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S. Korea's R&D Spending to GDP Ratio Highest in the World
Korea Ranks 5th in Terms of R&D Investment Size
S. Korea's R&D Spending to GDP Ratio Highest in the World
  • By Yoon Young-sil
  • November 28, 2018, 10:21
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South Korea's total R&D investment reached 78.8 trillion won (US$69.73 billion) last year, up 9.38 trillion won (US$8.3 billion) from a year ago.

South Korea has reclaimed the number one spot in terms of the ratio of research and development (R&D) spending to gross domestic product (GDP). South Korea’s ratio was 4.55 percent last year, higher than Israel’s 4.25 percent.

The total amount of Korea’s R&D investment reached 78.8 trillion won (US$69.73 billion) last year, up more than 13.5 percent from a year earlier and the fifth largest in the world.

The Ministry of Science and ICT released on Nov. 27 the results of its survey on R&D activities carried out in the government, public and private sectors in South Korea last year.

The survey was conducted on 59,603 domestic companies from April to September based on the OECD standards for international comparison of material and human resource injected into R&D. Out of the 59,603 firms, 50,619 responded to the survey, showing a collection rate of 84.9 percent, and those not responded the survey were so small that they wouldn’t actually affect the results, according to the government.

Korea’s total R&D investment recorded 78.8 trillion won (US$69.73 billion) last year, up 9.38 trillion won (US$8.3 billion) from a year ago. South Korea ranked fifth among OECD member countries after the United States, China, Japan and Germany.

The R&D investment of the private sector grew 14.7 percent, or 7.72 trillion won (US$6.83 billion) to 60.06 trillion won (US$53.15 billion) compared to the previous year, while that of the government and public sector rose 8.1 percent, or 1.33 trillion won (US$1.17 billion).

Corporations spent 62.56 trillion won (US$55.37 billion) on R&D activity, accounting for 79.4 percent of the total R&D investments, followed by public research institutes 9.54 trillion won (US$8.45 billion) for 12.1 percent and universities 6.68 trillion won (US$5.91 billion) for 8.5 percent. Corporate investment included part of the government’s R&D activity worth 20 trillion won (US$17.7 billion) a year.

South Korea also showed the highest ratio of R&D spending to GDP in the world with 4.55 percent, up 0.32 percentage points from a year earlier and higher than Israel’s 4.25 percent.
 

By R&D stage, development research for commercialization accounted for 63.6 percent of the total R&D investments with 50.08 trillion won (US$44.32 billion), followed by application research with 17.31 trillion won (US$15.32 billion) and basic research with 11.39 trillion won (US$10.08 billion).


The total number of researchers in R&D activity gained 4.8 percent, or 22,027, to 482,796 last year, and that of full time equivalent (FTE) increased 21,808 to 383,100, coming in sixth place in the world. The number of researchers for per 1,000 of the economically active population stood at 13.9 and per 1,000 people at 7.4. The number of researchers at corporations came to 343,367, accounting for 71.1 percent, followed by universities 102,877 for 21.3 percent and public research institutes 36,552 for 7.6 percent.

The country’s R&D costs per 1,000 researchers rose 7.1 percent, or 33.56 million won (US$29,699), to 205.66 million won (US$182,000) compared to a year ago but the figure fell short of the US with US$359,850 (406.63 million won), Germany with US$254,373 (287.44 million won) and Japan with US$233,556 (263.92 million won).