1993 / 7月
edited by Laura Li /tr. by Phil Newell
Since becoming president of the Industrial Technology Research Institute in 1989, Dr. Otto C. C. Lin has faced a rapidly changing productive structure. His impressions are quite profound. The following is drawn from an interview with President Lin.
In the five years I have been president of the Industrial Technology Research Institute, I have felt that several projects have been most important, so I have been working on them very actively.
First, naturally, is the problem of fixing our role. Some people feel it is strange that ITRI is a government institution, as well as a corporate entity. In fact, this is already quite an improved situation, and it should be able to keep going this way. It's just that new methods will be required to keep up with changes in the times. For example, last year one third of ITRI's funding came from private enterprise (of total expenditures of NT$11.1 billion, NT$3.6 billion came through contracts signed with private firms, with government projects accounting for NT$8.1 billion). We hope to achieve a 50% ratio after two years.Get the rules of the game clear:
It won't be easy to achieve this target. Thus in the future ITRI will have to have full command of the four basic principles of industrial technology research and development: Technology should be practical and concrete (for example, though low-temperature superconductors are the hottest topic in academia, practical application is still some ways off, so ITRI has invested little in this area). It should also be guided by the market and be highly adaptable and alterable. At the same time economic efficiency must be carefully observed, for example in assessing how much value any given R&D could add for industry.
From ITRI's point of view, we of course wish we could be farther removed from manufacturing R&D--that we would do cutting-edge core research while industry would apply it in product development and mass production. But after all ITRI is a public institution, and sometimes we are forced to rein in our ambitions. After the recent contention in the Legislative Yuan over ITRI's budget and status, in the future we will adjust our methods, and ask government and private enterprise to clarify the rules of the game.
There are still several areas where the rules of the game need to be clarified. For example, though the research programs the government commissions out to us are "public property," should industry definitely be allowed to openly and freely take the technology? In fact, we've already reached a consensus on some of these issues with the Ministry of Economic Affairs, but because ITRI is established by law, it is necessary to amend the law to make changes. For example there's the Industry Development Technology Act. But because the MOEA is very busy, it cannot give this top priority in the legislative process. That's why we still have so many arguments about the position of the Institute.Why not the best?
The second area is organizational efficiency. In the past, there were too many personnel in some of the laboratories, whose functions were excessively broad and confused. For example, after I arrived, the electronics lab, with 1700 employees, was divided up into the electronics lab and the computer and information lab. Electronics are upstream products, like steel, whereas computers are downstream products, like cars, and they shouldn't be mixed together. Also, the energy and mining lab was changed to be the energy and resources lab, so that the organization at ITRI can match up better with modern industrial requirements.
Next comes administrative reform. I have set up a grading and evaluation system for personnel called the "blue form system." At the beginning of each year, each person must sit down with his or her supervisor and talk face-to-face. They write down the goals he or she hopes to accomplish in the coming year, such as how many plants to be visited, how many research reports to be written, and so on. Of course these can be amended in the course of the year, and then this form can be used at the end of the year as the basis for evaluating the annual performance.
Of course, when the blue form system began, there was some opposition because people did not know how to set targets for themselves or how to talk with their supervisors. But after three or four years of implementation, things have gradually gotten on track. It's just that ITRI requires that salaries be determined according to performance, and be kept secret. Though this goes without saying overseas, Chinese like to know how everybody else is doing and to reveal their salaries, which creates difficulties for this system.
Finally, it is inevitable that there will be set backs. And then there are cases like last year's Legislative Yuan elections, when one of our colleagues decided to run for office. Based on our mutual friendship, we assisted in the campaign, but this created a lot of misunderstanding and contention. For me it was really a painful lesson. In the future, if internally this large organization can retain coherence and become an integrated whole, and externally can remain vigorous and flexible with the ability to change methods whenever necessary, then ITRI could become even better.
Although ITRI is a corporate entity legally speaking, in fact it has many political limitations. Clarifying its status is the major responsibility of President Otto C. C. Lin. (photo by Hsueh Chi-kuang)