Efforts to Make Hongreung a World Class Innovation Cluster Gain Momentum
- Date : 19-06-29
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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
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.
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.
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.