areas such as semiconductors and artificial intelligence.

But the law specifies that the new schools “cannot work with Chinese companies or receive funding from entities based in China.” The new schools must also monitor the career paths of students after graduation and “should guide them to pursue a career in Taiwan as a priority,” the law said. Beijing sees democratic Taiwan as part of its territory, to be taken back by force if necessary.

Chu Chun-chang, director general of the Higher Education Department of the Taiwan Ministry of Education, told Nikkei Asia in an interview that the ministry had received applications from four major Taiwanese universities to establish new schools for train future high-end talents. on semiconductors and artificial intelligence and receive continued support from industry players

Based on current planning, each new chip college requires at least New Taiwan $ 200 million ($ 7 million) in annual funding, while the external engagement should last at least eight to 12 years, Chu said. .

This will add up to at least $ 300 million for the first four chip schools over the next 12 years, and the investment will increase once more schools and programs are integrated.

TSMC, for its part, will commit at least NT $ 100 million per year to the four schools for at least the next 10 years, sources told Nikkei Asia. Powerchip chairman Frank Huang told Nikkei Asia his company would invest NT $ 100 million per year.

TSMC spokeswoman Nina Kao told Nikkei Asia the company has yet to finalize its budget, but confirmed that the chipmaker will not invest less than the state has pledged. and would work with the four new schools over the long term.

“In some of our future hiring and planning, we see a shortage of high-end chip talent for the entire supply chain in the coming years,” Kao said. “We have started a program since last year to offer scholarships to doctoral students, as we believe it is vital to expand the high-end R&D workforce, not only for TSMC, but for the whole flea ecosystem.

“In order to have a competitive chip industry, it is essential to continually expand the talent base, as talent can come and go,” said Huang of Powerchip. “All the major economies are working on it, and we see an imminent need for Taiwan’s crown jewel semiconductor industry to accelerate chip training for its long-standing competitiveness. “

All of these chip schools will have to seek funding from private companies on their own, while the National Taiwan Development Fund will match the funds each college gets, said Chu of the Education Ministry. Besides semiconductors, Taiwan is looking to increase talent in artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and future fintech, the official said.

National Yangming Chiaotung University, the alma mater of many technology leaders such as CC Wei, CEO of TSMC and Young Liu, president of Foxconn, is the first of four major Taiwanese universities to be approved to establish a new school of innovation.

Preparations will begin next month – including setting up research centers, selecting the dean and the oversight committee – and it plans to host more than 120 masters and doctorates. students per year from the spring semester 2022, Vice President Chen Yung-fu told Nikkei Asia.

The university has secured pledges totaling NT $ 165 million per year for up to 12 years from seven major Taiwanese technology companies, including TSMC, Foxconn, Powerchip, MediaTek, Novatek, Wistron and Advantech. The Taiwan National Development Fund is expected to invest at a similar level.

“The new school, with its own budget, board and management team, is independent from the university system. This should attract more top international professors as well as industry leaders,” said Chen. He added that the school will better combine industry practices and scientific research and be run as a “successful medical school” integrating research and clinical experience.

Chen Pei-li, deputy director of the Industrial Development Bureau, told Nikkei Asia that semiconductors are one of the most crucial national strategic industries for Taiwan.

“As advances in chip technology advance to its physical limits, the current education system cannot really catch up by cultivating the good talent that chipmakers want,” Chen said. “So companies want to get more involved in education”,. “It’s not just about donating money. Businesses also help tailor curricula and find the right teachers – these are the hardest parts.”

Semiconductor chips are closely related to national security, the heart and soul of devices and technologies, from smartphones, data center servers and supercomputers to space and military technology.

The United States, China, Europe and Japan are all rushing to develop their own advanced chip production capacity. TSMC, whose 5nm chip production technology is currently the most advanced in the world, is building its first state-of-the-art chip factory in Arizona while also considering building a factory in Kumamoto, Japan, Nikkei Asia reported.

The strategic importance of Taiwan’s semiconductor industry has been highlighted amid the Washington-Beijing technology war and even higher as the world suffers from unprecedented chip shortages affecting the smartphone and desktop industries. PC to automobiles. Major auto-manufacturing economies like the United States, Germany, and Japan have all sought Taiwan’s help in easing the global crisis.


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