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The effects of high-speed rail on innovation and developing inter-connected high-tech science landscape in Taiwan

Project Description

This PhD research project aims to examine the impacts of high-speed rail (hereafter HSR) on facilitating innovation and unpack the phenomenal clustering of knowledge spill-over across high-tech and knowledge-intensive activities and actors in Taiwan. The theory of agglomeration economies (Marshall, 1920) is still a popular model for creating science parks worldwide. In the digital age, although information and communication technology (ICT) has dramatically transformed patterns of economic development, it is widely agreed that high-tech innovation is largely generated through localized knowledge spill-overs, which means tacit knowledge requires face-to-face interaction and could not be replaced by the ICT (Storper, 2004). Meanwhile, with the dramatic time-space shrinkage, modern HSR that was first invented in Japan 50 years ago developed extensively in Japan and Europe and now expands its largest network in China is widely embraced as a key national policy in well connecting the territory and rebalancing uneven development. However, the evidence of wider HSR impacts on economic development has been mixed and, hence, the debate on this matter tends to be very contentious. One can reasonably argue that the anticipated output depends on what has transpired in the contexts because some succeed in making HSR work to their benefits while some fail.

Taiwan, a nation’s rise as a technological powerhouse, has been largely attributed to the national strategy dedicated to advancing science and technology development as a key driver of economic growth and national progress. Three major state-led science parks that take a clear shape from the beginning of the millennium facilitate innovation and collaboration among a wide range of large and small actors from public and private sectors. On the other hand, since January 2007, the arrival of HSR that remarkably reduces train time of two largest cities at two ends from 4 hours to 1.5 hours has progressively restructured regional spatial-economic fortune and transformed the travel patterns through the new concept of one-day living catchment area. Thus, admittedly, HSR is the major transport infrastructure backbone in Taiwan and the proximity of HSR stations to the high-tech science parks appears to be an attractive factor for innovation (emergence of new industries). What is the relationship between the two major strategies and how have they shaped Taiwanese economic geography and contributed to innovation and overall productivities? Little has been explored on these regards. This research intends to fill this gap and make valuable contributions with conceptual frameworks and empirical evidence to unveiling whether, to what extent and how the development of HSR and science park landscape has evolved to its current state and providing implications for the future development of transport/spatial planning and high-tech science landscape in Taiwan.

Research methodology potentially includes both quantitative and qualitative methods to answer factual (whether/what) and explanatory (how/why) questions. Firstly, scoping and longitudinal quantitative approaches could be sought to measure changes before and after the arrival of HSR services and differences among high and low HSR-accessibility science clusters. Secondly, questionnaire survey and social network analysis could be drawn on to identify the type of spill-over interactions and key factors for innovation, both face-to-face and remote modes among knowledge-intensive stakeholders. Thirdly, an in-depth qualitative investigation could be conducted to unveil the developmental processes and the relationship between HSR and high-tech science landscape formation in Taiwan.

This project is part of a four-year Dual PhD degree programme between the National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) in Taiwan and the University of Liverpool in England. As Part of the NTHU-UoL Dual PhD Award students are in the unique position of being able to gain 2 PhD awards at the end of their degree from two internationally recognised world leading Universities. As well as benefiting from a rich cultural experience, students can draw on large-scale national facilities of both countries and create a worldwide network of contacts across 2 continents.

When applying please ensure you do so for an Environmental Sciences (Lab Based) PhD, Quoting the supervisor & project title you wish to apply for and note ‘NTHU-UoL Dual Scholarship’ when asked for details of how plan to finance your studies.

For academic enquires please contact Dr Chia-Lin Chen or Dr Chan-Yuan Wong

For enquires on the application process or to find out more about the Dual programme please contact

Funding Notes

The successful candidate for the PhD scholarship will spend 2 years at NTHU, followed by 1 year at the University of Liverpool in London Campus. During the final year, the candidate can choose to work either at NTHU or the University of Liverpool in London campus.
Both the University of Liverpool and NTHU have agreed to waive the tuition fees for the duration of the project and stipend of TWD 11,000/month will be provided as a contribution to living costs (the equivalent of £280 per month when in Liverpool).

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