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Taiwan’s New Tech Czar Is Confident TSMC Can Guard Chip Secrets

(Bloomberg) -- Taiwan’s new science and technology minister is confident the island’s most important company will be able to safeguard its proprietary advanced technology as it expands overseas.

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Wu Cheng-wen, a US-educated chip expert, played down concerns about Taiwanese technology moving overseas. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., which makes the bulk of the world’s most advanced chips, is setting up factories in the US, Japan and Europe. But Wu expressed confidence in TSMC’s ability to operate in foreign territory while preserving the secrecy of its most advanced technology at home.


“When TSMC promises advanced manufacturing technology overseas, it is still building that first in Taiwan,” Wu said at his first press conference at the National Science and Technology Council on Wednesday. His agency is responsible for supporting the operations of TSMC and the wider chip ecosystem in Taiwan.

The minister said he expects the company to retain its key research and development functions in Taiwan and comply with regulations while expanding internationally.

Since the pandemic disrupted chip supplies, governments around the world have made a priority of ensuring reliable sources of semiconductors — used to power everything from windshield wipers and medical equipment to artificial intelligence development. They have been looking to secure chipmaking within their borders. Countries around the world are courting Taiwan, either to ensure their supply or to lure investments, and Wu’s council plays a central role in this new so-called tech diplomacy.

“Taiwan is at the epicenter of the world’s technology supply chain,” Nvidia Corp. Chief Executive Officer Jensen Huang said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Monday. “The technology industry depends very heavily on Taiwan and continues to for some time.”

Wu, a baseball prodigy famed back home for being on the 1971 Little League World Series winning team, vowed to continue working with friendly nations. Like in sports, he said, success in the real world requires working together.

The NSTC has agreements for science and technology cooperation at a government level with the US, Germany, France and Canada. The positive attention has been a welcome change for Taiwan, which has been gradually losing diplomatic ties with countries that prioritized relations with Beijing. China claims the democratic island with a population of 23 million as part of its territory.

France, which has been highly public in its collaboration with Taiwan, expects continuity of this policy based on newly inaugurated President Lai Ching-te’s speech on Monday, said Franck Paris, the top French diplomat based in Taiwan. Since signing an agreement in November to work together on six areas including AI, quantum computing and chips, the two also announced specific areas of focus in recent weeks.

“From the political drive, I think the key efforts will be on financing innovation,” Paris told Bloomberg News. “I think we can be better on that. And this is where we are going to focus our exchanges with the incoming administration.”

Wu expects Taiwan to also use its technology to advance various social and cultural priorities at home. With energy a key concern for the island, the NSTC will be supporting the development of more efficient power chips, which will be key to building a more sustainable industry.

In his speech on Monday, the new president said “Taiwan, a ‘silicon island’, must do all we can to expedite our transformation into an ‘AI island’.”

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