The Importance of Being Adaptable

The focus on information technology was not initially envisioned in Research Triangle Park (RTP). After IBM located there and the Microelectronics Center was built, the state expected to develop a large presence of semiconductor companies. During the 1980s RTP attracted Harris Semiconductors, Mitsubishi, and a few smaller microelectronics companies. The industry then began to restructure and RTP failed to attract additional investment in the semiconductor area. It changed its recruitment strategy. It renamed the Microelectronics Center simply MCNC and added programming for information technology firms. As noted above, the state was successful in attracting major information technology companies. “Adaptability,” said Dr. Luger, “was important.”

By most standards RTP is judged to be highly successful. He showed a cluster diagram that indicated a 20 percent greater presence of information technology, communications, and software in the region than one would expect from the national averages. The location quotient has been growing at the same time these sectors have been growing nationally. On the applied side, semiconductor research is becoming the foundation of other industries, a point Dr. Knorr made earlier. So the earlier development of infrastructure to attract the semiconductor industry became useful later for attracting the two sectors that have come. He concluded with the speculation that the work of SEMATECH in helping to enhance the semiconductor industry also had impacts in related industries for many areas of the country.


Questions of Human Resources

A questioner returned to Dr. Hu to ask about the supply of human resources in S&E, and he replied that there is a shortage of engineering talent. From TSMC’s point of view, he said, it will be very difficult to sustain the company’s growth rate as projected by the government unless the supply increases. The company is supporting university programs and encouraging professors to generate more graduates, but he affirmed that, “on a large scale, there is a problem.”

Dr. Hu was also asked about the H-1B visa: Could young Chinese engineers still come to the United States, go to graduate school, gain work experience, and then return to Taiwan? Dr. Hu did not address this directly but said that most of the people TSMC attracts back from the United States are very seasoned people, many of whom are U.S. citizens. He said that the people who had visa problems working in Taiwan were the Mainland Chinese. Dr. Luger added that some parts of the United States are trying to duplicate the repatriation efforts of Taiwan. He said that Pennsylvania and Georgia both offer college loan payment exemptions to young, college-educated people to return.

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