OECD Reviews of Innovation Policy: Korea 2009

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This report assesses the current status of Korea’s innovation system and policies, and identifies where and how the government should focus its efforts to improve the country’s innovation capabilities. It finds that Korea has one of the highest rates of spending on R&D in the world, much of which is performed by private firms. It also has a highly educated labour force – as signalled by its impressive PISA performance and exceptionally high rates of tertiary level graduation – with a strong interest in science and technology.

However, a number of bottlenecks persist that hamper Korea’s economic convergence with the leading OECD economies. These include a relatively weak SME sector and weak performance in services, as well as lagging capacities to conduct leading-edge research in many areas. Furthermore, Korea faces numerous threats in the mid term, notably increased levels of competition from China and other newly-industrialising economies, the lowest fertility rate in the OECD and an ageing society, and a continuing high dependency on imports of natural resources, particularly hydrocarbons. In the shorter term, the economic crisis offers its own challenges, with the need for some policy adjustments to deal with expected falls in business investment in R&D and growing levels of unemployment among the highly skilled.



Main Features of the Innovation System

This chapter describes the key actors in the Korean innovation system. It begins with an account of the role and performance of large national firms, in many respects the main players in Korean innovation. It then considers the role and performance of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), an increasingly important sector for Korean innovation performance. It then turns to public-sector actors, starting with government research institutes (GRIs), which have played a crucial role in Korea’s ability to move into hightechnology sectors. Next, it considers Korean universities, which have played a modest though increasingly important role in research, but have been crucial for the mass education of young Korean adults. In terms of a key factor, human resources for science, technology and innovation, the chapter looks at the demand for skills and examines how overall arrangements for education and training are geared to meeting this demand. Finally, it discusses linkages between the various actors in the system with a view to assessing their strengths and overall coherence.


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