Mon, May 08, 2017 - Page 6 News List

EDITORIAL: New public investment initiative

The government’s months-long talk of setting up a state investment corporation to promote, manage and finance emerging industries while addressing certain industrial concerns is likely to bear fruit soon.

According to media reports last week, Premier Lin Chuan (林全) approved the appointment of former vice premier Wu Rong-i (吳榮義) as the corporation’s chairman. Lin adopted his economic policy advisers’ suggestion to have Asia Silicon Valley Development Agency chief investment officer David Weng (翁嘉盛) double as CEO of the new company.

Based on the same reports, the government is to establish a preparatory office for the new national investment corporation by the end of this month.

With initial paid-in capital of NT$250 million (US$8.28 million), the new company is to emphasize development of the so-called “five plus two” innovative industries: “green” energy, national defense, biotechnology, “smart” machinery and the Internet of Things, as well as promotion of a new agricultural paradigm and a circular economy. It will also focus on promising start-ups with valuable technologies.

The company is expected to function as a kind of management consulting firm and manage three investment funds with a total value of NT$10 billion. As the government aims to partner with private investors and business leaders in operating this new investment corporation, it is to provide less than 40 percent of the initial investment in the company, with the remaining 60 percent or more to come from the private sector.

It is now possible to piece together some facts about the national investment corporation, such as its operational model, shareholder structure and investment goals. As the government would not be the largest shareholder, it would likely be run by private-sector professionals to maximize returns and keep management flexible while minimizing bureaucratic indolence and inefficiency.

The new institution is envisioned to become a major driver of industrial innovation, transformation and technological advancement. However, several details, such as the sources of capital, supervisory mechanisms, organizational regulations and post-investment management have yet to be fleshed out.

There are still other questions and it is no wonder that some industry watchers have cast doubt on the effectiveness of the plan. For instance, as Taiwan already has a National Development Fund, which cooperates with local and foreign venture capital firms to finance Taiwanese start-ups, what would set apart the new corporation’s investment strategies and financial operations? Will there be an effective mechanism that can help coordinate the activities of the two to avoid overlapping with their investments? And will NT$10 billion be enough to achieve the goal of encouraging start-up growth?

Even so, the plan promises to help local start-ups with strong potential that lack sufficient investment and mentorship to expand their operations. It also provides an opportunity for the nation to develop talented people that have strong investment expertise and an ability to help supervise fledgling companies.

However, first the corporation will need to have a clear idea about what local industries need and what it can offer. It must also recruit a strong management team with access to potential investors.

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