The Rundown: Bicycles, SEMICON, and Google

A bi-weekly snapshot of Taiwan business news stories brought to you by CommonWealth and AmCham Taipei’s TOPICS

Bicycle Manufacturers See Major Change of Fortunes in Second Half

As markets in the West have successively reopened, skyrocketing demand for bicycles and components has left manufacturers in Asia scrambling to keep up. Orders are backed up through the end of this year, and Taiwan’s bicycle companies are unsure whether they will be able to fulfill them all in time. It is quite a change from the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, when those companies suffered losses from cancelled or postponed orders. Shares of the island’s two major brands, Giant and Merida, more than doubled in value in after demand resurged. 

Governments across the world have been promoting cycling as a safer alternative form of transportation during the COVID-19 pandemic, since riders can more easily maintain social distancing. In the U.S. and China, demand for bicycles in big cities is already outpacing supply, especially for entry-level commuter models. Bicycle shops were considered essential businesses and remained open during the lockdown in many U.S. states and in Italy, the government has provided subsidies of up to €500 (NT$17,000) on purchases of new bikes.

SEMICON Highlights Industry Developments in Post-COVID Taiwan

The 25th annual international SEMICON Taiwan conference was held at the Nangang Exhibition Center in Taipei from September 23 to 25. The “hybrid” event, which took place both online and offline, focused on topics such as advanced manufacturing process, smart manufacturing, and green manufacturing, showcasing the semiconductor industry’s latest R&D capabilities.

This year’s conference featured 15 exhibition pavilions, 19 international seminars, and five concurrent exhibitions, demonstrating the latest in 5G and AI applications. Of the bright spots at SEMICON Taiwan 2020, one was Taiwan’s post-pandemic reality in a world still heavily impacted by COVID-19. The other was the continuously warming U.S.-Taiwan relationship. 

In his opening remarks at the conference, American Institute in Taiwan Director Brent Christensen noted that Taiwan’s effective early handling of the pandemic allowed its semiconductor industry to continue to flourish despite strong headwinds. He also encouraged cooperation between Taiwan’s semiconductor industry and U.S. businesses and academia on R&D, particularly in the area of 5G infrastructure, and expressed the belief that Taiwan now has a “unique opportunity to reshape global supply chains for the betterment of the world.”

Google to Ramp up Hardware R&D in Taiwan

U.S. tech giant Google has announced plans to boost investment in its line of 5G Pixel smartphones and other smart hardware in Taiwan. The company has been pouring resources into this area for the past three years, and considers it one of its three major future growth strategies. 

Taiwan has been an important part of Google’s hardware design in recent years. Behind the scenes, Taiwan’s ICT suppliers play a critical role in the production of hardware for many of Google’s products, chief among them the company’s Chromebook notebook computer. In 2018, Google acquired Taiwanese-owned HTC’s smartphone development team, which comprised around 2,000 engineers and included R&D for smart speakers and smart headphones.