Having emerged as a major global player in the technology hardware sector, Taiwan is turning its attention to digital content. Premier Chang Chun-hsiung described it as "one of the hottest industries of the future".
Premier Chang Chun-hsiung announced this month the government would allocate NT$4.12bn (US$125m) for the development of the industry over the next five years. A target has been set to increase its production value to $18bn by 2011. An additional $600m National Development Fund will be used to encourage local and international investment in the industry, to help it meet its production value target for 2011.
The industry covers a broad spectrum of areas ranging from entertainment business to multi-media innovation and applications - digital games, computer animation, e-learning, and e-publishing.
Under the umbrella of the ministry of economic affairs, the Digital Content Institute (DCI) and Digital Content Industry Promotion Office (DCIPO) have worked together to develop the various sectors. At the end of 2006, according to the DCIPO, the industry was worth $10.34bn, representing a 17% increase year-on-year. The government-funded DCI was set up in 2003 as a training centre for animators, game designers and programmers. The institute is located in Nankang Software Park, Taiwan's first industrial park exclusively designed for the software industry.
Animated film and digital game development and production projects are being particularly targeted in the latest government drive, with $41m of the total government investment being allotted to subsidise 60 local projects in these areas.
Jenny Wu, creative director at animation and digital content developers TVbean told OBG that the bill would provide "another push" for the industry.
Wu said that in the past few years, Taiwan government has endeavoured to support animation original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) develop into original content providers.
"The government realised that the value of OEM in Taiwan is no longer profitable in the face of cheaper prices and lower costs in China. In the past few years, the government acknowledged the need to emphasise art and design, and to boost talent for "original" content creators," Wu told OBG.
Wu went on to explain that with months of pre-production without any income, companies could not survive without government support. TVBean provides a good example of this trend.
"Back then, when we were trying to find investors, but were running out of money quickly. Government funding came just in time to keep us 'alive'. Without the government's help, we wouldn't have come this far," Wu told OBG.
TVbean went on to score a first by drawing international investment from the US, Japan and Canada for its original concept for "PandaMonium", an animated cartoon that was shown in Taiwan, Japan, China, Hong Kong, and Canada.
To date Taiwan has enjoyed a strong reputation as an outsourcer of animated productions, as demonstrated by its successful partnerships with heavyweights such as Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks. TVbean's PandaMonium is the kind of success story the government would like to replicate. To this end, its aims to encourage local animation houses to produce original animated content capable of breaking into international markets, thereby creating job opportunities.
Wu stressed the need for Taiwan animation companies to expand beyond Taiwan's borders, to expose their projects to foreign buyers, expanding their business opportunities. "The economy is not good, investors are very conservative, only with the help of the government can digital content last. In the future, we will need to make this industry profitable and turn it into a major business player," she said.