Ep 160 | Dr. Bo-Chheng Lin Taiwan's Semiconductor Industry and the Current Chip Shortage


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A note from Talking Taiwan host Felicia Lin:

When you think about things made in Taiwan what comes to mind? Barbie dolls, textiles, plastics, toys, bicycles, or maybe these days its boba, bubble tea, or semiconductor chips?

What’s made Taiwan the leader in the semiconductor industry, what is its competitive advantage, how can it maintain it going forward?

The story of how Taiwan’s semiconductor industry was developed is really quite interesting if you consider that Taiwan was previously an agriculturally-based economy and had no expertise in hi-tech.

My guest on this episode of Talking Taiwan is Dr. Bo-Chheng Lin, who has a PhD in solid state physics, and worked on semiconductors at AT&T Bell Laboratories. He is currently retired, and is one of founders of Living Well New Jersey, a group for retired Taiwanese Americans. This organization has been around for 10 years and I’m grateful for their support of Talking Taiwan.

Here’s a little preview of what we talked about in this podcast episode:

  • How Taiwan’s semiconductor industry was set up
  • How Taiwan went from an agricultural-based economy to the leader of the global semiconductor industry
  • Taiwan’s first industrial parks
  • The establishment of TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Limited)
  • The role of Philips, a Dutch multinational corporation and RCA, an American electronics company in the development of Taiwan’s semiconductor industry
  • How Tsing-Hua University and the Chiat-Tung University are the leading universities in the IC (integrated circuit) industry
  • The establishment of UMC (United Microelectronics Corporation) and TSMC
  • Moore’s Law, the observation that the number of transistors on a microchip doubles about every two years, producing twice the processing power at half the cost
  • The impact on the world’s commerce that would result if Taiwan’s semiconductor manufacturing capacity got disrupted
  • The current semiconductor chip shortage
  • How the semiconductor industry is a cyclical business
  • The impact of COVID-19 on the semiconductor industry
  • How Taiwan’s business model for the semiconductor industry compares to Korea’s
  • The situation between TSMC and Huawei, that resulted due to the U.S.’s concerns over safeguarding its intellectual property from China, and the impact this has on China’s 5G
  • Huawei is TSMC’s second largest customer
  • TSMC’s plans to build a factory in Arizona
  • The IoT industry and what is IoT (Internet of Things)
  • If Apple and other companies start producing their own semiconductor chips what would that mean for the semiconductor industry and Taiwan?
  • What it will take for Taiwan to maintain its competitive advantage in the semiconductor industry
  • How the transistor was invented at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, NJ
  • How Taiwan’s government should encourage engineers from foreign countries to work in Taiwan’s semiconductor industry
  • The Gold Card program
  • How the construction needs of TSMC has influenced the construction of housing in Taiwan
  • What the next 10-15 years looks like for Taiwan and what other industries it might consider
  • The China 2025 project

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