Korean Government Sponsors Leading-Edge, International Research and Commercialization Collaboration

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The partnership is called the Global Industry-Academia Cooperation (GIAC) program. The partners are South Korean Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs), the Korea Institute for Advancement of Technology (KIAT), the Ministry of Knowledge Economy (MKE) of Korea, and Georgia Tech (GT). EI2’s Office of Strategic Partners and Innovation Partners division collaborated to help launch this partnership.

The MKE is a branch of the South Korean government that was created to assemble traditional industrial know-how, cutting edge R&D, and strong pro-business policies. MKE is a seamlessly integrated composition of the former Ministries of Commerce, Industry and Energy; Information and Communication; and Science and Technology. This combination provides a vast array of experts to create synergies, spur innovation, and upgrade the nation’s economy. KIAT was established in May 2009 as a quasi-government institute (a public institute) under MKE to help promote Korea’s industrial development and industrial technology innovation. KIAT plays a crucial role in suggesting R&D strategies for industrial technology through systemic technology planning and policy research.

Situation

Korea has achieved a remarkably high level of economic growth over the past several decades, which has allowed the country to rise from the rubble of the Korean War into the 15th-largest economy in the world today. The economy is export-driven, with production focusing on electronics, automobiles, ships, machinery, petrochemicals, information technology, and robotics. Exports were $442 billion and imports were $400 billion in 2010, while gross domestic product was $1 trillion, and per capita gross national income was $20,759.  Korea has since soared to remarkable heights as the nation industrialized and rapidly transformed into an economic powerhouse. Now, at the doorstep of entering the world’s elite, Korea looks to its economic future and aspires to craft a vibrant, wealthy society with an increased focus on a new type of economy.

The goal of GIAC is for Georgia Tech to assist South Korean SMEs by carrying out collaborative research projects with lofty science and technology goals that, once achieved, could lead to substantive U.S. commercialization opportunities. The partnership was established to enhance the competitiveness of SMEs by helping them elevate their research and development and penetrate new international markets.

Solution

Through GIAC, a group of researchers at Georgia Tech – which may consist of faculty, students, and research staff – is mobilized to collaborate with each SME on research and development projects to advance technology. EI2 commercialization experts coach SMEs in going after U.S. markets using a “business model canvas tool”. EI2 also helps each SME with a soft landing and growth of the company in Atlanta, by coordinating with the local economic development community. Economic impact is expected in both Korea and Atlanta. Information and advances flow from each of the three elements in sequence. Since there is an intimate GT-SME team, there are efficient feedback pathways so that plans can be adjusted quickly to adapt to changing technology advancements, competition, markets, and economic conditions.

In the growth timeline for some of the larger Korean companies, their phenomenal growth started once they penetrated major international markets with their advanced technologies. Then many of these large Korean companies repeated the process over and over again, compounding their growth rate even further each time. The GIAC program aspires to put some Korean SMEs on a similar path by providing a nurturing environment to explore access to an international market, while simultaneously advancing technology for that market.

Results

Established in 2010, GIAC is currently serving five Korean SMEs. GIAC is the first-of-its-kind partnership that is being called OutlandingTM, whereby the government provides support to create a safe harbor for SMEs to undertake research and commercialization abroad in partnership with a university. OutlandingTM could be a replicable model elsewhere.

Although there are inherent uncertainties with carrying out high-risk research towards meeting ambiguous market needs, the GIAC program strives for certain outcomes and results. Results may include the production of advanced technologies inventions, and innovations created collaboratively by SME and GT that improve SME competitiveness; commercialization of research and development results by SMEs in the form of new or enhanced products that address U.S. market needs; and education and experiential learning of SME personnel on how to conduct international R&D and how to address international commercialization opportunities.

Best practices are continuing to evolve, but some that have already been identified include matchmaking events to get Georgia Tech professors talking with SME representatives; commercialization activities beginning in the first year; and application of the business canvas model as a tool for GIAC SMEs to get traction for new technologies and associated products in U.S. markets.