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Monday, November 23, 2009

South Korea to Invest 5 Percent of GDP in R&D

Originally posted at the Breakthrough Institute

The government of South Korea has announced a plan to increase investments in research and development (R&D) to 5 percent of the nation's GDP by the year 2012, according to an article by Nature News. The new goal, unveiled by South Korea's Ministry of Knowledge Economy on Monday, would channel funds to a number of priority sectors, including information technology, energy and environmentally-related technology, nanotechnology, and biotechnology.

According to the article, experts expect "green technology" to benefit most from the government's new plans, as energy and environmental issues have become a major focus of South Korean President Myung-bak Lee's young administration.

Indeed, South Korea is dramatically increasing government investments in a suite of clean energy technologies in order to boost its competitiveness in the global clean energy industry. According to a new report by the Breakthrough Institute and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), "Rising Tigers, Sleeping Giant," South Korea is planning to invest $46 billion over the next five years--a full one percent of the nation's GDP each year--in clean energy technology R&D, manufacturing, and deployment.

South Korea's government views R&D investment as critical to making Korean industries more competitive globally, according to Oh Se-Jung, a physicist at Seoul National University who was interviewed by Nature News:

"The government considers R&D the only way to achieve international competitiveness at this stage"

The new R&D investment plan is meant to bolster some of South Korea's most powerful industries in order to make them more competitive and reduce their reliance on imported parts and materials from other nations, especially Japan.

According to Yu Young Moon, a materials science researcher at the Korea Photonics Technology Institute,

"The major trade imbalance between Korea and Japan comes from parts and materials. Eventually we would like to supply Korean-made parts and materials to Korean companies."

In July, South Korea announced plans to more than double its current public investments in energy R&D to $1.3 billion per year from 2009 to 2013.

As a share of each nation's GDP, both South Korea and Japan already invest double the amount of funds in energy R&D as the United States, according to the Breakthrough Institute/ITIF report.

While the United States has historically been one of the most innovative nations in the world, South Korea's recent announcement is one more indication that the United States' Asian competitors are moving aggressively to close the innovation gap. By making direct, strategic investments, particularly in the clean energy sector, South Korea is enhancing its ability to compete in one of the next great growth sectors of the 21st century.

In order for the United States to remain competitive its leaders must not ignore the gathering innovation consensus and dramatically increase federal investment in clean energy R&D. Without substantial investments of its own in clean technology research and development, the United States may find itself out-innovated, out-competed, and out-matched in the global clean energy race.

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