Before heading DCB from 2010 to 2014, Lee helped found ITRI’s Biomedical Technology and Device Research Laboratories. He also served as president of the Hsinchu-headquartered institute from 2003 to 2010. These days, Lee is president of Taipei-based Taiwan Bio Industry Organization (TBIO). Established in 1989, the group comprises around 130 companies and government-supported R&D organizations such as Agricultural Technology Research Institute in Hsinchu City, DCB, ITRI, and National Health Research Institutes in northern Taiwan’s Miaoli County.
According to Lee, while initial membership was chiefly composed of food additive-makers producing monosodium glutamate, or MSG, using bacterial fermentation techniques, current members encompass the green, agricultural; red, health; and white, environmentally related sectors. “Taiwan ramped up biotech and semiconductor development around the same time in the 1980s,” he said, adding that while the latter matured globally in a relatively short period, the former is still in its infancy at home and abroad.
Su sees the potential-laden sector as finally ready for blastoff. Its more than 100 biotech companies, up from less than 40 in the late 2000s, listed on bourses and over-the-counter markets boast sales revenue exceeding NT$200 billion (US$6.7 billion). “Stock market value of these firms is NT$1 trillion [US$33.3 billion] and set to climb higher as they fulfill their promise,” he said.
Similarly bullish on the industry’s prospects, Lee is busy cooperating with the government in identifying areas where significant gains can be made. Part of this undertaking involves the TBIO-staged BioTaiwan trade show, which attracted around 600 local and foreign companies from 19 countries and territories displaying wares at 1,310 booths last year. The 2018 edition of the annual expo takes place in July at Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center.
Other activities held on the sidelines of the show include BioBusiness Asia Conference, bringing together corporate executives, investors and scholars from around Asia, especially those from member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. For Su, a keynote speaker at the event, the massive population of this market glitters with allure for Taiwan firms. “The future is on our doorstep,” he said. “Patience and more hard work are all that’s required to bring home the bacon.”