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Mayor Attends AI and Blockchain Summit, Touts 22 Startup Hubs

Mayor speaking at the AI and Blockchain SummitOn January 6, Mayor Ko Wen-je attended the 4th Hit AI and Blockchain Summit in Taipei and presented awards to upcoming talents in the field. During his speech, he explained that the city government invites industry players to submit innovative proposals to challenge scenarios twice a year, as well as touting plans to set up 22 startup hubs to encourage innovative startups to establish roots in Taipei.
Ko pointed out that the information and communication technology (ICT) is an important industry for both Taipei and Taiwan. As for how the government can assist the further development of the sector, he cited public-private partnership as an answer. He believes that the industry understands the market better than the government, and the public sector is neither the manager nor the leader of the private sector. He believes the best role for the City is to serve as a platform, allowing industries and individuals to fully exercise their innovation through this medium.
According to the mayor, the two keys are Taipei Smart City Project Management Office (TPMO) and “buying service”. Through the TPMO, the entire city opens up to innovations as a living lab where proof of concepts can be tested. However, the problem with this approach was discovered several years into implementation – many proposed projects failed to achieve anticipated impact after being introduced to the market.
The mayor remarked that the annual budget of city hall usually falls between NT$160 billion and NT$170 billion, making it a major buyer in Taiwan. Therefore, after discussing with Taipei Computer Association, the city government decided that it will set forth issues that need to be resolved and invite industries to propose solutions twice a year. He cited the first example of this approach – the procurement of interior space air-conditioning upgrade for the Taipei Flower Wholesale Market in Neihu with a budget of NT$60 million. The deal is not simply buying AC machine, but the acquisition of a comprehensive and smart air-conditioning solution. The solution provider has to handle every aspect of cooling implementation – from automated door design to green plant placement to ventilation mechanism.   
Without natural resources such as mines or petroleum, Ko believes that Taiwan’s competitiveness lies with innovation. That is why city hall came up with plans to set up 22 startup hubs, among which 14 centers are now in operation. The immediate goal is to retain the pace of inaugurating 1 to 2 new hub every year. Ko mentioned the new Light Work startup hub in Neihu, which is the largest incubation center in northern Taiwan and operated by the highly reputable Industrial Technology Research Institute.