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Industrial Technology Research Institute


ITRI Forum Explores Digital Transformation in Post-Pandemic


ITRI and Stanford University held the 2021 ITRI-Stanford Forum on Technology Startups online in August.
ITRI and Stanford University held the 2021 ITRI-Stanford Forum on Technology Startups online in August.

Tremendous opportunities have emerged in the post-pandemic economy to fuel the growth of startups in Taiwan. The outbreak of the pandemic in 2020 changed lives around the world, accelerating digital transformation and creating opportunities for new startups to develop innovative ideas and technology breakthroughs.

ITRI, which has support from the Department of Industrial Technology (DoIT) of the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), collaborated with the Stanford Center for Professional Development (SCPD) to host the “2021 ITRI-Stanford Forum on Technology Startups” on August 10 and 11. At this online forum, scholars from Stanford University and entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley shared their expertise and perspectives on technology innovation. The forum provided an opportunity for startups in Taiwan to learn about Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and to reimagine business opportunities in the context of a ‘new normal’ economy.

The Director General of DoIT of the MOEA, Dr. Chyou-Huey Chiou, remarked that the pandemic has impacted the global economy structure significantly, bringing about further developments of business innovation and digital technology. For the past few years, DoIT has played an important role in promoting R&D innovation to help develop an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Taiwan. Stanford faculty, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists were invited to participate in the forum and share their insights on technology innovation, the entrepreneur mindset, and how to compete in a global economy. Silicon Valley is the most dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem in the world and Stanford University is one of the world's leading institutions for teaching and research.

Mr. Stephen Su, the forum’s program director and also ITRI’s Vice President and General Director of the Industry, Science and Technology International Strategy Center, pointed out that the pandemic has escalated the importance of technology R&D. According to United Nations Technology and Innovation Report 2021, it forecasted that five leading technologies by 2025 would be IoT, robots, green energy, 5G and AI. It has been suggested that these technologies may help mitigate some of the negative impacts of the pandemic while increasing productivity and improving life quality. They also represent tremendous economic gain in the global market, allowing nations to transfer R&D capability into business opportunities. Through educational exchanges like this forum, Taiwan will learn how to cultivate an entrepreneurship culture and create new business opportunities for the global market.

At the forum, Stanford University scholars shared an entrepreneurial spirit when discussing some of their research. Riitta Katila, Professor of Management Science and Engineering, gave a concept briefing on "Make Lean Startups Work." Chuck Eesley, Associate Professor of Management Science and Engineering, presented the topic of "Characteristics of Successful High-Tech Startups and Ecosystems: Data from MIT, China, Stanford University, and Silicon Valley."

One of the presenters, Dr. Geordie Rose, co-founder and CEO of Sanctuary AI, spoke on the topic “How to Raise Investment Capital for Mission Driven Companies.” He shared his experience as a serial entrepreneur, describing the founding of the quantum computing company D-Wave, the robotics and AI company Kindred, the fusion energy company General Fusion, and his current company. In his talk, he discussed in detail the techniques of business negotiations and fundraising for startups. As an advocate for commercial-use quantum computing, Dr. Rose raised over $45 Million for D-Wave. He has been featured in prominent media including the Vancouver Sun, USA Today, MIT Technology Review and Harvard Business Review.

During and after the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be major challenges for the medical care system, but this will also provide great opportunities for remote care services. Mr. Anuj Khandelwal, co-founder and CEO of Empo Health, shared his entrepreneurial experience in the perspectives of ideation, needs finding, market planning, fundraising, and team composition, bringing inspirations to the technology R&D team. Empo Health is creating a non-invasive in-home device to facilitate screening and treatment for diabetic foot complications.

Mr. Steve Ciesinski, Managing Director of SJC Venture Partner, a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley, shared his experiences investing in early-stage startups, from sourcing investment leads to the evaluation of startups, and the biggest challenges he faced when making investment decisions. Prior to joining SJC Venture Partner, Mr. Ciesinski served as the president of SRI International, where he led technological breakthroughs and product development.

ITRI has been collaborating with various schools and centers at Stanford since 2004, and in 2014 they began working with SCPD to co-host these educational exchanges, focusing on sharing educational research and development while encouraging academic collaboration between Taiwanese and American educators. Achievements of such exchanges include facilitating Taiwan researchers to conduct research at Stanford as visiting scholars, co-authoring books between ITRI and international experts, and raising the international visibility of the successful experiences of Taiwan’s high-tech industry.

Due to the pandemic, this year’s forum was held virtually and focused on “From Engineer to Entrepreneur: Bringing Startup Mindset to Technology Research Program.” The program was co-chaired by Mr. Stephen Su and Dr. Chuck Eesley. Dr. Chyou-Huey Chiou and ITRI Executive Vice President Dr. Pei-Zen Chang joined the forum with over 200 participants from industry, government, academia and research institutes.

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Vivian Chen
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