Exclusive interview: UK Department of Trade Chief Scientific Adviser Michael Short

Taiwan News spoke to Short about Taiwan-UK collaboration in Smart technology



TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The British mission to this year’s Smart Cities Summit & Expo (SCSE) was led by Dr. Michael Short, Chief Scientific Adviser for the U.K. government Department of Trade.

Short was Vice President of one of the world’s largest telephone operators, Telefonica, and holds over forty years of experience in electronics and telecommunications altogether. He now advises the U.K. on the technical aspects of trade deals and works with the country’s academic communities to boost scientific and engineering exports.

2019 marked Short’s first visit to the Taipei SCSE, but another of several missions for the U.K., who last year established a joint Innovative Industries Program with the Taiwan Industrial Technology Research Institute to foster further bilateral collaboration in several industries, including Smart technology.

In an exclusive interview, Short told Taiwan News that the U.K. will continue to consider expanding bilateral collaboration in research and innovation, and discussed some of the fields in which the U.K. mission this year hopes to secure deals.

What are some of the most exciting Smart solutions offered by the British mission at this year's summit?

As the U.K., we’ve brought 22 companies to this particular Smart City Summit. The range is quite diverse, although I would say some of the areas such as A.I. and cybersecurity are very interesting.

Thinking about data security, data sharing, the IoT—there are examples from all of those at the U.K. pavilion. These are key enablers for the Smart city of the future.

Which British-developed Smart solutions do you think can benefit Taiwan specifically?

Some of the solutions developed in the U.K. can apply to any city, but here in Taiwan, I can see some of the congestion that exists on the streets of Taipei is equally as bad as the congestion in London. Traffic monitoring solutions such as sensors, and solutions that do the visualization of intelligence based on those sensors, helping to prevent congestion, could obviously apply.

I think beyond that, [there is also] the move towards driverless cars, building better-connected cars that will support better communications to and from the car, in order to help manage that congestion.

What partnerships does the British mission hope to secure this time?

We hope partnerships can take different forms, whether it’s collaboration on research and innovation, or collaboration also in terms of trade, where buyers need sellers. I'm not yet ready to announce any, but discussions have led to some very interesting future discussions that might lead to collaborations of that sort.

Some of the companies I've seen today were not entirely in the exhibition alone, but I was very impressed with some of those in Taiwan that already do exports and partnerships with the U.K.

Some of those are in areas such as high-tech electronics and devices that support 5G, and I think that will lead towards new areas of research and collaboration.

I’m very happy to say I met with major companies such Quanta Computer and Mediatek, and I also had some meetings with policy specialists from the ministry on 5G testbed activity.

What have been some key developments in the Taiwan-U.K. ITRI partnership?

ITRI has already been working with the 5G Innovation Center at the University of Surrey. That has been a learning zone for both parties; understanding how 5G research can come into real life.

I hope the ITRI’s activities will extend further into new areas. Smart cities for example—how one can install all the equipment for a Smart city needs a lot of knowledge exchange.

There are also other areas of 5G activity that ITRI might be interested in such as rural testbeds and digital healthcare testbeds. Some of the areas of cybersecurity are likely also relevant.

I would also say the big data and A.I. story is getting a lot of attention, not just by ITRI but by many of the other players that are here.

Is the U.K. seeking further partnerships with Taiwan? If so, in which fields?

I think the U.K. has always been a global trading partner for many countries, and whatever happens with Brexit, it will continue to trade internationally—probably more so.

I think the areas [it may expand partnerships in] are research and innovation, as we have four of the leading universities globally. We also have a significant government research program that supports a lot of trials and demonstrations that everybody can learn from.

Traditionally the U.K. is more of a services economy. I think in the services arena, creative industries, some of the financial services, and some of the other sectors in which services play a part, all of that is highly relevant to Taiwan.

How have Taiwan's Smart developments benefited the U.K.?

The U.K. already uses a lot of Taiwanese equipment in a variety of telecom and I.T. areas. One of the reasons to see Quanta was to better understand their roadmap of not just PCs but also services, and some of their intentions with 5G.

We also see a lot of interest around modems for connected cars and a lot of interest around the sensors that are produced in Taiwan, so I think this high-tech nation is a good partner for the U.K.