In 1951, Stanford University started the world’s first science park, which would later come to be known as Silicon Valley. Similar establishments have proliferated rapidly throughout the world ever since—there are now more than 100 science parks globally. In addition to being in different stages of development, these parks differ from one another in their modes of management and structure due to the diversity of social conventions, cultural backgrounds and economic prowess involved. Science parks in the U.S. are mainly a market-economy product, which is hardly a surprise given the country’s longstanding belief in laissez faire. In contrast, most science parks in East Asia tend to be dictated by government planning as authoritarianism is often the prevailing political doctrine in the region. Even in the same country, it is not uncommon for one science park to differ from the next one in terms of their management modes. Silicon Valley, for instance, is primarily what people will expect of a market economy, but the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina is readily recognizable as an entity subject to government intervention. Furthermore, what these establishments are called also differ from country to country; their names include science park, science-based industrial park, science and technology park, science city, etc.
It is widely believed that the concept of science parks first emerged in the 1950s, with Silicon Valley being a typical example. Generally speaking, a science park is an intellect-intensive establishment geared toward developing advanced technologies and innovative ventures by combining the strengths across R&D, education and production. As such, a science park is supposed to bring together institutions of higher learning, research organizations and businesses with the purpose of effecting technology innovation. Empirical evidence has confirmed the establishment of science parks as a key breakthrough in constantly innovating the technologies and industries of our times.
In tandem with a global trend that rapidly gained momentum, Taiwan initiated its first science park—Hsinchu Science Park (HSP)—in 1980. Hopefully the success story of Silicon Valley could repeat itself in Taiwan. The HSP does not disappoint as it eventually comes to be recognized globally as one of the most successful of its breed. In retrospect, it is fair to attribute the HSP’s success to the fact that it was set up at the right place at the right time. In the world’s history of science parks, the HSP might as well be viewed as a mid-term entrant while both the Southern Taiwan Science Park (STSP) and Central Taiwan Science Park (CTSP) should be categorized as latecomers.
At present, Taiwan is home to three science parks that are located in the northern, central and southern parts of the island respectively. Combined, the three have attracted capital inflows in excess of NT$4 trillion. Take the world-famous HSP; its annual output per capita runs close to NT$9.5 million, or 2.5 times the average of the country’s overall manufacturing sector. Furthermore, the HSP’s revenue accounts for one tenth of that of the manufacturing sector. All this has been made possible by its extraordinary competitiveness on the back of science and technology. There is every reason to believe that the STSP and CTSP will be able to come up with even more impressive economic benefits once their operations get on track.
At present, the HSP covers six locations—the Hsinchu, Jhunan, Tongluo, Longtan and Yilan parks as well as the Hsinchu Biomedical Science Park—that span a total area of nearly 1,400 hectares.
Taiwan’s three science parks have their respective characteristics and strengths to boast of. Take the HSP for example, on top of its abundant experience in installing and developing new parks, it is endowed with high-caliber human resources and well-defined statutes and regulations. Alongside its capacity for providing a stable investment environment, it offers easy access to capital markets. Furthermore, the well-rounded clusters of related ventures at the HSP enable companies to make to order and adapt to external changes flexibly. HSP companies are best known for their superior capability for contract manufacturing and design. In particular, semiconductor ventures at the park top the world in terms of both manufacturing output and capacity. Likewise, the optoelectronics and LCD panel industries at the HSP also command a leading position in the world arena.