By: Robin Schaffer | 31st March 2016

    Taiwan is a small country with a relatively large economy. It has a GDP of $530 billion dollars as of 2015 and has managed to maintain steady growth over the years, securing its place in the global manufacturing industry. The key to its success has been its export industry. Taiwan stands as the 17th largest exporter of merchandise as of 2014. Some of its biggest exports include electronic equipment, medical and technical equipment, machinery, plastics, textile, petrochemical products and processed food.

    Taiwan may be most known for its electronics equipment, and has been a global leader in the information and communications technology (ICT) industry. Rather than establish high-tech brands, however, Taiwan has flourished as a high-tech manufacturing hub with a focus on OEM (original equipment manufacturers) and ODM (original design manufacturers), and it has paid off. Taiwanese semiconductor companies such as TSMC, Mediatek and UMC have become global contenders in manufacturing semiconductors, and another Taiwanese company, Foxconn, has claimed the title of the world’s largest electronics contractor manufacturer.

    The manufacturing sector has always been an important part of Taiwan’s economy, driving its economic development from as far back as the 1960 era of export-oriented growth which was facilitated by low labor costs, but in the 50 years since, much of the low-cost labor-intensive manufacturing has been relocated to China or Southeast Asia.

    Recently, the country has been faced with a declining economy, partly due to competitors offering lower prices, weak consumer spending in target markets and a global shift in demand in ICT products. Experts have long urged the country to adapt, shifting its focus from hardware to software, and transforming from a manufacturing culture to one of innovation.

    The Taiwanese government has been trying to do just that. Taiwan’s government-backed Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), an R&D nonprofit which has been vital in developing Taiwan’s technology-based economy, has been working with over 90 local companies to develop 3D technology over the past few years. The effort may well have been worth it. XYZprinting, a Taiwanese company which is only a few years old, has already released 6 successful 3D printers at relatively low costs. Also from Taiwan, the world’s first smartphone-powered 3D printer was developed late last year.

    This isn’t the only industry being advanced. Experts have long assessed Taiwan to be well-placed for the development of IoT since Taiwan’s strength has primarily been in hardware manufacturing, which could be an asset in that industry. PC maker Acer is just one company which has been shifting its focus to software and IT services while investing in the Internet of Things with a related unit formed in 2014. As Taiwanese companies continue to penetrate new industries, it seems unlikely that this manufacturing hub will be left behind.

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