R&D budget boost for foreign scientists in joint projects

South Korea will provide international researchers with more access to government research and development (R&D) funds, and will eliminate barriers for international researchers conducting South Korean-funded research, putting them on an equal basis with domestic researchers, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy in Seoul has said.

Alongside lowering barriers, the ministry will increase the international R&D budget which funds South Korean companies and think tanks to jointly develop technologies with foreign researchers.

This comes despite an overall drop by 16.7% in South Korea’s R&D budget after the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy’s proposed budget for R&D was revised. The revised version was approved by the cabinet on 29 August but is still to be passed by the National Assembly.

The current year’s budget of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy for international R&D is KRW216.5 billion (US$160 million), but the ministry confirmed in a press statement it will increase by 29.3% to KRW280 billion (US$210 million).

First Vice-Minister for Trade, Industry and Energy Jang Young-jin announced on 1 August during a briefing session on Korea-US industrial technology R&D at Palo Alto, California, that the ministry will fully open its budget for international joint R&D to international researchers, putting them on an equal basis with domestic researchers.

“The … global problems including the climate crisis require joint action, especially now since the global value chain is undergoing rapid reorganisation around allies with shared values,” Jang said at Palo Alto.

He was referring to US trade and technology restrictions on China and new trade and technology cooperation between the US and its Asian allies South Korea and Japan to counter the rise of China.

“Inter-country competition in advanced technologies is intensifying,” Jang said. “Along with large-scale technological innovation that transcends a single country, participation of researchers with advanced technological development capabilities is more pressing than ever,” Jang said.

Equal access to government funds

Jang explained that outstanding international joint R&D projects will be given top priority and overseas institutions in charge of such projects will also be eligible to participate.

Previously, overseas institutions could not be the main coordinators of South Korean government-funded international joint R&D projects, which meant they received a very low proportion of the allocated funds – approximately 10% of the overall international joint R&D budget.

For example, Stanford University participated in a KRW3.9 billion project related to semiconductor research, but received just KRW300 million in R&D funds for the project.

The ministry also plans to lower barriers for international researchers and eradicate discrimination between Korean and overseas researchers.

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