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Stan Shih to drive Taiwan's industry by cultivating talents

Posted: 14 Feb 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:it industry? training? r&d engineers? manpower? ic designers?

Chairman and CEO Stan Shih: Acer pushes the "two trillions and the twins stars" project.
As chairman and CEO of Acer Group, Stan Shih maneuvered Acer to become one of the world's top ten PC manufacturers, and the only non-Japanese Asian company to make it big time. Losing his father at age three, Shih's mother raised him alone by running a small grocery store. They were poor; as a young child, he even sold duck eggs to earn money.

Despite unfortunate circumstances, Shih graduated from National Chiao Tung University with a degree in electrical engineering. He began his career at Unitron Industrial Corp. in 1971, where he successfully designed, developed, and commercialized Taiwan's first desktop calculator. Later in 1972, he helped establish Qualitron Industrial Corp. and led the team that designed the world's first pen watch. In 1976, together with four partners including his wife, he co-founded Multitech International Corp., the forerunner of Acer.

Being a creative thinker and a true visionary, this man put Taiwan on the world computing map and is still not running out of ideas and projects. Together with Cadence Design Systems Inc., Acer Foundation has announced a strategic alliance in Taiwan to cultivate world-class talents in analog and mixed-signal circuit designs, with an emphasis on SoC designs. At the same time, Acer has announced the inauguration of Aspire IC Design Institute that will focus on IC designs for wireless and networking communications.

Cultivating talents

Acer Foundation is a non-profit organization backed by Acer Inc. and its mission is to assist industries in building up each of their core competencies. The foundation's scope of work includes consulting and initiating the development of the Aspire Academy to help managers of multinational Asian firms improve their organizational and leadership skills, digital arts to promote computer technology as a new medium of art, and Dragon Thesis Awards to promote industry-applicable research among the academics.

As production of IT hardware moves to China, Taiwan is focusing its resources on IC design and manufacture. Therefore, the role hardware makers played in hi-tech industry is on the decline. While the industry is progressing quickly, the supply of qualified talents cannot keep up. Having been through the era of hardware manufacturing, Stan Shih admiringly continues to contribute to the hi-tech industry by helping in cultivating talents.

A survey was conducted by the Science and Technology Advisor Group to find out the manpower supplies and demands for emerging hi-tech industries including IC design, plate panel display, wireless communication, and traditional industries planning to adopt nanotechnology to upgrade. According to the survey, there will be a shortage of 16,441 workers in all the fields mentioned above in the coming three years. It is expected that the IC industry will demand 6,597 engineers, plate panel display industry 3,687 engineers, digital content 5,630 engineers, while communication industry 518 engineers.

In today's competitive electronic world, nobody knows everything there is to know about anything. And because each industry has different development needs, the people they need vary. For example, the foundry industry that is approaching to 90 nanotechnology needs R&D engineers. And IC design industry is longing for people who have the ability in analog, mixed-signal, and SoC design.

As the base for manufacturing chips, Taiwan understands the value inherent in IC designs is changing rapidly. Formerly, process technology and chipset capacity determined value. Today, the value lies in system specification. As these systems become smaller, they demand more sophisticated analog and mixed-signal design.

Vision for homeland

"Taiwan IC design industry enjoys the unique advantages over its competitors because the island has always occupied the leading position in IT products and IC foundries. As technologies in information and communication continue to develop, demands for IC design engineers are expected to increase greatly. However, IC design houses in Taiwan are hampered by a severe shortage of skilled personnel with experiences in analog and mixed-signal design," Shih said. "Our cooperation with Cadence is not only to cultivate talents but also to put forward plans for 'the two trillions and the twin stars' project. The two trillions refer to semiconductor and display industries, while the two stars are digital content and biotechnology industries," he added.

"The project has shown us the direction of Taiwan's hi-tech industry," continued Shih. "The establishment of Aspire IC Design Institute is in line with national policy. Our concept is simple. The 'two trillions' represents not only a huge production value but also tremendous investments to make sure to achieve the goal. I think the shortage of skilled IC design engineers is one of the major problems needed to be improved."

According to Shih, many IT products made in Taiwan are ranked No. 1 in terms of production value and production volume. However, Shih said that the achievements they made do not only rely in manufacturing abilities, but also in design innovation. "Entering post-PC era, Taiwan, although having built a solid foundation in IT technologies, should enhance its communication technology. Still, compared to Japan, there is room for our consumer products to improve. On the other hand, it is also important to lower the cost of the products to make them more affordable. Hence, IC design play an import role to achieve these goal," he said.

Stan Shih pointed out, "Cultivating talents is the key to success. We will do our best to invest to meet the requirements from the industry. The foundation believes our investment will reap high returns to the IT industry once the talents put their newly acquired knowledge and skills to work."

Classes on analog and mixed-signal design already began last month, targeting at circuit designers working at IC design houses. The advanced class on SoC designs is aiming at experienced engineers who work at IC design service companies, system and software tool companies. Their goal is to train 100 students annually to increase the number of advanced engineers in wireless communication.

In addition to familiarize themselves with the tools, engineers who want to enter the field of analog have to take at least five years to accumulate enough experiences to become old hands. "It will be another contribution to the industry if we can shorten the time to cultivate an experienced analog engineer from five years, to, for example, three years," said Stan Shih.

"IC design industry is still at its initial stage," concluded Stan Shih. "Looking at the future, it will be a world full of digital devices. Every individual is likely to carry several digital devices which might be made in China, but [more] likely made in Taiwan."

- Mike Pan

Electronic Engineering Times - Asia

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