According to the a survey titled “2016 R&D activity” of 57,581 institutions in South Korea, such as public research institutes, universities and corporations, released by the Ministry of Science, Future Planning and ICT (MSIP) on November 14, the total amount of research and development (R&D) investment in South Korea recorded at 69.41 trillion won (US$62.08 billion) last year, up 5.2 percent, or 3.45 trillion won (US$3.08 billion), from a year earlier. Accordingly, South Korea ranked fifth in the world among member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) after the United States, China, Japan and Germany. The country also had the second highest ratio of R&D spending to gross domestic product (GDP) with 4.24 percent after Israel by a mere 0.01 percent point.
As the government recently spent less on R&D investment, the increase in the total R&D costs was led by conglomerates. Large businesses spent 40.78 trillion won (US$36.47 billion) on R&D activity, accounting for 77.8 percent of the total private R&D investments of 52.35 trillion won (US$46.82 billion). In particular, the R&D costs of the country’s top 10 business groups surged from 21.3 trillion won (US$19.05 billion) in 2015 to 23.9 trillion won (US$21.38 billion) last year.
On the other hand, the county’s government and public sector spent a combined 16.41 trillion won (US$14.68 billion), taking up 23.6 percent of the total. The figure is lower than the U.S. with 31.2 percent, France with 36.6 percent, the U.K. with 34 percent and Germany with 28.2 percent. Experts say the government should increase R&D investments in order to create a stable research environment.
South Korea achieved numerous quantitative results, including thesis and patents, in a short period of time with the steady expansion of R&D investments but it failed to attain the world-class qualitative results. Experts point out that there were limits to obtain innovative research results due to the government’s R&D plans and achievement management for the short term and the investment failed to lead to knowledge accumulation either. The MSIP formed a task force and came up with a whole innovative R&D plan, such as business plan, project selection, project assessment and performance compensation, in the last three months.