On 11 January, Brno University of Technology welcomed a delegation of representatives from Taiwan's National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University (NYCU) and Taiwan Semiconductor Research Institute (TSRI). During the meeting they signed a memorandum of cooperation in the areas of education, research, and mobility of students and teachers. The meeting built on previous contacts between the two sides and deepened cooperation with a focus on semiconductor technology, an area in which Taiwanese universities, research institutions and particularly companies are world leaders.President of NYCU Chi-Hung Lin and Rector of BUT Ladislav Janíček after signing a memorandum on cooperation in the fields of education, research and mobility of students and teachers | Autor: Václav KoníčekTaiwan supports the development of the European semiconductor industry
Chip manufacturing, one of the most complex industries, has dominated Taiwan's economy since the 1980s. At that time, it went from a labour-intensive economy to an innovation-driven one. Its importance was felt around the world during the coronavirus pandemic, when global semiconductor supply networks were disrupted and many industries were subsequently paralysed. The European Union responded to the crisis with the European Chips Act, which aims to boost Europe's sustainability in semiconductor technology.
In this context, negotiations between European and Taiwanese partners have intensified in recent years. Europe is trying to improve the performance of its semiconductor industry and Taiwan has cutting-edge know-how, but needs tens of thousands of trained specialists, which it seeks out in many regions of the world.
The Taiwan Semiconductor Research Institute presentation, TSRI Vice Director Ying-Zong Juang | Autor: Václav KoníčekRector of BUT Ladislav Janíček recalled the strategic role of the semiconductor industry for the Czech Republic and related activities of BUT: "We are currently going through an important and strategic period. We are sixth in Europe in the production of chips and we have a long tradition in the production of semiconductor technologies. We are taking active steps in line with EU challenges – a year ago our university became a founding member of the Czech National Semiconductor Cluster, in March this year we going to launch the Advanced Chip Design Research Centre (ACDRC) in cooperation with selected Taiwanese institutions, and in cooperation with our partner Czech Technical University in Prague, the Czech National Semiconductor Cluster, onsemi and Codasip companies and the South Moravian Innovation Centre, the National Competence Centre for Chips and Semiconductors will be established in Brno this year, which will be part of the European Network of Competence Centres with a key role in transferring semiconductor technologies into practice.“
Taiwan, led by its government and leading institutions such as NYCU and TSRI, supports the development of the European semiconductor industry, and for good reasons: ”In the contemporary globalized and interconnected world, there are several compelling reasons for organizations, including those in Taiwan, to share key technological knowledge outside their borders. In summary, it is essential for staying competitive, fostering innovation, engaging in global collaboration, attracting talent, exploring new markets, adapting to rapid technological changes, and mitigating risks,“ explained NYCU President Chi-Hung Lin.
Negotiations between NYCU and BUT, talks Jiří Háze, BUT Semiconductor Coordinator | Autor: Václav Koníček"At BUT, the field of semiconductors permeates across several departments. Semiconductor technologies have a centre at the Department of Microelectronics, Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Communication, which covers semiconductor technologies, sensors and nanotechnology, chip design and encapsulation, as well as chip testing. CEITEC BUT is one of the leading research institutions in the field of development and production of materials for nanotechnology-based matrices, and it has the largest clean room for semiconductor technologies on campus in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The Faculty of Information Technology has an application development centre for chip design and programming. And also at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, nanotechnology and photonics are an important part, thanks to which the BUT expertly covers the entire technological chain needed for research, development and production of chips. We have a strategic partnership with onsemi in Rožnov pod Radhoštěm, which is a dominant company in the field of semiconductor technology and in the development and production of chips. Codasip, which is today a world leader in the development of applications for chip design based on RISC-V architecture, and which is a key partner for the competence centre under construction, was established as a spin-off at our Faculty of Information Technology", added Jiří Háze, Head of the Department of Microelectronics and University Coordinator for Semiconductors.
Finding and preparing a young generation of talented specialists is key
A key area on which BUT and NYCU will focus even more after signing of the memorandum is cooperation in education and training of the young generation of semiconductor specialists. The scope of the agreement focuses on the preparation of educational programmes, exchange of educational experiences, establishment of joint research projects or support for mobility of students and teachers.
Guests from Taiwan at CEITEC BUT | Autor: Václav KoníčekThe President of NYCU also confirms this direction of cooperation: “As a world-leading university with a proven track record in semiconductor research and development, we recognise the global demand for talent in this area. That's why we have successfully forged strategic partnerships in the U.S. for the American continent and Japan for Asia. Our current endeavor is to identify a strategic partner in Europe, and the Czech Republic emerges as a strong contender for this purpose.”
The first example of cooperation in this direction are educational programmes for students from selected European countries, funded by Taiwan. In August and December 2023, TSRI hosted training courses on integrated circuit (IC) design. NYCU held a summer school with an emphasis on materials and offers a number of other opportunities to develop international talent, such as exchange programmes and joint research projects.
Photo of NYCU and BUT management after the meeting | Autor: Václav Koníček"It is our role as a university to contribute to the provision of capacity in terms of technology graduates for the field of semiconductor technology in the Czech Republic. This is not only the aim of these cooperations with Taiwan, but also with other strategic industrial partners such as onsemi, Thermo Fisher Scientific or Codasip," said the rector of BUT about the importance of human resources development in this area of industry.
Czech Republic must create its own semiconductor strategy
Both sides also agreed that the development of the semiconductor industry, for example with an emphasis on integrated circuit design, is not a stand-alone goal, but serves as a foundation for building other branches of industry, such as the automotive industry. Taiwan recognises that each country has a different industrial ecosystem and therefore the Taiwanese model of semiconductor technology development and production is not fully transferable to the conditions of another culture and country. Czech Republic needs to build its own strategy and model. Taiwan, with its excellent research and production capabilities, will help it to do so.Meeting at CEITEC BUT | Autor: Václav KoníčekNational Yang Ming Chiao Tung University (NYCU), located in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, is one of the world's most successful universities (ranked 217th in the QS World University Rankings 2024). NYCU established Taiwan's first college focusing on semiconductor technology and is thus considered the cradle of Taiwan's semiconductor industry. It offers 19 degree programs to nearly 22,000 students with a focus in electrical engineering, computer science and medicine. There are 2,000 students studying semiconductor technology, 800 of whom graduate each year.
Taiwan Semiconductor Research Institute (TSRI) was formed in 2019 by the merger of two previous research centers and is part of NARLabs under the Taiwan Ministry of Science. It is located in the Hsinchu Science Park, which is considered the equivalent of the Sillicon Valley due to its concentration of hi-tech companies and technologies. TSRI aims to foster talent and train highly skilled professionals in fields ranging from semiconductor device development to computer circuit and system design technologies.TSRI has 280 employees and a budget of USD 45 million.