The Institution of Higher Education STEM Fields and Women Researcher Cultivation Subsidy Program Encouraging Teachers and Students to Participate in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Fields
Artificial intelligence, information and communication technology, digital transformation, and interdisciplinary/cross-disciplinary integration—these are the recent trending keywords in Taiwan’s industrial development, and the basis for leveling up industry. In the same vein, on institution of higher education campuses with their talent, faculty, teaching, and research capacities, recent academia-industry cooperation has revolved around these topics.
For these topics, government policy support is the most important key. In 2020, the government proclaimed the 5+2 Innovative Industries Program to heavily promote six core strategic industries, including information and digital industries, cybersecurity industry, precision health industry, green and renewable energy industry, national defense and strategic industries, and strategic stockpile industries. In addition to resource support, time is of the essence when filling talent vacancies in these industries as well.
The STEM fields include four subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. To cultivate sufficient talent in information and communication technology and STEM fields, and to increase women’s interest in studying STEM fields, the Ministry of Education (MOE) in 2020 promulgated the “Ministry of Education Institution of Higher Education STEM Fields and Women Researcher Cultivation Subsidy Program” with the dual goals of guiding STEM students to continue advanced studies and enter the STEM industry, as well as encouraging institution of higher education to cultivate non-STEM students into STEM fields in order to expand talents and activate new thinking in the relevant industries.
Professor Hank Huang, Program Manager and Managing Director of the Center of Industry Accelerator and Patent Strategy at National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University, explains that there are three motivations for promoting this project: to cultivate STEM and multidisciplinary talent, to encourage female teachers and students to participate, and to integrate high schools in order to build foundation of STEM concept, “so that more students can gain an earlier understanding of future industry trends, acquire key STEM abilities, and increase their competitiveness.”
Highlights on Multidisciplinary Integration and Academia-Industry Cooperation
To cultivate more STEM field talents, the Program uses the above motivations as a thinking basis for institution of higher education to implement, each focused on a different aspect. Their first task is to organize STEM-related training, research, and career guidance programs, while at the same time encouraging non-STEM students to participate. “For this reason, multidisciplinary integration is the core spirit,” says Professor Huang.
As an example, Min-Chun Hu, Associate Professor of Computer Science at National Tsing Hua University, integrated multiple disciplinary resources at her university to establish the “XR and AI Multimedia Interactive Talent Cultivation Project.” Each project is managed by students, who have to communicate with researchers of different specialties and manage the project schedule. The purpose is to let them learn through participation. “As long as everyone respects each person’s expertise and divides the work, even non-STEM students will not be afraid to participate,” states Professor Hu.
Among all the implementation facets, “academia-industry cooperation is a key factor, especially the participation of diverse companies,” adds Professor Huang. The Program’s emphasis on academia-industry cooperation is so that students can have a clearer understanding of their future work environments, atmospheres, and required skills. Having a clearer understanding of their future influences will enable students to decide to continue in their fields, “especially for women, who are then better able to adapt at working in a traditionally male-dominated environment.”
Encouraging More Women Researchers and Students to Participate
In 2021 and 2022, the Office responsible for the “Ministry of Education the Institution of Higher Education STEM Fields and Women Researcher Cultivation Subsidy Program” held women scientist lectures and exchange activities, attracting over a hundred participants from research teams of all different fields (including non-STEM fields), a notable impact in just two years.
These attendees were all curious about how women stay in, or even lead, scientific research. These forums invited a number of women scientists to share their study and work experiences in STEM fields. At the same time, experiences exchange forums invited women leaders from all four of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields to facilitate small group discussions that answered attendees’ questions and guided them towards future development.
The MOE hopes that fostering academia-industry cooperation can strengthened the learning mechanisms and research capacities of STEM fields at universities, while also creating a welcoming environment for women to teach and conduct research so as to increase their interests in STEM fields.
Currently, the “Ministry of Education Institution of Higher Education STEM Fields and Women Researcher Cultivation Subsidy Program” has over 92 participating companies from diverse backgrounds, and a total of 1,284 participating students, among whom 813 are women, including 586 from STEM fields and 227 from non-STEM fields. This matches the goal of training students for multidisciplinary development.
Science is no longer a cold and emotionless pursuit. The promulgation of this Program has injected a current of subtle and considerable warmth into Taiwan’s STEM research and development, so that scientific development can create greater convenience for everyone, while enhancing the quality of industrial technological development.