徘徊來時路——工研院廿周年

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1993 / 7月

文‧李光真 圖‧薛繼光


「我在工研院上班!」「喔,是基隆路的工研院嗎,那裡常堵車吧?」

把「財團法人工業技術研究院」當成「工業技術學院」,甚或是完全沒聽過這名稱的人不在少數。說來遺憾,這個匯集了四百多位理工科技博士、五千多位員工,並影響著全國八萬家製造業者的機構,還是藉著這次的立法院預算刪減之爭才聲名大噪。

在今年七月就將屆滿廿周年的工研院,似乎正面臨如何定位的轉捩點……。


今年五月,對工研院來說,是充滿挫折的一個月。

事情的導因是立法院在審查經濟部預算時,將科技專案經費大「砍」了廿億元,其中近十三億是經濟部原本要委託工研院進行研發的專案經費,換句話說,工研院最大的「客戶」——經濟部——如今經費拮据,自然影響工研院的收入。

難堪的是,工研院預算被刪之事傳出後,報紙上不僅少見業界聲援,反而刊出許多人對工研院的批評言論,譬如:績效不彰、與民爭利、定位不清等等。一向單純平靜,人人埋首研究的院區,驟然掀起陣陣波濤,一位研究員灰心地道出許多工研人的心聲:「我以前一直以為在工研院做事是件很光榮、可以貢獻全國產業界的事,現在才知道別人對我們的評價竟然是這樣。」

所謂「別人」,其實為數不多,大多數沈默的業者仍是肯定工研院廿年貢獻的。神達電腦公司攜帶型產品規劃處協理李銀財,談起工研院種種,頗為它叫屈。他認為,工研院對台灣產業發展,的確有指引路途的「燈塔效果」。國內最大的自動販賣機廠商、曾多次委託工研院進行合作開發的金雨企業董事長顧熾松則指出,只要廠商有心、也懂得怎麼去「挖寶」,工研院其實是很「好用」的地方。

老字號、新衝擊

實用、好用,本來就是工研院成立的目的。台灣中小企業多,每家企業人少錢少,自己無力做研發,因此政府才會以國家的力量成立工研院,希望成為產業共有共用的後勤技術支援單位。無奈廿年來宗旨不變,變的卻是整個產業環境和結構。工研院的老字號、老型態,面對劇變中的大環境,不免常有進退失據,左右為難之嘆。

以目前爭議最大,關於工研院的技術如何和產業界區隔的問題來說,工研院技術服務處推廣業務部經理王再權指出,十年前台灣廠商規模普遍很小,大多是只知「依樣畫葫蘆」的代工型態,有時候國外買主開出貨品條件要他們生產,在全無概念的情況下,業主光是拿到技術也不會用,因此工研院必須替他們把整個產品開發出來,連生產設備(往往業者買不起或是根本買不到)和製造流程也一併幫他們做出來。

時至今日,儘管有無數的小廠商依然需要工研院從頭到腳細心呵護,但另一方面,某些產業,尤其是這幾年在工研院全力扶持下快速崛起的電子業,已有不少廠商頗有大將之風,有自行研發、推出商品的能力,甚至在某些項目的研發上還足以和工研院分庭抗禮。它們對工研院的要求,自然和其他廠商有所不同。光電所所長林敏雄就坦率指出,做尖端核心研發會得罪小企業,做落實的產品開發又會得罪大企業,實在很難讓人人滿意。

液晶顯示器(LCD)就是一個例子。電子所所長邢智田指出,目前業界都認為LCD將是繼積體電路(IC)之後最重要的電子產品之一,全球相關廠商都亟欲一窺堂奧,以免未來被淘汰。國內大廠如聯華電子公司等,已有能力做某一型的液晶顯示器,因此他們不願工研院以國家的力量介入民間可以自行研發的項目、甚至做出實際的商品雛型,再轉移產業界,徒然為他們製造競爭對手、「與民爭利」。

廠商在商言商,希望利益獨佔的心態無可厚非,而「工研院就像被指派的登山隊嚮導,負責領路及探勘風險。但隊員中有腳程快的,覺得不耐煩、不服氣;遠遠落在後面的弱小隊員,卻又怕我們走得太快,放棄他們不管」,工研院院長林垂宙無奈地說。

偏偏政府站在扶植整個LCD產業的立場上,又「責成」工研院要繼續這類產品的研發,就如同十多年前工研院電子所曾主導台灣IC產業的建立,並成功帶動科學園區一樣。多元化的社會有多元化的要求,夾在中間的工研院身不由己,往往落得兩面不是人。

國家資源,有求必應?!

此外,目前工研院接受經濟部委託的所謂科技專案計畫不下四十個,算是工研院研發的主力型態。這類研發理論上是屬於公共財,所有納稅人都有權利享用,但究竟應該公平公開到哪種程度,也是一個令工研院兩難的問題,「為什麼給他不給我?」「給了我為什麼又要給他?」「為什麼做他需要的,不做我需要的?」類似的爭議永遠吵不完,每吵一次,業界彼此之間、業界和工研院間的信賴關係,就會受到一次傷害。

工研院副院長史欽泰指出,正因為工研院握有的技術資源可以變成賣錢的產品,如何把資源合理分配就成為重要關鍵。站在工研院是「公產」的觀點,它的研發自然是大家都可利用,這也是目前工研院設置條例規定的作法。但話說回來,以國內產業界一窩蜂、亂殺價且又不團結的習性,三個和尚搶水喝的結果,很可能是三個和尚都沒水喝。

這樣的例子不勝枚舉,例如三年前工研院電通所邀集廠商共同開發筆記型電腦,一下子聞風而來的廠商多達四十六家,其中有完全不曾涉入電腦這門行業的門外漢。在來者不能拒、且每家廠商只要繳一百廿餘萬元費用的情況下,結果在美國康帝克國際電腦展上,出現台灣館各家廠商,人手一部同是由工研院開發的筆記型電腦雛形機,甚且當場殺起價來的「奇景」,弄得國際市場大亂。真正有心好好做的廠商反而在不願淌渾水的情況下,忿然退出。

目前工研院的作法已有改進,如廠商若想參與專案研發,要出較高額的配合款,並制訂一些技術資格限制,以過濾「閒雜人等」。不僅如此,在研發成果的轉移上,工研院也有不少看法,譬如希望能事先評估這項技術未來的市場可能有多大、容得下多少廠商、每家應該付多少錢才能讓政府的研發經費有合理的回收,而研發專利雖屬公共財,但可允許取得廠商保有一定年限的專用權,才能給廠商基本的市場保障……。

儘管想法不少,但因為工研院的任務只是替委託它進行研發的「老板」——如經濟部等政府單位——保管研發專利,連技術移轉的收入都要全數繳交國庫,因此遊戲規則要如何修改,決定權並不在自己手上。

後勤單位,卻要衝鋒陷陣

另外,具有國際視野的大廠日益增多,他們自有許多技術引進的管道,也各有各的算盤,工研院只是他們眾多選擇中的一個,有時還不免遭到「暗算」。例子同樣不勝枚舉,譬如國內的冷氣壓縮機貨源一直控制在日本手裡,有時國內業者外銷市場開拓得不錯,卻因日方眼紅,減量抬價供應,氣得廠商只有望訂單興嘆。幾次教訓後,國內廠商都想引進技術自己生產,但一來苦無管道——日本廠商不可能把這麼重要的關鍵零組件技術輕易移轉,一方面又擔心國內的市場太小,自己生產不符合經濟效益。

在這種情況下,政府決定成立專案,責成工研院機械所引進美國技術並統合開發,開發完成後,再由民間公司接手,集資成立壓縮機廠,共產共銷,徹底擺脫日本的箝制。

策略看似不錯,進行也很順利,但就在此時,日本的壓縮機大廠東芝企業突然宣佈和國內的東元電機及台灣日光燈公司合作,在台灣設立大型壓縮機工廠。消息傳出,專案參與者不免一陣愕然。目前工研院扶持的壓縮機衍生公司——瑞智精密——仍然按照計畫進行,但強敵壓境,未來面對的將是一場苦戰。

「雖然不如預期計畫,但工研院在這個案子上算不算成功呢?當然還是算的,至少它驗證了自己的開發能力,同時傳遞一個訊息——國外廠商若是把持技術不肯轉移,工研院有辦法自己來」,經濟部中小企業處處長施顏祥指出。

從某個角度來看,國內廠商不團結,弄得本來只是替大家做後勤支援的工研院有時不僅要運籌帷幄、身先士卒,甚且身陷敵陣,付出許多心血卻得不到應有的效益。另一方面,民間廠商也認為自己早就有意尋求其他管道來取得技術並正式投入生產,而不想在工研院主導下和別的同業分享技術及市場。工研院等不及民間成功就貿然跳入,還要吃上與民爭利的罪名呢。像這樣廠商個別利益和產業整體利益的衝突爭議,又往往使得工研院夾處中間,立場尷尬。

鼓勵業界自己結網

工研院的研發,究竟應該和業界保持怎樣的「安全距離」?機械所所長劉中鴻用「進也憂,退也憂」來形容:走得太前端,業界的技術水準承接不上,市場也尚未成型,大家都興趣缺缺,工研院難免被指為「好高騖遠」;走得太近,又會與民相爭;如果不走,倘若民間業者要用卻發現工研院沒做時,又不免招來一陣怨言。時機的拿捏、研發方向的選擇,不僅考驗決策者的智慧,有時還真要碰點運氣。

劉中鴻指出,世界各國研發機構專利使用率普遍不高,許多耗費心血無數的專利乏人問津。也正因為研發風險高,國內廠商投入研發的金額比例只佔營業收入的百分之零.六八,和美日等先進國家差達數倍。許多廠商有了疑難雜症,不論是想知道自己為什麼遭到外銷退貨,或某一樣重要零件臨時缺貨,都要找工研院幫忙解決,就像把「教學醫院」當成「急診診所」,有時不禁令人啼笑皆非。

也有不少業者坦承,雖說工研院是為支援中小業者而成立,但業界總要自己慢慢長大。工研院以往是盡其所能供給業者「魚」吃,但今後除了這項任務,卻也該鼓勵業者建立自己「結網」的觀念,或多培養一些能教業者捕魚的夥伴。但這又不免牽涉到工研院的功能定位與角色扮演,同樣是兩難。

前途不在自己手裡?

劉中鴻以機械所推行多年的廠商生產自動化服務為例,以前台灣根本沒有自動化工程服務公司之類的中間廠商,機械所只得負起直接輔導各行各業廠商的重責。但全國製造業廠商總數達八萬家,機械所怎麼全力以赴,一年也頂多服務數百家,連百分之一的比例都達不到。現在機械所改以指導中間廠商為主,把他們當做種子師資,希望藉他們發揮槓桿效應,機械所則可以將省下的人力精力,投入難度更高、更有挑戰性的研發目標。

話說回來,雖然各所情況不同,但大體而言,工研院的收入中有不少是來自這種直接服務各個廠商的「工業服務」業務,這類服務以工研院的能力足可勝任愉快,工作人員又可直接感受到業者對他們的感謝,如今輔導中間廠商來分攤重擔,不啻是為自己製造競爭對手,因此員工對這種方案都不免有所疑懼。

「若是現有業務逐漸轉移出去,機械所本身的研發能力又沒有辦法『升級』,是會造成所內一千多名員工不知何去何從的困境」,劉中鴻坦承。只做研發及服務等公益事項而不能追求利潤的工研院,在既不得與民爭利,卻又必須朝自給自足、盈虧自負的目標努力,同時還要避免裁員壓力影響研發人員工作情緒等種種互相矛盾的要求下,工研人的彷徨,不難理解。

面對劇變中的產業環境及外界對工研院的諸多爭議期許,工研院的廿歲生日,需要深思,更需要鼓勵。

〔圖片說明〕

P.96

「ITRI」不僅是工研院的英文縮寫,加上「DE」,則代表它的六大信念--創新、團隊、互重、敬業、奉獻和卓越。

P.97

雖自嘲為「科學怪人」,但工研人的多才多藝,也是激發創意的一種途徑。

P.98

平靜而帶點單調,院區中少見人影走動,原本在大家都窩在各自的實驗室裡埋頭鑽研。

P.99

新近完成的國家級「次微米」實驗室,為國內第一座八吋晶圓積體電路示範廠,在無塵的要求下,工作人員需全副「武裝」才准近入。

P.99

外人常以為工研院必是男性天下,其女性員工比例達四分之一,通宵作實驗、或是下鄉訪視廠商,女性也不讓鬚眉。

P.100

開發先近技術,協助傳統產業升級輔導中小廠商,工研院是國內八萬家製造業者的技術後勤支援單位。

P.101

目前已近入第三年度的共同引擎開發,由工研院統合並引近英國蓮花汽車的技術,希望在中華民國加入「GATT」、進口車大舉入侵後,國產汽車還能有競爭能力。

P.102

埋首鑽研了一天,黃昏時刻出來舒散一下筋骨也好。

P.104

每天在台北、竹東間通勤往返的員工不在少數,為了求進步,車上的時間也不能輕易浪費。

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近期文章

EN

Looking Back Over 20 Years of ITRI

Laura Li /photos courtesy of Hsueh Chi-kuang /tr. by Christopher Hughes

"I work at the Industrial Technology Research Institute." "Oh, is it the National Taiwan Institute of Technology on Keelung Road? Aren't there always traffic jams there?"

Since the Industrial Technology Research Institute became confused with the National Taiwan Institute of Technology, there have been perhaps more than a few people who have never heard its real name. Regrettably, this gathering of more than 400 holders of doctorates in science and engineering and some 5000 employees who have had such an impact on Taiwan's 80,000 manufacturers, has only come to prominence with the battle over the swinging budget cuts made by the Legislative Yuan.

Twenty years old this July, it seems that the ITRI is now at a crucial turning point concerning how to fix its status.


As far as the ITRI is concerned, May was a month full of setbacks.

This was because when the Legislative Yuan was scrutinizing the budget put forward by the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOFA), legislators wanted to cut NT$2 billion from its science and technology budget, of which NT$1.3 billion was supposed to be set aside for research and development to be conducted by the ITRI. Such a contraction in the budget of its biggest customer would naturally influence the income of the institute.

What was hard to bear, though, was that when news of the budget cuts broke, not only was there little support from business circles to be seen in the press coverage, but there were even many people who aired criticisms of the ITRI, such as that its efficiency was not evident, its interests conflicted with those of the private sector, its status was uncertain, and so on. Usually a place where people's heads are buried in their books, the research institute was suddenly thrown into a state of confusion. One researcher dejectedly expressed the feelings of many of the ITRI's researchers when he remarked, "I had always thought that working in the institute was something to be proud of, a contribution to the nation's industry, but now I know this is what other people really think of us."

In actual fact, the "other people" are not that many in number. The silent majority of industrialists confirm the 20 years of contributions made by the ITRI. Li Ying-tsai, assistant manager of Mitac International Corp., when talking about the institute says it has been done an injustice. It is his opinion that the ITRI has been like a lighthouse leading the way on the road of Taiwan's industrial development. J.S. Ku, president of Alona, Taiwan's biggest producer of vending machines, which once commissioned the ITRI to undertake joint research and development, points out that if manufacturers just have the ambition and understand how to "dig up treasure," then the institute is in fact a very good place to use.

Old name--new problems:

Practicality and ease of use were the original aims of establishing the ITRI. Taiwan's medium and small enterprises are many, yet with few personnel and not a lot of money behind them they lack the power to under take research and development for themselves. Thus the government could only use the strength of the state to establish the ITRI, hoping that it would become the common backup and technical support unit for all manufacturing industry. This general aim has not changed over 20 years. What has changed is the overall environment and structure of manufacturing. The old name and form of the ITRI, when confronted with these great changes, could not avoid often being landed in a jam and being faced with dilemmas.

The most serious argument at the moment concerns the problem of how the technology of the ITRI is set apart from industry. Wang Tzay-chyuan, manager of the institute's technical diffusion department, points out that ten years ago the scale of Taiwan's manufacturers was generally very small, with most of them only knowing how to follow the beaten path. Sometimes foreign customers would come up with product specifications that they wanted manufacturers to produce, but even if businesses could only get hold of the technology they wouldn't know how to use it. Because of this, the ITRI had to help them research and develop complete products, often helping them with even the equipment (often the businesses were not able to buy it, or could not find it) and the manufacturing process to begin production.

Up until today there are still countless small manufacturers who naturally need the institute's careful fostering from start to finish. On the other hand, there are some industries, especially the electronics companies which have developed so rapidly in recent years with the support of the institute, where many manufacturers have reached such a size that they are able to do their own research and development and have the ability to come up with their own products. They can even compete in some areas with the ITRI. The demands that they make on the institute are naturally different from those of other manufacturers. Lin Min-shyong, general director of the institute's Opto-Electronics & Systems Laboratories, says that leading-edge core research and development upsets small businesses, while practical product development upsets the large ones, so it becomes really very hard to satisfy everybody.

Liquid crystal display (LCD) technology is an example. Hsing Chih-tien, head of the institute's Electronics Research & Service Organization, points out that at present the whole industry recognizes that LCD is one of the most important products following on from integrated circuits (IC). Manufacturers the world over are actively trying to get a look in on the leading edge to avoid going under in future. Large domestic manufacturers, such as Lienhua Electronics, already have the ability to make a kind of LCD display, which makes them unwilling to see the ITRI use the strength of the state to come into the private sector and undertake research and development. The ITRI might even come up with its own prototype, which under the principle of openness will be transferred to the manufacturing arena and create competition, thus coming into conflict with private companies.

Manufacturers talk business for business's sake, and one can't blame them for trying to get as many benefits as possible. Meanwhile, "The ITRI is like a brigade that has been assigned to take a mountain, responsible for leading the way and testing the waters. But among our members are those who are faster of foot, lacking in patience and are unwilling to submit. The weak stragglers are worried, however, that we are moving too fast and have given them up for lost," says Otto C.C. Lin, with some exasperation. Unfortunately, the government's stand is to support the whole LCD industry, and it put ITRI in charge of research and development in the field. Ten years ago, for example, when the institute's electronics laboratory led the way in establishing Taiwan's IC industry, and successfully helped in the same way as did the industrial parks. A pluralistic society has a plurality of needs, and the institute is stuck in the middle without being its own master and not being able to please anybody.

National resources--needs must be satisfied:

At present the special technology projects commissioned to the ITRI by the MOEA number around 40, which is an indication of the institute's research and development strength. In principle, this research and development is public property and all taxpayers have a right to use it. Yet just where the line should be drawn here is another one of the institute's dilemmas. "Why do you give it to him and not to me?" "If you gave it to me, why did you give it to him too?" "Why do you do what he needs, and not what I need?" Such disputes are interminable, and with every argument the relationship of trust within industry and between industry and the ITRI is damaged.

Executive vice-president of ITRI Chintay Shih points out that it is precisely because the technological resources used by the institute can become saleable commodities that the crucial problem arises of how to coordinate their fair distribution. From the point of view of the ITRI being public property, its research and development can naturally be used by anybody. This is the position that is at present fixed by the institute's founding regulations. But it is retorted that in the hornets' nest of industry, with its chaotic cutthroat pricing and customary disunity, the result of three monks struggling over a drink of water is that nobody gets any water to drink.

There are just too many cases to cite. For example, three years ago the institute's Computer and Communication Research Laboratories brought together manufacturers to jointly develop a notebook computer. As soon as the news got round, there were 46 manufacturers taking part, among whom were a number who had never before had anything to do with computers. Not being able to turn away anyone who happened to come along, and with each company only having to cough up around NT$1.2 million, the consequence was that at an international computer exhibition all the manufacturers from Taiwan had notebook computers based on the same prototype developed by the institute. The result was price slashing and chaos in the world market. Those manufacturers who had a real interest in doing quality research indignantly withdrew.

The present way in which the institute goes about its work has already undergone some changes. If manufacturers want to participate in specialized research and development they now have to come up with comparatively higher matching funds, while restrictive technical specifications are stipulated to filter out freeloaders. The institute also has many views on how the results of its work are to be transferred. They hope, for example, that there can be prior assessment of factors such as market size for certain technologies, how many manufacturers can be sustained, and how much each one should contribute to ensure that the government gets a reasonable return on its research and development budget. Moreover, although the patents on research and development are public property, there might be ways to ensure that manufacturers can have a fixed period of exclusive right on their use. Only in this way can manufacturers be given a basic market guarantee.

Although there are many ideas, because the responsibility of the institute is to carry out research and development for its commissioning boss--such as the MOEA and other government units--the guaranteeing of patents on research and development, and even income from technology transfers, will mean handing over everything to the national treasury. Thus the right to decide just how its farcical regulations are to be changed is not in the hands of the institute itself.

A backup unit goes on the offensive:

There is also a daily increase in the number of large companies with international ambitions, which have their own variety of channels for bringing in technology. All do their own sums and the ITRI is just one among many choices, and it cannot avoid being secretly undercut at times. Again, the examples are too numerous to recall. The source of domestic air conditioning compressors, for example, has always been controlled by Japanese hands. When at one time domestic enterprises made considerable distribution inroads, the Japanese got jealous and reacted by cutting the supplies and raising prices while vexed manufacturers could only look on with exasperation as their orders piled up. After many such lessons, domestic manufacturers all want to bring in technology and produce it for themselves, yet there is still no channel by which to do this. There is no way the Japanese can lightly transfer the technology for such important components while the domestic businessmen have to worry about the domestic market being too small and their own production not being economically efficient.

In this situation the government decided to set up a special project, enlisting the ITRI's Mechanical Industry Research Laboratories to bring in American technology for combined research and development. When the development was finished, hands were joined again with the private sector to establish a compressor factory, with joint production and distribution free of Japanese control.

The strategy looked to be quite good and it was carried out very smoothly. Yet it was just then that the big Japanese compressor manufacturer, Toshiba, announced it was going to cooperate with the domestic TECO Electric & Machinery company and a Taiwanese fluorescent lamp company to establish a large-scale compressor factory in Taiwan. When the news broke, the participants in the special project could not help feeling rather flabbergasted. At present the compressor company supported by the institute is still being initiated according to plan, yet with such a strong enemy it faces a bitter fight ahead.

"Although not quite as planned, could the institute's project be considered a success? Of course, the ball is still in the air. But at least the institute did prove its own research and development ability and put out the message that if foreign manufacturers will not transfer technology, then the ITRI has its own way to produce it," points out Shih Yen hsiang, director general of the Medium and Small Business Administration of the MOEA.

Looking at it from a certain angle, domestic manufacturers are not united. Originally it was only the ITRI which stood behind and supported everybody, at times not only devising strategies in the command tent and supplying foot soldiers, but even falling into the enemy ranks and expending a lot of their own energy without reaping any of the profits. On the other hand, the private sector also feels that so as to find alternative channels early on for procuring technology and properly putting it into manufacturing, they do not want to operate under the direction of the institute and share technology and the market with other enterprises. The institute itself cannot wait for private sector achievements and rashly jumps in, and has to put up with the bad name of coming into conflict with the private sector. It is in this way that the interests of individual manufacturers come to collide with the interests of manufacturing as a whole, often leaving the ITRI, which is disinterested so far as its own profits are concerned, stuck in the middle in a rather embarrassing situation.

Encouraging manufacturers to form their own networks:

What ultimately is the safe distance that must be preserved between the research and development of the ITRI and industry? C. Richard Liu, general director of the Mechanical Industry Research Laboratories at the ITRI describes it in terms of "close is a worry, far is also a worry." Go too far ahead and the technological standards of industry will not be able to cope with it, and the market will not even be formed yet. Everyone will lack interest, and ITRI will be said to have bitten off more than it could chew and if you get too close, then you come into conflict with the private sector. If you do not go along with things, but private enterprises want something that the institute has not done, then this will also bring criticism. Timing and the choice of direction for research and development are not things that only depend on the wisdom of policy makers. At times they are really just as much a matter of luck.

C. Richard Liu points out that the rate of use of patents on research and development held by institutions in countries all over the world is generally not very high, with much effort having been expended on patents that lack any appeal. And it is just because the risks of research and development are so high that the amount of investment put into it by domestic manufacturers is only about.68 percent of their annual income. Many manufacturers do have complications, though; no matter whether they want to know why they themselves have had to withdraw goods from distribution, or whether a particular important component is temporarily in short supply, all look to the institute for help. Just as when the "teaching hospital" becomes the "casualty ward," at times you just do not know whether to laugh or cry.

There are also many entrepreneurs who say that, although the ITRI was established to support small and medium businesses, they want to have some slow growth for themselves. The job of the institute was always to give entrepreneurs some "fish" to eat. But now, apart from this responsibility, the institute should also be encouraging the idea of businesses establishing their own networks, or should be raising up partners who could teach them how to catch their own fish. But this would again leave the institute faced with a dilemma over its functional position and role.

The future not in its own hands?

C. Richard Liu takes the example of the service for automation of production that has been promoted by the institute's Mechanical Industry Research Laboratories for many years now. Taiwan basically did not have any intermediary companies providing this kind of service in the past, and the MIRL could only take on the responsibility of giving direct guidance to all kinds of enterprises and industries. Yet with there being some 80,000 manufacturing enterprises in the country, no matter how much the MIRL went all out, each year it could serve several hundred companies, not even one percent of the total. Now the MIRL has changed to mainly guiding intermediary companies, making them into seeds and teaching resources in the hope that they will become effective levers saving the MIRL own more power for more difficult and challenging objectives.

However, it can also be said that although the conditions for each laboratory are different, on the whole much of the institute's income has come from providing this kind of industrial service. It makes good use of the institute's personnel, and they can also enjoy the direct gratitude of enterprises. Now with intermediary companies coming in to share these tasks, the institute is creating its own competitors, making employees inevitably skeptical about this kind of project.

"If the current services are gradually transferred out, and MIRL has no way to upgrade its own research and development abilities, this will create a sense of uncertainty about the future among the more than 1000 employees," admits C. Richard Liu. Being confined to research and development and providing services for the public interest without pursuing profits or conflicting with the interests of the private sector, the institute has to work toward the goal of being self-supporting and responsible for its own profits and losses. At the same time it has to avoid cuts in the work force affecting the work of research and development through eroding staff morale along with the demands of a host of other contradictions. The anxiety of the workers is not hard to understand.

Facing the shifting scenes of the industrial environment and in anticipation of the numerous quarrels between the institute and many who are outside it, on its twentieth birthday the ITRI deserves not only deep consideration--it even more so re quires encouragement.

[Picture Caption]

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ITRI is not only the acronym for the Industrial Technology Research Institute; if you tack on a "DE," you get the initials of the six major concepts that drive it--innovation, teamwork, respect, industriousness, dedication, and excellence.

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Although they call themselves a "scientific oddity," the variety of skills among the ITRI staff is a spur to creativity.

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Quiet and even a bit uninspired, the main area of the Institute rarely sees people strolling about; everybody has their heads buried in their respective labs.

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The newly-completed national-level "submicron lab" is the first demonstration factory in the country for wafer integrated circuits. Given the requirement of a "dust-free environment," workers can only go in "fully protected."

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Outsiders often think ITRI must be virtually all-male, but is fact women account for a quarter of the staff. And the women don't play second fiddle to the men in either research or factory visits.

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Developing advanced technology, assisting traditional industries to upgrade, and assisting small and medium enterprises, ITRI is the main technical support unit for the nation's 80,000 manufacturing enterprises.

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The common engine development program is entering its third year, employing technology purchased from Lotus of Great Britain, it is hoped that the domestic auto industry can stay competitive even after the R.O.C. enters GATT and the car import invasion begins.

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It's good to relax at dusk after a day buried in research.

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There are many employees who commute daily from Taipei to Chutung, and they don't want to waste the time they spend in transit.

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