August 28, 2014 1:24 pm JST

Seoul earmarks $11.9B for R&D in 2015

KOICHI KATO, Nikkei staff writer

SEOUL -- South Korea's National Science and Technology Council decided to allocate a record 12.3902 trillion won ($12.3 billion), a 2.3% year-on-year increase, to R&D activities in the 2015 budget plan at the council's sixth session.

     The NSTC, which directly reports to South Korea's prime minister and is represented by both public and private members, can exert a great influence in drawing up research and development policy in the country.

     The increase in the government's R&D funding is in line with the structural shift initiative under President Park Geun-hye which aims to strengthen the technological competence of the country through public-private partnerships in a bid to catch up with global technology leaders such as the U.S. and Japan.

     The highest-ever R&D allocation will be intensively invested in basic research conducted by both individuals and institutions; development of small and midsize businesses; and research into safety measures and precautions against natural disasters. The budget to be earmarked to these areas will be raised by 4.2%, 7.4% and 13.7%, respectively.

     For basic research, the government plans to allocate 1.039 trillion won, making this the first time it has allocated an amount exceeding 1 trillion won to the area. The government wants to gradually expand the ratio of investment in basic research, to 38% of the nation's overall R&D budget in 2015 and 40% in 2017.

     The government plans to provide small and midsize businesses with financial support totaling 1.3168 trillion won to help them forge stronger alliances with the research units of innovative, global firms.

     Pursuit of more effective disaster precautions and safety measures is also urgent, as South Koreans have become increasingly conscious of such dangers in the aftermath of the devastating ferry accident in April that left more than 300 dead or missing, many of them high school students. The government aims to invest 668.5 billion won in this field.

     Furthermore, the government plans to earmark 1.0724 trillion won for the development of new sources of industrial growth, as part of a government-led program to push up the per-capita annual income to $40,000. The target figure in 2013 was $24,000. Specifically, the money will be spent on the development of gigabit-level communications infrastructure and carbon fiber as well as more sophisticated contents of video games, animation and other media.

     The South Korean government has been aggressively supporting R&D activities of large domestic firms. According to the statistics of Korea Institute of Science & Technology Evaluation and Planning quoted by Yonhap News Agency, the country's 2013 R&D budget made up the highest percentage of gross domestic product among 31 advanced nations at 1.14%, higher than those of Germany, Japan and the U.S.