TAIPAN is a spectroscopic instrument designed for the UK Schmidt Telescope at the Australian Astronomical Observatory. In addition to undertaking the TAIPAN survey, it will serve as a prototype for the MANIFEST fibre positioner system for the future Giant Magellan Telescope. The design for TAIPAN incorporates up to 300 optical fibres situated within independently-controlled robotic positioners known as Starbugs, allowing precise parallel positioning of every fibre, thus significantly reducing instrument configuration time and increasing observing time. We describe the design of the TAIPAN instrument system, as well as the science that will be accomplished by the TAIPAN survey. We also highlight results from the on-sky tests performed in May 2014 with Starbugs on the UK Schmidt Telescope and briefly introduce the role that Starbugs will play in MANIFEST.