Microsoft launches artificial intelligence research hub in Taiwan

Hopes that AI will transform the island's tech and industrial sectors

Microsoft is investing 1 billion New Taiwan dollars (USD 33 million) to create an artificial intelligence (AI) research and development (R&D) hub in Taiwan, which the government predicts will help transform the island’s tech and industrial sectors.

“Taiwan is known as a world-leading manufacturing hub. This gives the island the right environment to push forward with AI and expand its R&D capabilities,” said Ken Sun, General Manager of Microsoft Taiwan. “Its education system has cultivated a large and outstanding talent pool in mathematics, engineering, and the sciences. Microsoft’s vision is to democratize AI so that every individual and every organization can apply AI and benefit from AI capabilities.”

Left: Ken Sun, GM of Microsoft Taiwan. Right: David Ku, Microsoft Corporate Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Of Microsoft’s AI and Research Group

Details of the center were outlined by Microsoft and Taiwanese government officials at a ceremony in Taipei this week. The center will employ a research team of 100 over the next two years, doubling to 200 within five years.

David Ku, Corporate Vice President at Microsoft and Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft’s AI and Research Group, said the company is collaborating on AI research with a range of Taiwanese bodies, including the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), and the Ministry of Education (MOE). It is also working with industries, academia and research institutions.

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“The R&D center aims to develop AI core technologies, with a focus on Intelligent Input, Audience Intent Recognition, and AI Vertical Industrial Integration,” said Ku who also heads Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence Core Group.

Taiwan’s Premier William Lai said the center would boost the island’s industrial transformation efforts. “Taiwan cannot afford to miss out on this fantastic opportunity,” he said. “The government appreciates Microsoft’s decision to set up an AI R&D Center in Taiwan.”

He said the government would invest a total of 16 billion New Taiwan dollars (USD 540 million) over the next five years in AI research. “This will allow us to build a smart economy and envision a better environment for people,” he said.

Left: William Lai, Taiwan’s Premier. Right: Jong-chin Shen, Minister of Economic Affairs

Minister of Economic Affairs Jong-chin Shen said: “The center will help build an AI ecosystem for Taiwanese industries to produce better products and services.”

The Microsoft AI R&D Center is the latest development in a series of research projects by the company in Taiwan. Last December, Microsoft built a strategic partnership with the National Applied Research Laboratories (NARLabs) under the MOST. And in September, Microsoft launched an AI Talent Cultivation Project in partnership with the Taipei Medical University. In May, Microsoft worked with the Institute for Information Industry (III) to set up the Microsoft Professional Program (MPP) for Data Scientists. Microsoft is to start a campus recruitment tour between March and April in 2018.

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(From left) Microsoft Taiwan General Manager, Ken Sun; CEO of Microsoft AI R&D Center, Michael Chang; Microsoft Corporate Vice President David Ku; and Microsoft Taiwan COO Jason Tsao
Launching Ceremony: Taiwan Premier Lai (third from left) shakes hands with Microsoft Corporate Vice President David Ku.