Following the footsteps of Japan, which last July chose Israel as its first partner to sign an Industrial R&D (Research and Development) Collaboration Agreement with, Taiwan next Monday is to sign its own first R&D Agreement - with Israel.
The signing will take place as part of an Asia visit by Chief Scientist at the Ministry of Economy Avi Hasson, and will be likewise attended by the Taiwanese Minister of Economic Affairs John Chen-Chung Deng.
"As far as Taiwan is concerned, this agreement is groundbreaking - it is the first agreement of its kind Taiwan has signed," said Hasson. "The agreement was also aided by the fact that Taiwanese industry holds Israeli innovative technologies in high esteem and many Taiwanese companies have already expressed interest in beginning to work on joint projects with Israeli companies."
While there has been cooperation between Israel and Taiwan in academic research in the past, the new government support for R&D between Taiwanese companies and Israeli companies is expected to have a massive impact on bilateral ties and trade.
Taiwan features several world-leading technology companies, including HTC, Asus, Acer, the world's largest chip producer TSMC, and electronic components manufacturer Foxconn. In fact, almost 90% of all laptops are produced in Taiwan, as are 20% of semiconductors and a quarter of LCD screens.
And yet bilateral trade between Israel and Taiwan is only at $1.3 billion. The new agreement is expected to greatly expand trade, as Israel's technological innovation and Taiwan's leading technological engineering and manufacturing make them ideal partners.
"Taiwan is interested in Israel"
"In recent years, we have seen increasing interest from Taiwanese companies in what is happening in Israel," said Doron Hemo, head of the Economic and Trade Mission in Taiwan and the Philippines.
"Taiwan today understands what was perhaps not clear four or five years ago – that Israel has much to offer in innovation and hi-tech and in fact both economies can be mutually beneficial," Hemo added. "As evidence, we have seen in recent months repeated visits by flagship Taiwanese companies in Israel and we expect to see an increase in cooperation and visits from the Israeli industry to Taiwan."
That assessment was shared by Simon Halperin, head of the Israeli Bureau for Economy and Culture in Taiwan.
"Taiwan has in recent years discovered Israel as a powerhouse of innovation and entrepreneurship, complementary to Taiwan's economic prowess as a world power in engineering and manufacturing," said Halperin.
The head of the bureau added, "it is no secret that Taiwan is boarding the train several years after its neighbors - technology powers and competitors in eastern Asia like Korea and Japan - since the concept of government funding for R&D for Taiwanese and foreign companies is new to this country."
Blossing ties with China as well
Chief Scientist Hasson is also to make several stops in China during his visit to Asia this month.
He is to stop in Jiangsu province to discuss the Israel-Jiangsu Program of Industrial R&D, which was started in 2008 to support joint initiatives of companies from Israel and Jiangsu to develop products and services based on technological innovation.
During the visit, a joint committee headed by the Chief Scientist will convene to discuss and approve the projects submitted according to the program. Eight joint R&D projects will be presented and the committee will then decide regarding financing of the projects.
Also in Jiangsu the China-Israel Changzhou Innovation Park in the city of Wujin in Changzhou is to be discussed - the project is to be a park for Israeli companies to foster their business in China.
Jiangsu is considered a major player in developing Chinese hi-tech and one of the leading engines of growth for the Chinese economy. It's city of Zhengzhou houses five million and boasted a GDP of $44.6 billion as of 2010.
Likewise Zhejiang province is on the docket, after an agreement was signed between it and Israel last May.
During the visit there, Hasson will meet the governor of the province and senior officials in the science and technology department. The goal of the meeting is to boost cooperation ahead of the launch of a new bi-national program of support in industrial R&D between Israel and Zhejiang.
The Governor of Zhejiang is expected to visit Israel in May to hold diplomatic and business meetings, and it to be accompanied by a delegation of companies which will come to Israel for B2B meetings with Israeli companies.
While in Zhejiang, the Chief Scientist will also visit Alibaba, the Internet retail giant which announced its first investment in Israel early this year. Alibaba invested in Visualead, an Israeli startup allowing users to create unique QR codes. Alibaba also recently decided to invest in the JVP venture capital fund.
The goal of the meeting with Alibaba is to encourage the company to open an R&D center in Israel and to offer help in scouting for Israeli technologies for investment purposes.