Covid-19 sparked an unprecedented change in the way we go about international cooperation. People across the world are forced to innovate and adapt quickly to meet market demands, and digital channels are the only way to stay in touch with overseas partners. Yet, the pandemic also brought about new ways for internationally oriented organisations to look beyond the usual paths. Markets such as Taiwan are more accessible than before. Apart from reaching new destinations, digital missions enable a shift away from mass initiatives. Online missions and networking opportunities are examples of new opportunities created in the digital space. The Digital Cybersecurity Mission to Taiwan, which took place over the past months, is a prime example of this.
Taiwan has been a market of interest for the Dutch cybersecurity sector over the past years. The Taiwanese economy is characterised by a high degree of specialisation in component manufacturing, especially of technological devices. As hardware becomes smarter, the need for security is heightened. This, in combination with the increasing number of cyber-attacks, has triggered the Taiwanese government to actively support and reinforce the cybersecurity eco-system, both through regulatory reforms and economic incentives. In order to meet this demand, The Netherlands Office in Taipei joined forces with the Industrial Technology Research Institute in Taiwan, Netherlands Enterprise Agency, The Hague Security Delta and InnovationQuarter in the Netherlands. Together these parties created an online partner match-making program and a ‘call for solutions’ for cybersecurity companies.
The cybersecurity sector in the Netherlands and Taiwan each have their own strengths and by combining those strengths and creating software and hardware integrations, there is an opportunity to create synergy and a ‘total solutions’ product,
The organising partners grabbed the opportunity to re-think the program of a trade mission entirely. A major change was to switch from a large-scale show-case format to a demand-driven mission.
The online mission, which took place over the summer of 2020, consisted of a webinar series providing market information, facilitating match-making sessions and a ‘Call for Solutions’. During the partner match-making sessions, the Dutch companies were matched with Taiwanese companies that had expressed an interest in Dutch cyber technology. Afterwards, during the Call for Solutions, companies from both the Netherlands and Taiwan presented their solutions to corporates that needed solutions, creating possible new partnerships.
Marco Meyers (X-Systems) and Yuliya Pliavaka (Secura) experienced the partner match-making as positive. The match-making sessions with Taiwanese companies that had expressed a clear interest in Dutch cyber technology, was particularly valuable. This removed the initial hurdle of acquiring new contacts in a new market and highlighted the benefit of being introduced to ‘warm’ contacts. As Yuliya (Secura) explained, knowing the Taiwanese companies were actively looking for solutions made the first conversation a lot easier and effective. Through this mission, they met with relevant local companies which otherwise could have been difficult to track down.
Although a physical meeting is highly important in making international connections, a lot of time was won by creating the digital match-making space. As Marco (X-systems) notes, usually it takes about 3 days after partaking in a mission before concrete follow-up can take place. With this digital alternative, no travel time was lost and follow-up happened in unprecedented speed.
After the match-making sessions took place, the ‘call for solutions’ event enabled Dutch companies to submit a proposal and present their product to companies with an interest in innovative cyber solutions. Security challenges are often sensitive and hard to define, creating space for various possible solutions for each company. To enforce a quality match, the organising partners facilitated the problem definition and solution space. both participants expressed that the assistance from the Netherlands Office in Taipei was key in creating an effective communication space, to bridge the differences between the Taiwanese and Dutch business cultures.
Both the participants and organizers see an added value in pursuing online missions. One major advantage is that time usually spent on arranging a physical meeting is now saved, allowing for heightened attention to organizing and facilitating the right discussions and communication between participants. This way, more time is spent on the actual content of the dialogues as opposed to less essential elements.
The Dutch participants had varying levels of experiences with doing business in Taiwan. For some, this was the first glimpse into doing business in Asia. This brought about the necessary challenges with regards to the differences in business culture but also brought the opportunity to learn from participants with previous experience on the Taiwanese market.
A clear result of this process is a mutual interest of the Taiwanese and Dutch cybersecurity companies to collaborate. This digital mission provided a fresh perspective on international cooperation in times where travelling is not possible. It allowed for over 30 meetings to take place online and around 40 proposals written without anyone having stepped foot in an aeroplane. However, this experience also showed that meeting in person remains a necessary component for business deals to be closed. Until travelling abroad is possible again, the organisational partners will continue to expand digital opportunities to make use of the momentum that is happening in the cybersecurity space at the moment.
If you are interested in joining this program or to be updated on future events (also in other countries), please get in touch!