Taiwan’s universities can invigorate a ‘startup culture’

A library at National Taiwan University

The future economy will be dominated by creativity and out of the box thinking. UC Berkeley has cultivated a robust startup culture and is guiding many successful startups through the process. Taiwan has begun to lay the groundwork for its own entrepreneurial environment in the university system.

It is essential that Taiwan’s university graduates are prepared to move from theory to practice to invigorate Taiwan’s startup culture. Many students do not have sufficient experience to implement their ideas because they lack direct experience. A greater emphasis on educational internships and mentorships can help bridge this gap as well.

Innovation Garage

Many entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs use their own garage as a research and development base, starting from scratch and creating a new business. For example, the two founders of Hewlett-Packard, David Packard and William Hewlett, founded the world-famous Hewlett-Packard Group in their garage in Silicon Valley. Many of the world’s major technology giants were also born in a garage. A “garage” is a low-cost place for many entrepreneurs, so many incubators have adopted the term “garage entrepreneurship”. In recent years, many universities in Taiwan have set up special “entrepreneurship garages” to provide teachers and students with space and resources in order to stimulate innovation.

Entrepreneurship accelerators in universities

Taiwan’s government has encouraged young entrepreneurs in recent years, and the Industrial Development Bureau has also put forward many plans to encourage entrepreneurialism. Taiwan’s university system is an ideal location for Taiwanese students to develop new businesses. There are a large number of resources and knowledge transfer channels in the university. Nowadays, many schools in Taiwan have begun to set up their own new creation and incubation centers, and developed their own unique cultivation methods and directions, providing resources such as incubation spaces, entrepreneurial education, industry-university cooperation opportunities, talent and capital matching.

National Taiwan University Innovation Center: Bringing together top talent from across Taiwan

National Taiwan University‘s Innovation and Incubation Center was established in 2014, formerly known as the National Taiwan University Garage, has attracted more than 100 teams to the program. The program offers a diverse entrepreneurial curriculum and counseling resources. The incubator regularly organizes exchange activities and talent matching. Counselors gather senior entrepreneurs and experts from all parties to carry out precise education and training.

In the past, for the teams that wanted to be stationed in the university’s innovation base, only teachers and students from the school were allowed to apply. However, with the evolution of the system and the opening of school resources, many universities now also provide tutoring programs for non-alumni. Since 2017, the NTU’s incubation center has launched a corporate vertical accelerator program, and cooperated with companies to discuss recruitment issues and provide professional guidance. Related resources are given to teams that are interested in the topic or the partner company. This program is also open to non-Taiwan teams to apply, demonstrating the increasing flexibility of the project.

Tsing Hua University Entrepreneurship Garage: A strong group of corporate mentors

Taiwan’s National Tsing Hua University Entrepreneurship Garage was planned and established under the initiative of alumni from the Tsing Hua Entrepreneur Network (TEN), and assembled “voluntary mentors” recruited by TEN and Tsing Hua EMBA to assist the team and pursue their entrepreneurial goals. The overall mentoring plan is closely linked to the mentor team, and there is no need to pay for mentoring. The garage holds regular exchange activities and presentations of the project outcomes.

Global models to learn from

South Korea has been actively cultivating new industries in recent years and has so far established more than 35,000 new ventures. Among them, university incubators are an important area of development. Take the innovation policies of two representative universities in South Korea as an example.

Strong government support

KAIST, known as South Korea’s MIT, is an important academic entrepreneurship base in South Korea, and is positioned as an “entrepreneurial university” in South Korea. So far, more than 1,000 companies have been born there. Such vigorous development can be attributed to the preferential policies of the government and universities. The government provides a large amount of funds to inject into key universities in order to encourage professors to license patented technologies to companies. While the school allows professors to maintain their faculty status, they can establish companies outside the country without restrictions. They are also not restricted from owning equity or holding important positions to create a win-win environment for the university and professor, forming a virtuous cycle.

Close industry-university cooperation: Encourage students to look internationally

Hanyang University’s entrepreneurial atmosphere and become a leader in the incubation of new ventures among Korean universities. Hanyang University established its Startup Academy in 2012. The school has worked closely with industry and has many successful cases of technology transfer, earning a large sum of grant money for the school. Hanyang University is also actively in line with international standards, and has cooperated with French companies to provide students with opportunities to go abroad for internships. The project offers courses and provides resources to encourage students to pursue international entrepreneurship projects. The university has also set up a station “247 Dorm”, an innovation base for integrated services, so that student teams can efficiently execute entrepreneurial plans.

How Taiwan’s universities can improve talent cultivation

Compared with highly developed European and American university systems, Taiwan’s university entrepreneurial environment is still in an early stage. Looking to South Korea, which has a similar level of economic development as Taiwan, they began to reform the university system and relax restrictions on part-time jobs for professors. This allows professors to use their talents without cumbersome restrictions, commercialize technology in the laboratory in order to attract capital, and use these projects to cultivate innovative education opportunities. Taiwan should induce universities to reach for these international standards, and encourage Taiwanese students to pursue new entrepreneurial ventures at home and abroad. Finally, government investment is also an important driving force to support university innovation. Taiwan can continue to cultivate the successful cases of university innovation while learning from global models to create a conducive university environment for Taiwanese students to experiment with new startup ideas.

The Talent Circulation Alliance is a public-private partnership that facilitates the circulation of talent between Taiwan and like-minded partners.