Protecting Children’s Health Using Virtual Sports
As a parent of a child attending elementary school, I feel it is becoming increasingly difficult for children to pursue outdoor sports activities. I usually played with my child outdoors during the spring and fall, but now, I often abandon the idea due to the fine and yellow dust blowing in from China. The threat of COVID-19 has also contributed to this decision. Virtual reality-based indoor sports activities have emerged as an alternative solution, because children can participate in them regardless of external circumstances. Once children are familiar with the experience of playing virtual games, they can improve their physical strength. And using empty classrooms, which are increasing in number due to the decline in the school-age population, for this purpose would be like killing two birds with one stone. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Korea Sports Promotion Foundation have already developed a “virtual reality sports room,” and have been steadily setting it up in elementary schools over the past few years. Several users can simultaneously participate in ball-based activities in one or two classrooms with the help of projection screens and wall touch sensors. The Korea Sports Promotion Foundation has set up virtual reality sports rooms in 361 elementary schools since 2016, with plans to scale the project up by 100 more schools this year. This project was selected as one of the “Top 100 Excellent Achievements in National R&D” in 2019. The virtual reality sports room is a rare innovation, and Korea, an information technology powerhouse, is leading the way. Korea is currently preparing to standardize virtual reality sports facilities at every school and establish a 5G-based content integration platform to enable the use of more than 200 different kinds of content. This is expected to reduce the development costs for content producers and increase satisfaction for teachers and students alike. “Peloton,” the company responsible for this innovation, has attained unicorn status and gained the market reputation of being the “Netflix of the fitness industry.” And exercise games that use glasses-type monitors, such as Oculus Quest, are gaining popularity in the single-person virtual reality market. Under these circumstances, a new model for physical education can be realized by linking individual single-person virtual reality sports platforms with a school’s virtual reality sports room. For example, if the physical strength data of students measured at home during a baseball class is linked to the virtual reality sports room, each student can then throw a ball at a different speed which corresponds to his or her measured strength. Korea is striving to improve virtual reality sports rooms and provide high-quality content through standardization and platformization. I hope that the world’s best virtual reality sports technology will improve the health and physical strength of future generations.？
In Need of a “Renewal of Perspective” in the Era of Transition
These days, the term "transition" is frequently used in the media. The expression, “great transition,” is used for further emphasis. Phrases related to transition, such as “capitalist transition,” “civi l ization transition,” and “wealth transition” abound in the aisles of bookstores. What is the rationale for using the term “transition,” defined in the dictionary as “changing the condition or direction of,” instead of terms like development, progress, or innovation? It may be due to the perception that our society is at a crossroads in this chaotic era aggravated by COVID-19. Or, perhaps, the bigger reason is the element of “sustainability.” For a long period of time, development and innovation in the fields of science and industry have shown a tendency to progress through the annihilation of existing systems. Thomas Kuhn and Joseph Schumpeter referred to this process as “scientific revolutions” and “creative destruction,” respectively. Any phenomenon which is unexplained by existing science is transformed by the emergence of new theories. However, the term “transition” seems to retain the spirit of complementary progress, rather than confrontational development with the existing system. Mankind has a history of great transition. The replacement of more primitive forms of energy, such as wood, coal, and oil, with modern combustion sources was a process of transition in energy. Some scholars seek digital origins from Morse code and Turing machines in the short view, and others in the long view from signal fire, which has been in use since the ancient South American and Chinese Zhu Dynasty. It is a widely known fact that Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who completed the binary system, was inspired by the philosophy behind yin and yang. The simple principle of turning off and turning on brought about dramatic change to human life, because it combines the knowledge and technology of a specific era. Scholars who study social phenomena explain the “process of transition” and the enormous pressure created by social needs as a driving force for technological and institutional breakthroughs. It creates a niche among existing methods and forms a new system that directs the transition. This pressure is now past its critical point. The task of our time is to find triggers for creating niches in the existing system, such as by identifying so-called “game changers,” and establishing a political, institutional, and cultural infrastructure and consensus that will accelerate the formation of the new system. Science and technology, along with the economic and social systems that mankind has built thus far, have driven the "availability” of imagination; however, it has not yet been made “sustainable.” This is why the Digital New Deal and Green New Deal have emerged as core agendas for our society. The Era of Transition requires a major shift in perspective. The essence of recent digital transformation is not to replace or destroy existing systems, but simply to bring intelligence to the analogue. The transition to a hydrogen economy will also be attributed to lower dependence on carbon resources to a level that can ensure Earth’s sustainability. We often describe phenomena related to growth, resources, and innovation which contradict with our expectations using words such as “paradox” or “curse.” Climate change and polarization are the products of numerous confrontational and exclusive growth and innovation paradoxes that have cascaded over nature and society. The Era of Transition represents our efforts to overcome this previous era of paradoxes and curses. Hence, we should now heed the perspective of “transition” as we transition from the physical age to the digital age, from the age of engines to the age of fuel celss, and from the carbon age to the hydrogen age.
Future Direction for Public Technology Commercialization
The Diffusion of Innovation Theory proposes that the rate of innovation is important in order to have or maintain a competitive advantage in a drastically changing environment. The theory suggests that only innovation leaders who achieve commercialization and efficiency in R&D can lead and survive in the global market. Futurists Alvin and Heidi Toffler explained that accelerating innovations convert an economy of size into an economy of speed in the “New Normal” world. The United Nations has been promoting research and innovative activities to respond to this kind of innovative environment, where only the fastest survive. By forming partnerships with research institutes and industries, the United Nations is attempting to improve the quality of research and innovation in public facilities. China has been steadily promoting important national projects and the growth of new market-oriented R&D facilities for technological development and commercialization via a strategy called “rapid commercialization.” South Korea’s technological innovations fail to fully meet the demands of consumers, and have been limited to heavily quantitative assessments, such as papers, patents, and research results that remain within laboratories. What direction must we take to commercialize public technologies? First, the innovation gap between research communities and industries must be minimized so that newly developed technologies can proceed to the commercialization stage. Currently, approximately 92% of public technologies are transferred to small- and medium-sized companies, which often lack business value or absorptive capacity. Innovative growth through collaboration between industries, universities, and research institutes is reaching its ceiling, demonstrating the limitations of the current linear model of innovation. Instead of pursuing innovation through a relay between industries, universities, and research institutes, an innovation process model should be adopted in which innovation leaders run alongside each other from the early phases of R&D through to commercialization. The three/four helix model accomplishes exactly this. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has also proposed the co-creation model, in which innovation leaders cooperate to produce and utilize knowledge to overcome the limitations of existing innovation systems. In its Science and Technology Basic Plan (2020-2050), Japan proposed a policy direction in which the collaboration between academia and industries is shifted to the basic research phase. Second, to establish an ecosystem for technological commercialization, more incentives should be given to industries utilizing technologies from external sources, rather than those developing their own technologies. The closed corporate culture - resulting in a greater rate of technological development within a corporation than the rate of using technologies from external sources - as well as the reduced funds for industry-academia collaborative research provided to universities and public research institutes, only promotes closed innovation. South Korea’s tax policies, which favor industries that develop their own technologies rather than those that use technologies from external sources, are also contributing to this closed innovation. It is necessary to drastically expand the tax benefits for industries using technologies from external sources, and expand the range of special taxation cases to include all industries. Also, with the current assessment system centered around papers and patents, it is not easy to validate and demonstrate technologies. Policies that grant additional weightage and royalties to technological validation and demonstration should be implemented. Tuula Teeri, the President of Finnish Aalto University, visited South Korea in 2016, and said, “We must move beyond the idea of transferring technologies and knowledge, which are the results of R&D, to industries, and seek ways for scientists and industries to learn and obtain knowledge alongside each other,” suggesting a clear shift in direction toward public R&D commercialization, which remains an unresolved issue today.
Solutions to Carbon Neutrality
Since the first industrial revolution began some 200 years ago, fossil fuels have been our most common source of energy. Last December, a study published in Nature, an international journal, reported that human-made mass had exceeded the global biomass for the first time, meaning that mankind is placing a huge burden on the Earth’s environment. Many countries have recently announced plans to increase the share of renewable energy out of their total energy consumption to over 80%, starting in 2050. South Korea has also announced plans to go carbon neutral by 2050. The problem is how to reach these goals. Coal-fired power, which currently accounts for over 40% of all energy sources, should be replaced with renewable energy. Theoretically, as it is surrounded by sea on three sides, ocean energy is the most abundant energy source in South Korea. However, solar energy has higher potential, considering the technological limitations of ocean energy. 120,000 TW of solar energy reaches the Earth every year. Harvesting that solar energy for just one hour can satisfy all of the world's energy needs for an entire year. In the book Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation, Professor Tony Seba from Stanford University predicted that solar energy will account for 100% of all energy used by the globe in 2030. Thus, solar energy is the most important key to reaching worldwide carbon neutrality. Solar cells are a relatively well-known application of solar energy. In the first and fourth quarters of this past year, solar cells capable of producing 1 GW of energy were installed in South Korea. Yet, while solar cells are a common sight in our daily life, their distribution is not ideal. Solar cells are often installed in mountainous areas, where their carbon neutrality may be reduced in the event of forest fires and other damaging events, since the batteries are susceptible to natural disasters. To overcome this issue, it is necessary to install solar cells that can be integrated into buildings in cities. Therefore, solar cells must be developed and installed in the form of building materials, such as curtain walls, windows, and tiles, instead of just being placed on apartment balconies. Technologies are needed to develop solar cells that are flexible, permeable, and can be painted onto a surface, unlike silicone-based batteries, which currently hold a leading share of the solar battery market. Another key solar power technology is storing energy in chemical forms. “e-Chemical,” also known as artificial photosynthesis, uses solar energy to convert water, air, and carbon dioxide into chemical materials of high economic value, such as carbon monoxide, ethylene, and alcohol. This highly influential technology was introduced as “a new technology that could change the world” at the World Economic Forum in early 2017. While some e-Chemical technologies have made it to the pilot-level research phase, continued R&D is needed to improve catalyst efficiency, resolve stability issues, and achieve high system efficiency. R&D on solar energy-based technologies is being competitively conducted worldwide to secure technology ownership and open up new industries. South Korea quickly jumped into funding solar energy research, the outcomes of which include solution-processed organic/inorganic solar cells and e-Chemical-related technologies. The competitive value of these technologies is acknowledged around the globe. South Korea’s announcement to go carbon neutral by 2050 signals an energy paradigm shift that will bring about the country’s transition into a zero-carbon society. Long-term and detailed R&D plans and strategies must be devised, based on the mutually-perceived need for changes.
From KIST to VKIST, through My Eyes
In 2011, when I first came to KIST as a young man, everything was new to me. I had no idea that, 9 years later, I would be a staff member at VKIST. These days, I collaborate with KIST staff on the construction of VKIST, which is being built step-by-step according to KIST’s methodology. It is an honor and a pleasure to be taking part in this project - I certainly never imagined anything like it! As a student at KIST, I was also introduced to the “Miracle on the Han River” and the tireless, indomitable spirit of the Korean people. Now, Korea has become one of the most developed countries in the world: one of only seven nations to join the 30-50 club. Throughout the country’s economic transformation, KIST was a driving force that made the Korean “miracle” possible. Many of my colleagues at VKIST are specialists from KIST. Not only do we work together, we are good friends, as well. I particularly wish to thank Mr. Joo Yong Chul, Mr. Won very wise men, and Mr. Jung Jiwon, Mr. Sa, an incredibly hard worker. And a very special thanks to the founding president of VKIST, Dr. Kum Dongwha, who previously served as president of KIST and is truly a great president. I have learned a great deal of knowledge and skills from each of them, who are working very hard for VKIST at Vietnam. VKIST members in the 1st membership training on November 2020. In my eyes, KIST is a premier research institute that aims to improve quality of life for everyone and create a better future. From its launch in 1966, KIST has continually been at the forefront of Korean development, and their success stories go hand-in-hand. KIST is the result of strong leadership,effective policy, and passionate researchers. In its early stages, KIST prided itself on being a “laboratory that never sleeps”, reflecting the dedication and commitment of its pioneering scientists and researchers. In 2019, when I returned to KIST as a VKIST staff member participating in the VKIST - 1st Capacity Building Program, I understood how essential it was for me to digest as much knowledge and experience as possible from KIST’s experts in order to ensure VKIST’s smooth establishment. VKIST is taking its first step toward building its R&D capacities. Our mission is to lead applied R&D on advanced technologies pertaining to Vietnamese industries and sustainable economic development. VKIST aims to become a leader among technical solution providers for market winners, meaning that its R&D activities are aligned with bridging the gap between meeting Vietnam’s technological needs and offering practical market solutions. a panoramic view of VKIST The first task will be the successful and timely completion of the VKIST ODA project. Building a solid foundation is essential for VKIST’s sustainable future growth. To accomplish this, VKIST must work to organize and improve every aspect of its management. Capacity-building will be aligned with the construction of an operating system (OS), personnel development, and the procurement of needed equipment. Delegators in the VKIST Midterm Workshop in June 2020 Currently, we are in the progress of finishing the building construction, getting equipment for laboratories, and recruiting administration staff and researchers as well. Everything is moving forward and I am very happy to see we are growing up every day. I believe that with the support from KIST, the VKIST Project will prove a great success, becoming the definitive example of successful cooperation between Vietnam and Korea―and not just in terms of S&T. I can see myself ten years from now telling my family how proud I am to have been a part of this special moment in history. Just as KIST did for Korea, VKIST is expected to play a leading role in accelerating Vietnam’s industrialization process and paving the way for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
A Leap Toward the Future Creating an Innovative R&D model
Least developed among developing countries are following the footsteps of South Korea in terms of national growth path. India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and other nations have been putting pressure on South Korea with their ebullient growth, under an already difficult economic situation owing to the presence of China, which has become the world’s manufacturing center. To make matters worse, the United States and China are narrowing Korea’s position amidst the fight for global technical and economic dominance without considering the catastrophes it might cause, in an attempt to achieve the upper hand in the fourth industrial revolution, which will change the framework of global industry and economy. Japan’s targeting of the core components and materials of South Korea’s flagship industry is slowing down the South Korean growth as well. Hence, a Korean research and development model (K-R&D) should be commenced to ensure the future competitiveness of the nation. <p style="font-family: 돋움, dotum, Arial, " trebuchet="" ms",="" helvetica,="" sans-serif;="" color:="" rgb(102,="" 102,="" 102);="" background-color:="" rgb(255,="" 255,="" 255);"=""> <p style="font-family: 돋움, dotum, Arial, " trebuchet="" ms",="" helvetica,="" sans-serif;="" color:="" rgb(102,="" 102,="" 102);="" background-color:="" rgb(255,="" 255,="" 255);"="">KIST has presented scientific and technological solutions to national issues by building national R&D platforms, which cannot be achieved by other universities or companies. KIST aims to create large-scale research outcomes with great economic and social ripple effects and discover future growth engines based on science and technology, as well as pursue a centripetal role of national R&D by becoming a hub of open innovation and convergence research.？ <p style="font-family: 돋움, dotum, Arial, " trebuchet="" ms",="" helvetica,="" sans-serif;="" color:="" rgb(102,="" 102,="" 102);="" background-color:="" rgb(255,="" 255,="" 255);"=""> <p style="font-family: 돋움, dotum, Arial, " trebuchet="" ms",="" helvetica,="" sans-serif;="" color:="" rgb(102,="" 102,="" 102);="" background-color:="" rgb(255,="" 255,="" 255);"="">To achieve this, the establishment of new Korean R&D is essential. The 97% success rate of government R&D, which has long been controversial, is actually an inherent vice of South Korean R&D. The close to 100 success rate of government R&D means that the focus is on short-term performance, thus more challenging and creative research cannot be conducted. To produce world-class research outcomes, it is therefore necessary to boldly eliminate the ranking-focused evaluations that solely focus on the number of published papers and change the research evaluation system from a quantitative to a qualitative one. <p style="font-family: 돋움, dotum, Arial, " trebuchet="" ms",="" helvetica,="" sans-serif;="" color:="" rgb(102,="" 102,="" 102);="" background-color:="" rgb(255,="" 255,="" 255);"=""> <p style="font-family: 돋움, dotum, Arial, " trebuchet="" ms",="" helvetica,="" sans-serif;="" color:="" rgb(102,="" 102,="" 102);="" background-color:="" rgb(255,="" 255,="" 255);"="">？Based on such progress at the research level, we should also strive to be a leader in research and development that will support the future society. To this end, KIST has introduced its “grand chal lenge to conduct research in uncharted territories, unsolved research, and the world’s first attempted research.” The goal is to foster 10 world-class research teams by 2030 through the Reformed K-Lab Project, which recognizes and rewards challenging failures as diligent efforts. At the same time, it is hoped that an organizational culture without fear of failure will be permanently settled in KIST. <p style="font-family: 돋움, dotum, Arial, " trebuchet="" ms",="" helvetica,="" sans-serif;="" color:="" rgb(102,="" 102,="" 102);="" background-color:="" rgb(255,="" 255,="" 255);"=""><span style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; font-family: " sabon="" lt="" std";="" color:="" rgb(33,="" 29,="" 30);="" font-size:="" 9.5pt;="" letter-spacing:="" 0pt;="" text-indent:="" 17pt;"=""> <p class="0" style="font-family: 돋움, dotum, Arial, " trebuchet="" ms",="" helvetica,="" sans-serif;="" color:="" rgb(102,="" 102,="" 102);="" background-color:="" rgb(255,="" 255,="" 255);="" text-indent:="" 17pt;="" word-break:="" keep-all;"="">Finally, there is one more desired blueprint for the future of KIST, i.e., to create an “on-site industry cooperation model,” in which the research outcomes of the government-funded research institutes can be directly linked to the outcomes of industry. In the 10 stages ranging from basic source technology to industrialization, the typical government-funded research institutes and companies are stalled at stage 4 or 5, without passing through the so-called “Death Valley.” If the commercialization of the source technology is achieved in stage 8 or 9, beyond the Death Valley, based on the new on-site cooperation model, a virtuous cycle of industry？university research cooperation will be possible. <p class="0" style="font-family: 돋움, dotum, Arial, " trebuchet="" ms",="" helvetica,="" sans-serif;="" color:="" rgb(102,="" 102,="" 102);="" background-color:="" rgb(255,="" 255,="" 255);="" text-indent:="" 17pt;="" word-break:="" keep-all;"=""><span lang="EN-US" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; font-family: " sabon="" lt="" std";="" letter-spacing:="" 0pt;="" font-size:="" 9.5pt;="" color:="" rgb(33,="" 29,="" 30);"=""> Although I have been the leader of KIST for less than a year, I hope that the future I am currently dreaming about will become the cornerstone of the progress made by KIST 10 to 20 years in the future. Furthermore, I hope that this will help build an ecosystem for R&D industry and research innovation.
“Quality, Impacts, and Necessity of Research Prioritized over Possibility of Success”
The most frequently asked question during my time at KIST was “How can we translate national R&D success into innovative growth?” This is probably a different way of phrasing public criticism about “why Korea has failed to create a startup boom like Silicon Valley leveraging national cutting-edge research and development?” The multitude of policy recommendations proposed by the government, national assembly, and academia are not the solution either. I had time to really mull over this question while on a trip to Glasgow, U.K., which is the birthplace of James Watt and the steam engine. Contrary to popular belief, James Watt was not the first person to come up with the concept of the steam engine. The concept of the steam engine first emerged in ancient Greek physicist Heron’s book “Pneumatica” in the 1st century BC. Then in 1705, Thomas Newcomen invented today’s concept of the steam engine and in 1765, James Watt developed an improved steam engine, which triggered the industrial revolution. James Watt made history when he innovated Newcomen’s steam engine after being commissioned while working as an engineer at University of Glasgow. The steam engine that had disappeared into history came back to life with efficiency and economic feasibility, bringing out revolutionary changes to factories and transportation. However, R&D in Korea tends to stop at dissertations and patents, which seemingly represent successful testing and research results. Research and development must go beyond that to provide direct benefits that are useful and accessible to everyone in the form of revolutionary technology and innovation. It is now high time that we create R&D culture by nurturing the countless successful fundamental studies out there so that they can translate into innovation. This begins with changing the way we perceive fundamental research ？ going a step further from just creating the seeds for growth, by solving the obstacles ahead for the seed to take root and blossom. This requires wide-ranging follow-up and complementary studies that can help commercialize basic and fundamental research results, in tandem with an immediate structural overhaul of national R&D projects that are currently siloed, lacking uniformity and without a proper pipeline that connects basic and fundamental research to applied and commercialization research. Improvements to the evaluation system for government-funded organizations in order to encourage creative and bold research is critical. The focus should be on quality instead of quantity, and impact and necessity of the research rather than its possibility of success. A telling example of such high-risk, high-return initiatives is K-DARPA, a national innovative defense technology project that represents KIST’s effort to encourage new and bold research. K-DARPA’s evaluation criteria are mainly related to setting clear targets, assessing potential social impact, etc., which is why researchers dive into studies that can create significant social impact despite the high level of difficulty such studies require. Improving the evaluation system of government-funded institutes begins with completely changing the way we think about and approach R&D. The idea that cutting edge technological developments in the age of the 4th industrial revolution require a different approach compared to our current trajectory of basic, fundamental, applied, and commercialization research needs to be embedded from the get go at the design phase of policies. In addition, legal and institutional infrastructure need to undergird new technological expansions in society. The Parliament of the United Kingdom played a critical role when it approved an extension on the patent for the steam engine. This provided James Watt with the opportunity to work with renewed vigor on improving the steam engine. Furthermore, this move by the Parliament sent a clear message that U.K. law recognizes and protects the value and hard work that goes into innovation. In the late 1700s, the Lunar Society, a monthly gathering of prominent intellectuals in the U.K. scheduled on the day of the full moon, was founded. Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin, Joseph Priestley who discovered oxygen, and James Watt were all members of the Lunar Society. These esteemed figures gathered to talk about different areas of interest of the time and debated how these ideas could be developed into science and technology that improve our daily lives. Hongneung Research Complex, where KIST is located, is being revamped as platform for bleeding-edge innovation in order to create an innovative ecosystem in which universities, research institutes, and startups work together to translate the latest research results into actual jobs and value. In fact, the district where this complex is located happens to be called Lunar Valley. I look forward to the achievements that the talented individuals here will bring about in Industry 4.0, much like James Watt did back in history and pave the way for innovation as the members of the Lunar Society did dating back centuries.
1,000 Innovative Tech Companies within 10 years, for Development and Growth of the Bio-health Industy
China, the World’s Factory is on a sharp downhill slide. Increase of minimum wage, capital movement restrictions, technological and IP policies that fall dismally behind international standards, increased trade conflicts with the U.S., among other factors are dismantling China’s status and charm as world’s factory. Although this may be a crisis for China, it could be an opportune moment for Korea’s industries to bounce back. South Korea’s traditionally strong industries could enhance their competitiveness, while new industries could be created to serve as growth engines. Creating new industries and achieving growth is important as it is directly linked to employment. Aging societies, diseases, and other challenges that modern society face indicate that bio health could be a promising industry. Developed countries are already jockeying for position in the market, in expectation of its immense growth potential. However, Korea’s bio health industry growth lags behind that of such developed countries. Translational research - research that translates various original technologies into biomedical technologies that can be used in the clinical setting (the market) - is considered as one of the most critical step in development and growth of the bio-health industry. Translational research must be conducted for the commercialization of outstanding laboratory experimental results. In 2013, the Biomedical Research Institute at KIST began pilot projects for translational research with Samsung Medical Center, Asan Medical Center, Korea University Medicine, and Kyung Hee University Hospital, among others. KIST committed to investing approximately 1 billion KRW annually, with partnering hospitals committing to the same amount. In 2019, after roughly five years of dedicated research efforts, this project has produced four startups, four technology transfers, and one clinical trial that has been recognized by the National Assembly for its contributions. Although some of the government agencies are currently pursuing translational research support projects, it is far more effective for institutions and clusters that are rich in original technologies and capable of clinical linkage to promote translational research independently. This is because communication between researchers and clinical physicians is crucial during the initial stage of the research for successful translation of the technology. They need to be in constant communication throughout the entire research process and research institutes or local clusters provides open channels and environment for such exchanges. Educating researchers participating in the translational research about licensing and approval, clinical studies, bioethics, patient care, and safety needs to be systematically implemented as well. Such process is called “reverse translational research”, which has the advantage of partnering with startup and technology commercialization support programs provided by research institutes or local clusters at the right time since the technology will have been verified throughout the maturing process. If we take a look at one of the leading countries in biomedical research, there are 63 translational research support projects that are ongoing in the U.S including the CATALYST program at Harvard University sponsored by NIH (National Institute of Health), which has attracted significant investment in the bio health industry. At this moment, we imagine a future full of challenging spirit to create “1,000 innovative tech companies within 10 years”. While government agencies and local governments carry out distinctive translational research support projects, the startup and technology commercialization infrastructure of research institutes that have wide range of original technology and direct partnerships with hospitals must be utilized. This will spur growth in the bio health industry so that we can reach our goal of creating at least 1,000 startups and commercialization of new biotechnologies within the next five to ten years. It goes without saying that this requires businesses, academia, research institutes, and government to come together and commit to achieving the same goal.
A World Where Data Dictates the Development of New Materials
I recently switched out my outdated smartphone for a new one. I ask the personal assistant program that came with my phone about the weather every morning and request playlist recommendations. I’ve only been using this phone a month, but the imbedded artificial intelligence already has a good understanding of my everyday habits - what genre of music I like, what apps I most frequently use, when I come home, and much more. However, this doesn’t cover the extent of the capabilities of artificial intelligence. When grand master Go player, Lee Sedol, was defeated by Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo three years ago, people were shocked not just because a machine beat a person, but because human arithmetic skills were already no match for that of machines. What was even more astounding was that machines could be good at “creative thinking,” something that was considered the essence of human brain activity. This was shown when AlphaGo found moves that were more advantageous by studying (machine learning) prior information (data) created by humans. AlphaGo has since retired from the game of Go, but DeepMind has developed a new program called AlphaFold and commenced research on the protein structure of living organisms, with the grand vision of curing incurable diseases. Efforts have been made across the board to generate creative results with machine learning algorithms. From a material scientist’s point of view, artificial intelligence can potentially develop cutting-edge new materials. Let’s say that material researchers across the world pool knowledge to create a database required for AI machine learning. Like the goose that laid a golden egg, AI may give birth to new materials, one after another. Nonetheless, data related to new materials development is still lacking in both quantity and quality. Much like how people gain insights from experience, AI comes up with better options by studying large amounts of data. This is why quality data is required. Quality big data is easily generated in healthcare, marketing, and other industries, thus making the application of machine learning in these areas particularly useful and efficient. Yet so far, the same quality and quantity of information is not available to developers of new materials. The difficulty in accumulating information about different substances makes data accumulation in the materials field challenging. Using machine learning with data sets about different materials is meaningless. Data needs to be clustered for each specific material to produce solutions. We need to apply big data categorized for each different material to AI. However, there are only a few researchers that study specific substances, which means that acquiring big data in a short timeframe would be challenging even if we were to pool all the information that is out there. We need to go a step beyond research data acquisition and accumulation and strive to artificially generate the data that is needed. Conditions such as synthesis temperature, substance, composition ratio, and other independent variables used to manufacture different materials are required as input values to generate relevant data. Electricity and heat conductivity, solidity, and other values become the output. Each individual researcher has different purposes in mind, which is why the input value is adjusted and controlled in different ways. Ample data would produce statistically meaningful results even if the study were to be randomized. If there isn’t sufficient data, a top-down approach can be used, where variables are controlled for specific purposes, and each individual researcher provides specific input values to accumulate controlled data. A measurement and analysis platform catered to the nature of materials should be created to make data accumulation more efficient and increase the reliability of output values. Currently data is generated in Korea using numerous analysis tools. Data hasn’t been accumulated because each individual researcher requests measurements, and analysis is also provided on an individual basis. Even if researchers agree to accumulate analyzed data, the data will be useless if we fail to collect and manage information about what analytic sample and independent variables were used to generate that data. A measurement and analysis platform built on the basis of features of specific materials through which material analysis data is processed would make it possible to efficiently manage data clusters. Data could be generated for materials where the underlying technology has reached a sophisticated level of maturity. This could also enhance the effectiveness of machine learning. It would be wise to build a measurement and analysis platform and data clusters for promising materials that meet these conditions. A dedicated commitment to gather the necessary data will facilitate the development of new materials with the assistance of artificial intelligence.
Tackling Climate Change is Our Responsibility
According to the World Meteorological Organization, the highest average temperature years occurred during the most recently recorded four-year period: 2015 through 2018. Temperatures for 2019 will be released in mid-January of 2020. Given that the Earth’s monthly average temperature reached a 140-year high in July of this year, it doesn’t seem likely that 2019 will rank below the top four hottest years. Global temperature rise has a significant impact not only on the world’s flora and fauna, but also humanity as well. Experts project that 30% of the world’s plant and animal populations will go extinct if global temperature rises two degrees above pre-industrial levels. Low-lying areas in the Arctic are disappearing under water as glaciers retreat and increasing desertification is expected to reduce the area of livable land. Rising sea levels are likely to trigger tsunamis caused by typhoons. We do not feel the immediate effects of climate change. Greenhouse gases are odorless and intangible, but when accumulated, may bring irreversible and catastrophic impacts upon humanity on a scale to rival nuclear bombs. South Korea is the world’s seventh largest greenhouse gas emitter. Given that it is among the top 20 economic powerhouses of the world, its greenhouse gas emissions are excessive. Greenhouse gas emission levels in South Korea have increased by approximately 10% each year from 1990 to 2010. Although this is a testament to the country’s rapid economic growth, the economy can’t always come first. It’s time to take stock of the environmental sacrifices we are making. Fortunately, South Korea has been making efforts to voluntarily curb greenhouse gas emissions and in 2008 announced a national “Low Carbon Green Growth” policy. The government declared to cut GHG emissions voluntarily even though it was not a mandatory reduction country under the Kyoto Protocol. South Korea has been spearheading low-carbon activities by chairing the OECD ministerial meeting on the environment that is convened every 3-5 years. The three pillars underpinning South Korea’s low-carbon policy are GTC (Green Technology Center), GGGI (Global Green Growth Institute), and GCF (Green Climate Fund). These pillars form the so called “green triangle” that powers low-carbon policy efforts. GTC, established and operated by KIST since 2011, conducts research on policies encouraging the establishment of green technology and promotes collaboration on technology transfer between countries. GGGI supports environmentally sustainable economic development on a global scale and GCF is a fund created to support the efforts of developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and spur climate action. All three are pivotal for low-carbon policies. Remarkable progress has been made by the international community as evidenced by the Paris Agreement adopted in 2015 at the UN Climate meeting. Unlike the Kyoto Protocol which limited greenhouse gas reduction obligations to developed countries, the Paris Climate Agreement set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions requiring contributions from all 196 signatories based on each country’s unique situation. Numerous countries, including North Korea, submitted their respective reduction targets with the aim of applying their initiatives after 2020. South Korea plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emission levels by 37%？ (315 million tons) compared to “business-as-usual” (BAU). Back when the Paris Agreement was adopted, President Obama declared that it would be “the most significant turning point in the history of mankind” and the mood was celebratory. However, the subsequent withdrawal of the U.S. and changing domestic energy policies, among other developments, have made things difficult. Although it might be an uphill battle, we need to implement our own climate response policies. In that sense, it is high time we fully utilize and supply bio fuels in an effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Among the different types of bio fuel currently available, bio-heavy oil used to generate electricity is made from disposed raw materials such as used cooking oil, animal and plant fat and oil, by-products from bio-diesel processes, etc. Approximately 350,000 liters of water are needed to purify just one liter of used cooking oil. This means that we can conserve enough water to fill up 23 Soyang Dams if we use used cooking oil as a bio-heavy oil for fuel. This technology is suitable for Korea, a small country with four distinct seasons. Against this backdrop, I am honored to have been named president of the Bio Fuel Forum that officially launched in June and look forward to working with others on intiatives in this important area. The next decade or two is our last chance to take meaningful steps for change. If we miss this window of opportunity, we may reach a point of no return. We need to devote all our resources to tackle climate change, keeping in mind that it is our responsibility to preserve planet Earth and build a brighter future for the generations to come.
Efforts to Make Hongreung a World Class Innovation Cluster Gain Momentum
Encompassing five distinct neighborhoods in northeastern Seoul, the name “Hongreung” refers to a royal tomb originally located in the area. Its historical importance was thus already established when it became the center for the industrialization and scientific development of Korea starting in the 1960s. What is Hongreung? Hongreung is home to nine government-supported research institutes (GRIs), including KIST, and eight universities with combined student bodies of 120,000. It is known for its highly educated labor force, which includes 6,000 Ph.D’s. Added to these resources is an excellent transportation infrastructure, as evidenced by eight area subway stations and two easily accessible international airports located at Incheon and Gimpo. Despite these strengths, however, Hongreung has seen a downturn in its economic fortunes in recent years. A push by the national government to better distribute wealth, opportunities and populations within the country has resulted in the relocation of public institutions, from Hongreung to the provinces. The area’s skilled labor force and its associated purchasing power have been affected by these changes, and Hongreung’s economy has suffered as a result. How to Revitalize Hongreung? To counteract the negative economic impact of recent changes, 17 Hongreung-based institutions, including KIST, Korea University, Kyung Hee University and Seoultech, came together in 2012 to initiate a collaborative project for the revitalization of Hongreung. The group, known as the Hongreung Forum, has met regularly to discuss goals, strategies and specific projects to boost the area’s future development. It became clear that the most promising path forward was to transform Hongreung into a global innovation cluster. However, progress on specific projects floundered until an executive group was formed to design and execute the projects. Working closely with the Seoul Metropolitan Government, the executive group has taken steps for Hongreung to be the location of “InnoTown,” a project officially launched in July 2018 by the national government for the establishment of a special zone to conduct accelerated R&D and associated business development activities (R&DB). It is conceived as an area in which technological core institutes are concentrated. Hongreung meets the criteria well Hyeokseong LEE due to its existing high R&DB capabilities. The steps being？ taken to demonstrate Hongreung’s suitability for InnoTown are summarized below. 1. The Seoul Metropolitan Government has built a Seoul Bio Hub where biotech startups have established operations. Here they can take advantage of opportunities for networking and global marketing supported by Johnson & Johnson Innovation, a multinational giant whose Seoul Innovation Quick-fire Challenge encourages creative business development ideas for the healthcare industry. 2. The executive group has established an investment fund to promote the commercialization of technologies developed in Hongreung. Currently, the fund totals about 17 billion won. Such a fund represents a powerful incentive for companies considering a move to Hongreung. 3. Hongreung’s institutions are collaborating to make the best use of the area’s resources to develop, test and market innovative biomedical technology. A project known as H-TRAIN (Hongreung Translational Research and Industrialization) links fundamental research on biomedical technology performed by KIST to clinical research undertaken at the hospitals of Korea University and Kyung Hee University. 4. Developing a community identity and enhancing livability for the Hongreung region is an important goal of the executive group. An example of this effort is a contest which was held for an overall facility and space design with ten proposals selected among more than 100 submitted. The ideas contained in the winning proposals will be proposed to the Seoul Metropolitan Government as part of the new city design process. 5. Anchor facilities for the management of resources are considered essential to a successful innovation cluster. In light of this need, KIST is making plans to build a landmark S&T Innovation Center at the current site of the North Gate parking lot. An Exemplary Cluster: Kista Science City, Sweden There are a number of role models for Hongreung to consider in the process of estabishing InnoTown. One of the most renowned clusters in the world is Kista Science City in Sweden. Also known as the “Silicon Valley of Northern Europe,” it is a hub for ICT innovation and has been the location for ICT giants such as Ericsson, Intel and Microsoft since 1976. These large enterprises have developed frontier technologies like GSM, LTE and 5G communication in cooperation with universities, public research institutes, startups and other related organizations. This cooperative model, known as the Triple Helix model, and an innovation-friendly environment are key factors which have made Kista Science City such a resounding success. The Triple Helix Model One of the key factors behind Kista’s successful development into an industrial city is the level of cooperation among industry, academia and government. Pioneering companies in the sector also played a critical role, including the telecom giant Ericsson. These leading companies worked together with small and medium enterprises (SMEs), venture companies, universities and major government research institutes to generate substantial innovative synergy. Furthermore, the city of Stockholm successfully brought in top-notch research talent by having government research institutes, such as SICS and Acreo, join Kista. It also promoted the brand image of the Kista Science City by holding international ICT conferences. Johan Odmark, CEO of Electrum Foundation and Kista Science City AB, emphasizes that in order to ensure sustainable development using the Triple Helix model, it is important to attract companies that have fresh innovative potential. To this end, he points out, the cluster needs its own “indigenous culture.” Odmark explains that for most companies, new buildings and a new location do not matter as much as the opportunity for “match-making,” or “who I can meet.” This becomes a greater consideration for SMEs and venture firms, which are often not as aware of what they need to do as are large businesses. Innovation-Friendly Environment Kista Science City focuses on the development of new ICT technology that will lead the Fourth Industrial Revolution and other future industrial changes. It runs the “Urban ICT Arena” to support R&D and testing of cutting-edge technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT). The Arena offers a testbed and various projects to test new technology such as city drones, streaming sensor data, 5G, 6LoWPAN, and IoT platforms. Conclusion Kista Science City is somewhat different from Hongreung in that it is an industry cluster centered on large businesses, whereas Hongreung focuses on universities and research institutes. However, they share a common vision of nurturing SMEs and venture companies, which makes it possible for the two clusters to work with each other in the future. Hongreung has great potential to become a global-level innovation cluster, but some policy adjustments, such as relaxation of regulation and improvement of the urban environment, are needed to ensure success. Bottom-up efforts have been made. Now is the time to bring the full weight of support, at all levels, to making an innovation cluster in Hongreung a powerful contributor to Korea’s future strength.
Uncomfortable Yet Unavoidable Truth About Cancer
In his State of the Union Address in 2016, then U.S. President Barack Obama announced another war on cancer. There was even an emotional moment when he assigned his vice president, Joe Biden, who had just lost his 47-year old son to a brain tumor, head of “mission control.” Ever since Richard Nixon announced his administration’s war on cancer and signed the National Cancer Act in 1971, America has led the global effort in developing remarkable technologies for treating cancer. Unfortunately, almost 50 years later, we are witnessing more and more people suffering from the illness. Cancer is no longer someone else’s business since one out of two people will ultimately be diagnosed with it. We find ourselves shocked when someone close has cancer, but if you think about it, having cancer is hardly surprising. A sperm and egg fertilize in a mother’s womb to become a single cell. Over the next nine months, that cell becomes a human being with trillions of cells. It is astounding that one cell can multiply into that many cells in such a short period - and cancer cells are no different. Despite such an active proliferating capacity, trillions of cells exist harmoniously with one another, which is a miracle indeed. In fact, we should be surprised to see our cells not turning into cancer cells or causing any trouble. In an era of longevity, we have to accept the uncomfortable truth that, just like death, cancer is a natural phenomenon we cannot avoid. But the suffering and fear of cancer is simply too great to accept it gracefully. When diagnosed with diabetes or hypertension, we simply remind ourselves to be cautious and take care of ourselves. They are, after all, conditions we can control by taking drugs. This leads to the question: why can’t treating cancer be more like treating hypertension? Can’t cancer be something we can deal with through treatment, even if more complex or painful? Treatment for chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes control the function of cells. Cancer treatment, on the other hand, aims to kill the cancer cells. Treatment for cancer until now has involved injecting as much of the targeting drugs as the patient could tolerate. As a side effect of this process, normal cells are also attacked, often causing considerable pain to the patients. Furthermore, despite such drastic treatments, cancer cells frequently survive. A living organism’s nature to survive and reproduce is the reason why it is so difficult to eradiate cancer. Looking at a cancer cell as a living organism makes it easy to understand this. Just like any microorganism, a cancer cell constantly undergoes cell division, and if its environment changes, it will do all it can to adjust to the changes through mutation. An example of this is the endless arms race between researchers developing antibiotics and viruses resisting them. Likewise, we are witnessing a neverending arms race between cancer treatments and cancer cells. If we view viruses as something we can never eradicate, perhaps we can also view cancer in terms of coexistence rather than something we need to conquer. Yet we are faced with another uncomfortable truth. A person entirely cured of cancer is two to three times more likely to be diagnosed again with cancer compared to those with no cancer history. The more advanced cancer treatments become, the longer people will live, and this increases the number of people who are highly likely to develop cancer again. This leads to a contradiction that the more we develop technologies to eradicate cancer, the more we are likely to be diagnosed with it. We have to realize the inevitable truth that since all our body cells can potentially become cancer cells, we must learn to live not only with healthy cells, but also those that go rogue. The reason President Obama once again announced a war on cancer is because carcinogenic strategies using the immune system had started to show results. Despite remarkable progress, however, immunotherapy has so far been effective against only a few forms of cancer and in less than 30% of patients treated. Many patients are still left with no effective cure. So the conclusion must be, while there is a ray of hope, the light is still too weak and we must accept the notion of living with the disease as we continue to search for ways to improve treatments.