The South Korean government is planning to invest 1.3 trillion won (US$1.2 billion) in basic research in brain science over the next five years until 2022 to secure world-class source technology.
The Ministry of Science and ICT(MSIT) held the 30th Bio Technology Master Plan Council meeting on May 8 and voted for Brain Research Innovation 2030, which represents the third Brain Research Promotion Plan.
South Korea established the Korea Brain Research Institute, which specializes in brain research and has been strengthening basic studies by increasing research budgets 14.6 percent a year on average from 49.3 billion won (US$45.69 million) in 2008 to 168 billion won (US$155.69 million) in 2017.
However, the institute still remains at the 77 percent of the world’s best level in 11 promising technologies, such as brain optogenetics, brain organoid, cognitive enhancement and brain stimulation and activity measurement technologies, failing to secure world-class source technologies.
Based on the plan, the government will carry forward large projects, such as “brain grand challenge project” to develop core technology that can change the paradigm of brain research and “Korea brain initiative” to fundamentally understand the brain, in order to secure technological competitiveness. It is planning to develop five world’s best core technologies, including brain specific gene decoding and revision technologies, and construct brain neural networks in cerebral cortex which associates with higher human brain function.
The government will also make the best use of artificial intelligence (AI) to investigate the principles of the brain and reuse the identified brain principles to develop next-generation AI technologies, brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) and neuromorphic chips in its bid to develop intelligent technologies converged with the brain principles.
In addition, it will realize “healthy brain services” tailored to different life stages for people through brain research. Pushing forward its new plans regarding national responsibility for dementia care, the government aims to slow the outbreak of dementia by five years and reduce the growth of dementia patients by 50 percent after 2030 and strengthen investment in brain diseases which have higher social requirements, such as depression, addiction and autism.
The government is planning to grow such research and development (R&D) results into the brain industry through networks between enterprises, investors and researchers. It aims to foster more than 10 brain companies with sales of over 100 billion won (US$92.39 million) by supporting three-stage commercialization for small and mid-size and venture firms which benchmarked the small and mid-size business innovation programs in the United States.
For the new plans, relevant ministries, including the MSIT, Ministry of Health and Welfare, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, will inject a total of 1.38 trillion won (US$1.27 billion) of budgets over the next five years.