Tech transfer in South Korea

Four of the partners in Mesopartner are at the TCI Conference in Daegu, South Korea. On the 3rd of November we all went in different directions on excursions to various clustering initiatives in the region.

I signed up for the mechatronics tour. I want to share a few observations about the technology transfer institutions that we visited.

Firstly, technology transfer into the region is focused on stretching existing enterprises. You would think this is obvious. In South Korea, the different levels of government contribute large amounts of funding to buy the latest and most modern equipment that are placed in public institutions. This technology is often identified by leading firms like Samsung. Important criteria for technology selection includes its “platform” ability, meaning that it can be used in several industries. The Koreans refer to this as “convergence”. A second criteria is that it must enable competitive products to be developed with a strong focus on exports.

Secondly, cost recovery is a low priority. At the institutions that we visited they often charge as little as 20% for the use of the latest equipment, basically recovering costs of consumables. The facilities cannot handle production orders, but are used mainly to demonstrate applications or for making prototypes. The facilities consist of open spaces, open labs and cutting edge testing facilities.

Thirdly, the institutions support smaller companies in R & D and product development, often on-site. It struck me that the institutions realized they have to “take” the technology to industry. While most of the effort is focused on new products and new enterprises, there is still on objective of helping incumbent more traditional companies to innovate.

Lastly, we visited a Creative Economy cluster initiative. It was not focused on arty projects, but on hardcore technology like making micro-robots, smartphone attachments, etc. Companies could bid for space (literally a 15m2 space in a modern office environment). There is a strong emphasis on smaller down-scaled technology applications. Entrepreneurs that are selected to join the incubator have 6 months free rent, lots of technical and market development support, and networking and exchange with other incubatees are compulsory. Large companies like Samsung, LG, etc have technicians and coaches on site (24/7) to support any enterprise on almost any topic. Thus the resources of large companies that are partnered with these centres are made available to help smaller startups.

Today the conference starts. Already I feel like I have learned enough to justify the trip from Pretoria to Deagu.

Published by

Shawn Cunningham

I am passionate about how organisations and institutions change in developing and transitioning countries. I essentially work between organisations, communities, industries and experts.

2 thoughts on “Tech transfer in South Korea”

  1. Impressive, Shawn. As much as it sounds like us at CPUT and Agrifood Tech Station, we are a lot less technolgised in terms of cutting edge equipment. Furthermore companies, especially larger ones, may pay lip sevice to the concept of open innovation and sharing, but generally are rather closed books.
    The platform concept and “micro-incubation” is something we are pushing presently. This includes small production runs and process development. Our costs recovered are also about 15 to 20% but we are now under pressure in terms of a basic state subsidy.
    I would really like to know more of the system you have seen e.g. websites, etc in order to use this as examples in local proposals.
    Larry, South Africa.

  2. I finally found time to go once again through your posts on Tech Transfer. As Larry says – impressive! I wanted to share few things, apologies for doing this only now. I find very interesting that, as you say, “institutions realized they have to “take” the technology to industry” since it would be great to see that happening in our area. It would be beneficial for enterprises (they would get advises they need and an opportunity to use resources which small and even medium ones will never be able to afford / invest in), for students (they would overcome problem with practical part of classes and works and would get an opportunity to get some of practice and present themselves to enterprises as potential future employees), for staff at faculties (they would also get an opportunity to learn and work in practice, where some kind of hidden agenda might be to bring enterprises and university closer to each other and overcome currently present reluctance (not to say fear) in communication). It might be worth discussing this a bit and maybe launching some probe when convenient. It is sometimes happening to some extent, often not institutionally but rather within consultancy arrangements some of professors have, which may be both, an advantage, but also an obstacle in efforts to institutionalize these processes…

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