Interview with President of the Korean Institute for the Advancement of Technology Yong-Geun Kim
date of publication > 26-April-2013
Mr. Yong-Geun Kim is the President of Korea Institute for the Advancement of Technology (KIAT), host of the Korean EUREKA office. On the eve of the 4th KOREA EUREKA DAY taking place in Istanbul on May 28-30, he accepted to talk openly about the future of Korean-European collaboration and the role played by the EUREKA network in fostering the global competitiveness of Korea’s most innovative companies.
From your experience, how vital is it for companies in both Europe and Asia to invest more in research and development (R&D)?
Korea’s emergence from past recessions is the direct result of structural reforms and increased spending on innovation, education and R&D. This has highlighted the fact that technological innovation is central to the ability to maintain a sustainable and prosperous economy. Korea considers scientific R&D the main mechanism for the country’s growth and a primary survival method in our highly competitive world.
In order to maintain a competitive advantage in dynamic markets, companies are compelled to continuously create innovative products and services. Moreover, there is a strong understanding that such innovation can no longer take place purely within the borders of a single country. International cooperation must be sought for the generation of the most advanced ideas, technologies and products.
How can governments best serve the interest of companies in this regard?
Assisting organisations in leveraging the power of transnational innovation and entering global markets has become a primary endeavour of KIAT under the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE). We feel that the government can best serve organisations by implementing mechanisms designed to establish an infrastructure they can use to build a stable economic foundation and progress into additional markets.
Such support mechanisms include, but are not limited to, domestic public-private partnership (PPP), and matchmaking and brokerage events to build social infrastructures. Educational programmes designed to improve the number and quality of engineering and technology students, and government funding to support Korean involvement in international innovation networks like EUREKA.
Could you tell us more about the role EUREKA can play to support the Korean small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) sector?
In Korea SMEs employ a majority of the national labor force, and will be one of the main drivers of future employment and GDP growth. Given the fact the Korea relies heavily on trade, supporting SME’s globalisation is vital to foster their role in economic expansion and diversification. Thus, KIAT is thriving to development mechanisms to increase their competitiveness.
EUREKA and the Eurostars programme have proven to be effective systems for SMEs given their market-oriented approach to innovation and short project duration. They allow for organisations to expand professional networks, share the inherent risk of R&D and existing know-how, and develop new products and services necessary to access new markets.
What are Korean partners looking for in European partners in terms of support and technologies?
Due to Korea’s advancement in such fields as ICT, automobiles and shipbuilding, it is being openly sought out by other countries and for collaborative EUREKA projects. Furthermore, we are witnessing an increase in interest from Korean businesses and academia in locating complementary expertise for innovative ventures and exciting new research.
The current interest from both Korean and European organisations elicits an environment that is conducive for maximizing the synergy of Korea’s commercialisation capabilities and European well-renown innovation in basic sciences. Essentially, Korean organisations are looking for European partners who are leaders in their respective technology field and possess an infrastructure, network, and sufficient labor to bring collaborative R&D innovation to fruition.
How easy is it for EU and Korean researchers to collaborate on R&D&I projects?
Like with many international collaborative endeavours, partnerships between Korean and European organisations begin with enthusiasm and ambition but are comforted with many challenges. Some of which are cultural and linguistic barriers, incongruence in government R&D policies, lack of flexibility of funding programmes, shallow involvement and inexperience in established networks, and researchers’ uncertainty regarding overseas multilateral research projects.
Both Korea and Europe have maintained the belief in our collaborative potential. With the cooperation on policy instruments, reform of research structures, adaptation to international research standards, and further participation in the development of new funding instruments, I foresee an even more consolidated and efficient innovation environment between Korea and Europe.
Evidence of our collaborative perseverance can be found in the Amendment of the Hanover Declaration which established the new 1+1 participation rule. Such regulatory reform improves the flexibility, accessibility, and expansion of transnational R&D networks. Since it was enacted in June 2012, Korean organisations have shown a greater interest in using EUREKA as a gateway to Korea-European innovation, resulting in an increase in the number and quality of project proposals.
In which direction do you see Korean innovation going in the future and which technologies would you like to see more pursued?
In terms of specific technology support, Korea will remain open to all high quality bottom-up driven research. However, as in Europe, we understand the great importance being placed on tackling the grand social challenges so we expect to see an increase in programmes and projects related to green technology, biotechnology, and energy related technologies. Moreover, Korea expects to maintain its status as one of the most advanced countries in ICT, thus an increase in project submissions in this field can be expected.
My hope is to see KIAT firmly establish Korea as a global leader in the industrial technology ecosystem and an active stakeholder for the international support of innovation. Our aim is to raise Korea’s global competitiveness by supporting and championing the best new concepts and in turn to see this knowledge commercialised into successful new technologies and products.