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ITRI-Stanford Platform Fosters Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Introduction of ITRI-Stanford Platform.

The ITRI-Stanford Platform has provided great opportunity for mutual interaction and collaboration building between ITRI and Stanford University since 2004. Annual conferences are held to discuss the latest technology trends and applications, and researchers from Taiwan and the U.S. visit each other on a regular basis. As Stephen Su, ITRI’s VP and General Director of the Industry, Science, and Technology International Strategy Center, described, the ITRI-Stanford Platform is one of the long-standing programs to support the exchange of ideas on technology innovation and entrepreneurship, with a successful track record of translating the inspirations into concrete achievements for both institutions.

The idea of establishing the platform is attributed to the shared vision of former ITRI President Chin-Tay Shih and Director General of Department of Industrial Technology (DOIT) of Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) Jung-Chiou Hwang, who were eager to forge a connection with Stanford University and Silicon Valley. Taiwan used to have extensive interaction with Silicon Valley in terms of talents, capital and technology during the 1980s and 1990s, especially in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry. This relationship had gradually waned over the years, due in part to increasing economic focus on cross-strait markets. Hence the desire to reconnect with Silicon Valley as a model for technology industry transformation in Taiwan, where hardware-software system integration is critical to continued success. There is no doubt that Stanford University is the kernel of Silicon Valley’s innovation ecosystem.

On Stanford’s side, the Stanford Program on Regions of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SPRIE) under the Institute for International Studies (IIS) was responsible for launching the ITRI-Stanford Platform. SPRIE was started by two founding fathers: Henry Rowen and Bill Miller. Both gentlemen are highly venerable scholars: Henry Rowen was the Assistant Secretary of Defense and the CEO of the major U.S. think tank RAND, and Bill Miller was Stanford’s provost and the CEO of SRI International.

The ITRI-Stanford Platform has become a significant medium of emerging technology exchange, connecting participants from four sides: ITRI, MOEA of Taiwan, Stanford University, and major enterprises in Silicon Valley and Taiwan. Each year, the platform focuses on a specific theme; past topics include the connection between Silicon Valley and Hsinchu Science Park, innovation talents, smart green cities, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and quantum computing. These exchanges have resulted in several remarkable achievements. For instance, the forum in 2012 made the Taiwan chemical industry aware of the significant progress of shale gas and oil in the U.S. In 2017, the visit to Taiwan by Professor Silvio Savarese, Director of Stanford AI LAB (SAIL)-Toyota Center for AI Research initiated an ongoing collaboration project with ITRI and National Tsing Hua University. In addition, ITRI has seized the opportunity to link with the Google Moonshot Project–Solve for X, recognizing outstanding entrepreneurship and startups in Taiwan. ITRI spinoff Green Cellulose Corporation was the first recognized Moonshot in Taiwan, showcasing their innovative biobutanol technology and solutions to the world.

In 2013, the platform developed a deeper connection with Stanford University as well as Silicon Valley after SPRIE was merged with the University’s Graduate School of Business (GSB). Since 2014, Chuck Eesley, Professor of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program in the School of Engineering (SOE), has served as the academic coordinator representing Stanford in the ITRI-Stanford Platform. As the platform continues to evolve, Taiwan enjoys new opportunities via the established connections with Silicon Valley. “We want to understand what people at ITRI are working on and what the real world problems are in the semiconductor industry and other related industries. It’s been a really productive forum,” commented Professor Eesley when he attended an AI forum under the ITRI-Stanford Platform in June 2018.

Stephen Su summarized three major benefits of this platform: 1. networking of experts on innovation and entrepreneurship; 2. tangible technology innovation projects that both sides could complement each other in various types of collaborations; 3. learning and discovering of less familiar areas, such as the innovation ecosystem. As the platform grows, it is hoped that more and more institutions can join to contribute to and benefit from the interactions, fostering a thriving communication space for leading research institutes to mobilize R&D resources for solving global challenges.