Technology Hub at Center of Northeast Asia
Korea IT Times
Thursday, December 10th, 2009
EMANUEL YI PASTREICH
Korea is an understated country. Maybe that is the reason why one of Asia’s most active research and development clusters nestled away in Daedeok Valley has not received the attention internationally of a Silicon Valley. Perhaps the researchers here are simply too busy doing their research in the Korean workaholic style to step back and think about how to publicize their abroad. Or perhaps Koreans still imagine themselves as lagging behind the more “advanced” nations of the world. But in this age wherein Samsung and Hyundai have become global players across multiple fields, and Korea’s leading edge in ship building, mobile communications and steel production draws attention, Daedeok Valley is also stepping into the spot light.
When Korean President Park Jung-hee started construction on the science park back in 1974, he had a clear purpose: moving the research centers of Korea, then just starting on the road to high-tech stardom, down to Daedeok Valley in Daejeon far away from North Korea and the dangerous DMZ. But his advisors also had come to believe that the concentration of research institutes in this scenic region would create the mutual stimulation would benefit everyone. Since then the research community has expanded rapidly, with now close to 8,000 Ph.D.s in the sciences working in the valleys between the green hills of Daejeon. In fact many researchers have become so accustomed to the Daedeok environment that they have no particular desire to move.
Most clusters in Asia are new and therefore their roots are rather shallow. Shenzhen or Malaysia’s research corridor simply lack the long term institutional maturity to conduct advanced research. Daedeok is quite a different story. Here we find considerable flexibility and innovation, but at the same time sufficient continuity to support a broad research and development effort.
The Daedeok Innopolis ecosystem can be conceived of as six overlapping rings: universities (dominated by KAIST and Chungnam National University), research institutes, government and government-invested institutions, corporate research institutes and venture corporations. The mutual stimulation and cooperation between these six different communities produces remarkable innovation and commercialization of available technologies. When the Boston Consulting Group released recently a list of nations leading in innovation, Korea was ranked number two, just below Singapore. Daedeok Innopolis stands on the front line of Asian innovation, setting the pace for Asia and the world.
Japan’s Tsukuba Science town is the only other cluster
Among Daedeok Innopolis’ universities KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) is considered the top technical university in Korea and one of a handful with global reach in East Asia. Strong fields at KAIST include computer science, electrical and nuclear engineering, mechanical design, chemistry and telecommunications. The national university Chungnam University also plays a central role in those fields, but brings also focused expertise in biotechnology, medicine and the agricultural sciences. These universities are complemented by such outstanding universities as Hanbat University (a leader in IT), Pai Chai University, Hannam University, Mokwon University and Woosong University.
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology
Research institutes in Daedeok include the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology (KRIBB), the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI), Electronic and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), National Fusion Research Institute, National Nanofab Center, Korean Basic Science Research Institute, Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials, Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology, Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information, Korea Research Institute of Standards and Science, Marine and Ocean Engineering Research Institute, Institute for information Technology Advancement, Korea Institute of Geosciences and Mineral Resources, Korea Institute of Energy Research, Agency for Defense Development, Korea Institute of Toxicology, Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine, Korea Institute of Nuclear Non-proliferation and Control, National Institute for Mathematical Sciences, Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety and the National Security Research Institute. Among the outstanding technology produced in Daedeok are ETRI’s wireless communications systems CDMA, WIBRO & DMB, KRIBB’s nano biochips, KARI’s KOMPSTAT satellites and NFRI’s KSTAR nuclear fusion reactor.
Daedeok is also home to twenty-one corporate research centers with global reach surrounded by an equal number at smaller firms. Some of the notable corporate research centers are Dongbu Advanced Research Institute, (biotechnology, microorganisms and agrichemicals), GS-Caltex Value Creation Center (environmentally friendly products including substitutes for oil), Hanwha Chemical Research (biotechnology, electronics materials, catalysts & nanotechnology), Honam Petrochemical Daeduk Research Institute (synthetic chemistry & petrochemicals), LG Chemical LTD. Research Park (Lithium Ion Battery & Polymer Battery Development), Samyang R&D Center (medical Research and electronics) and SK Institute of Technology (petroleum-related research).
Also such public corporation research institutes as Korea Electric Power Research Institute (hydroelectric projects and nuclear energy), Korea Institute of Construction Materials (authorized test agency for construction materials), Korea Institute of Aerospace Technology (aerospace design, satellites, launch technologies) are also part of the Daedeok ecosystem.
The cross-fertilization between research fields in Daedeok encourages innovation and collaboration. Over the last 15 years, venture companies have sprung up like mushrooms after a spring rain, numbering over 800 at last count. Some of those companies have gone on to become major players and others are coming of age today.
Daedeok is often referred to as the “Silicon Valley of Asia” but this analogy risks obscuring the full range of technologies available here. The engine driving Daedeok is the organic circulation of ideas about technology and business between policy makers, researchers and businessmen working in the fields of telecommunications, nanofabrication, biotechnology, water, nuclear and hydro power, nuclear fusion, design, measurement technologies, mechanical engineering, fuel cells, aeronautics, new materials, robotics, new drugs and environmental technologies. Daedeok is exceptionally well endowed in all these fields and is expanding its international ties rapidly. Daedeok Innopolis’ membership includes 898 corporations, 35 government invested and sponsored institutions; 6 universities; 15 public organizations.
Moreover, comparison to Silicon Valley con be quite misleading. Daedeok is far more diverse and ecosystem than simply IT. For example, Daedeok is a world leader in nuclear power with outstanding
Daedeok Innopolis refers to the remarkable collection of R&D centers and venture companies that have congregated in the green hills of Daedeok Valley, north of the city of Daejeon in the Republic of Korea. The research institutes and the venture companies constitute one of Asia’s top innovation clusters for technology. Daedeok Innopolis derives its power it ability to effectively innovate, an organic and fluid ecosystem for creativity . The research institutes and universities in Daedeok Valley have spun off multiple start-ups and continue to do so at a remarkable pace. Unlike many other clusters one hears about, Korea has invested heavily in building up both the research expertise for over thirty years, creating long-term research programs of scale and depth. There are over seven thousand with Ph.Ds in the sciences in Daedeok and state-of-the-art infrastructure is in place that enables Daedeok to play a leading role in the world. That gives Daedeok the depth and the institutional continuity to conduct first-class research.
Intekplus’s semiconductor package inspection systems, Hanool Robotics’s remarkable cleaning robots, Menix Corporation’s mobile security systems, RayCan’s next generation lasers and ABC NanoTech’s ceramic nano powder are just some of the products produced by the startlingly diverse panoply of venture companies that thrive in the ecosystem surrounding KAIST, Chungnam University, and the government and corporate research institutes.
The city supports one of the fastest developing business communities with a strong emphasis on technological innovation. The recently opened Daedeok Techno Valley on the north side of town brings together research with light manufacturing to create a unique environment for R&D. The universities and research institutes have set up venture firms here to explore new applications of their technologies. More recently, Daejeon’s ACTS (Agency of Advanced Cultural Technologies and Services) has become a Mecca for multimedia entertainment and film.
Daedeok Innopolis has a Business Hub Center to provide one-stob service for possible investors with special facilities for international firms and joint R&D, and plans a Technology Convergence Center and Foreign Investment Complex in the near future.