TAIPEI: Taipei and Taoyuan cities in Taiwan are equipped with artificial visual sensors that see threats ahead and warn the drivers of them. The technology was created by Mobileye, an Israeli firm. It is the most prominent example of cooperation in high technology between Taiwan and Israel.
“Mobileye is the leading company in its field in the world,” said Asher Yarden, representative of the Israel Economic and cultural office in Taiwan. “It improves security for the vehicle and the driver and cuts the costs of insurance.” In May 2017, Intel paid US$15.3 billion to acquire Mobileye, the most expensive acquisition ever of an Israeli high-tech company.
The man who sold the Mobileye system to the Taipei and Taoyuan city governments was Edward Wen, secretary-general of the Taiwan Israel Chamber of Commerce, set up in 2011. He is responsible for selling the product in the Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia markets.
“Israel and Taiwan are complementary to each other,” said Wen. “Israel is most famous for innovation and we are short of it. We have been used to OEM (Original Equipment Manufacture – making goods for another company). This is a good model for cooperation. Israel does not have mass production. Asia has big markets.”
Wen said that Taiwan firms had been slower than Chinese entities in investing in Israel, especially in start-ups. “Chinese venture capital (VC) is braver and faster than Taiwan VC. It is prepared to take more risks. Taiwan VC invested in OEM, which carried no risk. Now our venture capital is looking where to invest. The rate of return from Israeli start-ups is the highest in the world.”
Since World War Two, Taiwan companies have focused on their biggest export markets – Japan, the United States and the European Union. These are the countries with which they are most familiar. Israel is a new market for them. Each year Wen’s chamber takes delegations of Taiwan companies to Israel to familiarize them with the country and its investment opportunities.
In 2016, bilateral trade came to US$1.59 billion, a 15.6 percent increase over 2015. Of the total, Taiwan imported US$929 million worth of Israeli goods and exported US$629 million to Israel—mainly electronics, computers, car parts, motorcycles and bicycles. Taiwan motorcycles made by Sanyang and Kymco have a substantial share of the Israeli market.
Taiwan firms have invested about US$200-300 million in Israel. Two companies have set up research and development centers there. They are Hiwin, based in Taichong, one of the island’s biggest makers of robots; and Winbond Electronics, which produces semiconductors and several types of integrated circuits, including personal computer ICs.
Winbond is the largest brand name integrated circuit supplier in Taiwan and one of the biggest suppliers of semiconductor solutions worldwide.
As for Hiwin, it spends 10 percent of its annual revenue on R&D, and has research centers in Germany, Japan, Russia and Israel, as well as in Taiwan, according to a company statement.