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Stan Shih urges Taiwan’s IC industry shift to custom-made applications

Taiwan’s IC industry should leverage its chip making ability to expand related innovation and focus on the small scale production but custom-made application market, Acer founder Stan Shih said Tuesday.

The 79-year-old Shih, dubbed one of the pioneers of Taiwan’s electronics industry, made the remarks at the launch event for the government-sponsored “IC Grand Challenge,” which seeks to attract global startups and research groups to propose “IC design innovations” and “chip-based innovative applications.”

Shih said he invented two English terms in 2016, Si-nnovation and Si-vilization, meaning that technological innovations have largely been based on semiconductor chips, also called silicon chips where silicon is the main component.

This is also where Silicon Valley in the United States got its name, “but this Silicon Valley no longer has silicon, as silicon [chips] has now moved to Taiwan,” he said.

However, he pointed out that Silicon Valley has evolved into an incubator of global innovations, which is also the direction Taiwan should take.

“Certainly Taiwan should continue developing its role in the chip supply chain — which includes pure-play foundry, IC design, and system design and manufacturing — and provide integrative services,” Shih said.

“But as Si-nnovation, or chip innovation, is aiming for Si-vilization, Taiwan should invite the world to innovate, based on silicon chips, for their own cultures and markets,” the industry leader stressed.

Shih further said that Taiwan is geographically far from major markets of the world, which is the reason it has focused on making general-use personal computers and mobile phones.

“However, when the application of silicon [chips] is everywhere in the future, it will be much more effective for local people to innovate their own applications,” Shih said.

Taiwan can leverage its silicon chip manufacturing ability to call for innovative IC designs and novel applications and devices, he added, which is exactly what the IC Grand Challenge envisions.

Taiwan Semiconductor Industry Association (TSIA) President Wu Chih-i agreed, saying at the same event that while there are concerns Moore’s law is reaching its limit, “many applications and devices based on chips — such as power devices, sensors and bio chips — actually do not depend on smaller and smaller chips.”

Moore’s law is the observation made in 1965 by Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit (IC) doubles every two years, meaning chips get smaller and smaller.

The IC Grand Challenge is one of the talent-attracting strategies of a NT$300 billion (US$9.27 billion) Taiwan Chip-based Industrial Innovation Program (Taiwan CbI) approved by the government in 2023.

SEMI Taiwan President Terry Tsao said at the launch event that Taiwan CbI will help Taiwan’s semiconductor industry, which has entered an Age of Exploration, to better link to global startups and talent.

The program is a comprehensive industrial strategy — covering a wide range of fields from technology, economy, digital development, to education — that has not been seen for many years in Taiwan, he said, lauding the government’s effort at initiating and dedicating resources to the program. Focus Taiwan

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