New research partners selected to boost South Korean industry

Companies will partner with global institutions under a government plan to speed up the development of new technologies and boost international collaboration

April 12, 2024
View of Starfield Library in Starfield COEX Mall.
Source: iStock/Jae Young Ju

South Korea will team up with six overseas universities to establish new joint research centres focusing on core technologies, including semiconductors, robots and artificial intelligence. 

The government will invest $506 million (£405 million) into the scheme over the next five years, which will connect the chosen foreign universities and research centres with Korean companies. 

Of the 30 institutions that applied for the project, six were selected by Korea in April. Five were from the US, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Yale University and Purdue University, in addition to Germany’s Fraunhofer Society. 

South Korea’s trade ministry announced the programme in January 2024 as part of a wider strategy to support innovation within Korean industry, promote international collaboration and “create excellent research results with high industrial ripple effects”.

The scheme will focus on specific technologies that cannot be feasibly developed by South Korea alone, either due to the time it would take to do so or because the intellectual property for a key technology has already been secured by another country. 

“We need to boldly pursue an innovative strategy for the bigger growth of Korean companies,” trade minister Ahn Duk-geun was reported as saying at a conference in April. “The six cooperation centres will provide all necessary support for global joint R&D projects.”

To be eligible, institutions had to detail key areas of cooperation with Korea. In its application guidelines, the ministry said it would favour plans that would allow researchers from Korean companies to work at the overseas institutions’ facilities, and projects that could include Korean academics and students as researchers.

It follows plans set out by South Korea last year to amplify its international research activities, including by increasing spending on international research collaborations by 60 per cent. The ministry said it plans to launch about 45 joint global research and development projects this year with the aim of securing 100 “next-generation foundational technologies” by 2028.

The country also recently agreed a deal to associate with the European Union’s Horizon Europe programme, which will give Korean academics access to more funding and joint research opportunities .

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