2014 R&D Investment Trends in Korea

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1 2014 R&D Investment Trends in Korea 1 Iee Hwan Kim, Executive Deputy Chairman Korea Industrial Technology Association The world economy has been recovering at a slow pace since the second quarter of 2013 as the national debt of developed countries is gradually restructured following the economic slump in 2011, and this trend is expected to continue through The global economy s road to the recovery paints a bright picture that the Korean economy in 2014 will improve compared to 2013, but some difficulties are also expected, such as heavier household debt accompanied by increased interest rates, the surging price of jeonse (leasing a house on a fully refundable lump-sum deposit), reduced consumption among the elderly, and the investment slowdown in a construction industry hit by the government s slashed budget. The 2013 Import and Export Assessment and 2014 Economic Outlook published by the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) forecasts that Korea will be the world s seventh-ranked exporter and pass 1 trillion dollars in trade volume for the third consecutive year. This can be considered an all the more meaningful outcome because the country has performed satisfactorily amid sluggish world trade caused by the global downturn. Korean companies also continued to make substantial progress. According to Interbrand s list of the Best Global Brands 2013, Samsung Electronics, which first ranked as one of the top 10 global brands in 2012, climbed one place from ninth to eighth this year. Also, Hyundai Motor (53rd in 2012) and Kia Motors (87th) saw improvement both in their brand value and ranking, placing 43rd and 83rd, respectively. Notably, the Interbrand report shows that brand value for all three of these companies went up by more than 15 percent from the previous year, indicating that the brand value of Korean companies is growing rapidly. In addition, in a survey released by the Nikkei, Japan s leading economic newspaper, identifying 2012 market share in the world s 50 categories of major goods and services, Korea ranked third in the number of items holding first place in the global market, with eight Korean products obtaining the biggest market share in their respective categories. Still, there are a number of challenges confronting Korean corporations. According to an annual trust survey by Edelman, a global public relations consulting firm, the credibility of Korean companies was rated at 31 percent, the lowest since the survey began, even outpaced by emerging markets such as India, Brazil, and Russia. In the 2013 Global Competitiveness Report recently published by the World Economic Forum (WEF), Korea generally performed unsatisfactorily, ranked 25th in national competitiveness, 20th in business sophistication and innovation, and 22nd in technological readiness, all of which declined from their 2012 rankings of 19th, 17th, and 18th, respectively. Moreover, the OECD projects that the country s potential growth rate will stand at 4.10 percent between 2012 and 2017, slow down to 3.32 percent between 2018 and 2030, and drop sharply to 0.55 percent between 2031 and Korea s total R&D expenditures in 2012 stood at 55,450.1 billion won (equivalent to 49.2 billion dollars), an 11.1 percent increase (or 5,559.7 billion won) from a year earlier,

2 indicating that the country expanded its R&D investment despite difficult economic conditions. The nation s R&D expenditure-to-gdp ratio was 4.36 percent, up 0.32 percentage points from 4.04 percent in the previous year, the second-highest R&D investment ratio after Israel, which invested 4.38 percent of its GDP in Figure. Total R&D Expenditure and as a Percentage of GDP (Korea) Source: Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, Press Release (December 11, 2013) Corporations spent 43,222.9 billion won (77.9%), spearheading the nation s R&D efforts, followed by public research institutions and universities, which were found to invest 6,950.3 billion won (12.5%) and 5,276.9 billion won (9.5%) in R&D, respectively. The corporate sector s share in the total R&D expenditure (77.9%) was relatively higher than that of major countries such as the United States (68.3%), Japan (77.0%), and Germany (67.3%). Figure. International Comparison of R&D Expenditure by Actor Source: Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, Press Release (December 11, 2013) Out of a total of 43,222.9 billion won spent by the corporate sector in R&D in 2012, large corporations spending took up the largest portion, 32,070.9 billion won (up 13.1% from the previous year), followed by small and medium-sized enterprises and venture firms with R&D 2

3 investment of 5,813.2 billion won (up 11.4%) and 5,338.8 billion won (up 15.6%), respectively, suggesting that R&D expenditures increased overall, regardless of size. R&D expenditures by the manufacturing industry rose by 4,535 billion won (13.6%) from the previous year s 37,960.4 billion won, while the figure for the service sector averaged 3,777.1 billion won, up 397 billion won (11.7%) from the previous year, accounting for 8.7 percent of total corporate R&D expenditures, a relatively low figure compared to that of major developed countries such as the United States (29.2% in 2008) and the United Kingdom (24.1% in 2009). Korea s corporate R&D investment is predicted to continue to grow in The Korea Industrial Technology Association (KOITA) has recently conducted an RSI (R&D Sentiment Index) 1 survey targeting a sample of 1,000 companies that had research centers or R&D departments, and asked them to forecast their R&D investment in According to the survey results, their investment RSI and employment RSI stood at and 113.0, respectively, indicating that respondent companies plan to increase both R&D investment and employment of researchers. They are considering expansion of R&D investment despite uncertain economic prospects, striving to secure growth engines for the future. By corporate type, the investment and employment RSI for large corporations scored and 117.7, respectively, higher than middle-standing enterprises* (117.5 and 113.1), and small and medium-sized enterprises (113.4 and 112.5), suggesting that they are willing to invest and hire more for R&D. Table RSI by Corporate Size Middle-Standing Small and Medium- Category Total Large Corporation Enterprise Sized Enterprise Investment RSI Employment RSI * Middle-standing enterprises refer to those not belonging to the category of small and medium-sized enterprises, yet recording less than 1 trillion won in sales. Specifically, all industries except construction were planning to increase investment in R&D and recruitment of research manpower compared to In particular, the automobile sector scored highest both in investment and employment RSI, showing strong intent to continue with their R&D efforts. Most industrial segments planned to expand R&D investment in 2014, while the construction sector recorded scores below 100 in both of the RSIs, and are therefore expected to scale down their investment compared to KOITA RSI (KOITA R&D Sentiment Index) over 100, less than 100, and equal to 100 indicate improvement, deterioration, and no change, respectively, compared to the year of the survey. 3

4 Table RSI by Industry Investment RSI Employment RSI Meanwhile, companies were found to have the greatest difficulty in recruiting R&D professionals. According to KOITA s survey, a shortage of technology development personnel ranked as the top concern related to technology infrastructure for more than half of respondents (55.7%), followed by funding for technology development (48.9%), research facilities and equipment (43.2%), and research space (24.3%). Five out of 10 companies (49.6%) reported that a shortage of research personnel poses a setback for preparing future business while 19.8 percent of respondents said, we are having difficulties pursuing our current business, indicating that seven out of 10 companies are having difficulties properly conducting their business due to the shortage of research personnel. In particular, 95 percent of corporate research institutions located in local areas reported difficulties securing research personnel, showing the recent trend of such talent being disproportionately concentrated in metropolitan areas. External observers expect R&D investment in Korea to expand continuously. According to the 2013 EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard, R&D investment by Korean companies increased by 8.9 percent in 2012 year-to-year, an increase second only to China (12.2%) and accounting for 3.3 percent of global R&D investment, making Korea the sixth-largest R&D investor among 46 countries, following the United States (35.1%), Japan (18.9%), Germany (10.5%), France (5.2%), and the United Kingdom (4.2%). The 2014 Global R&D Funding Forecast, published by the U.S.-based Battelle Memorial Institute based on data from the World Bank, IMF, and R&D Magazine, forecasts that total R&D expenditures in Korea will amount to 63 billion dollars, up 2 billion dollars, or 3.6 percent of the nation s GDP, from Korea will be the fifth-largest investor of R&D in 2014, as in 2013, following the United States (465 billion dollars), China (284 billion dollars), Japan (165 billion dollars), and Germany (92 billion dollars). Furthermore, the Korean government has established the Third Basic Plan for Science and Technology ( ) under the Framework Act on Science and Technology, identifying the vision, goals, and direction of Korea s policy for innovation in science and technology. In the basic plan, a new era of hope opened with creative science and technology has been declared as the vision, while the scope of the former plan has been expanded to realize a creative economy by, for example, fostering new industries and creating 4

5 more jobs. Five major strategies have been presented: expanding and improving the efficiency of national R&D investment; developing national strategic technologies; enhancing mid-to-long term creative capabilities, supporting the creation of new industries; and creating more jobs in science and technology. Seventy-eight tasks in 19 areas will be promoted under these strategies. By implementing such initiatives, the government aims to increase R&D s contribution to national economic growth, create new jobs, and position Korea among the world s top seven in capacity for innovation in science and technology. Based on the strategy of expanding national R&D investment, the government plans to invest 92.4 trillion won from the government R&D budget in order to raise R&D investment to 5.0 percent of GDP by 2017, and has allocated 17.5 trillion won for government R&D investment, up 4.0 percent from Thanks to continuing corporate investment efforts and the policy of government support, the number of corporate research institutions in Korea is expected to reach 30,000 in the first half of Companies currently contribute 78 percent to the total national research costs and 69 percent of the total national research professionals. Increased R&D investment by companies has made it possible for Korea to achieve enough quantitative growth to compete with the rest of the world. Such growth, as the main driver of Korea s economic growth and industrial development, sets the stage for companies to have developed a number of new technologies and products, thereby helping the nation s economy become the seventhlargest exporter in the world. Despite this quantitative growth, there are many challenges to address before Korea can be considered a technologically advanced country. According to KOITA s study, the technology level of domestic companies is 68 percent of the highest level, which requires 5.3 years of efforts. When it comes to the technology trade balance, Korea is chronically in the red by an annual total of 6 trillion won. As for the concentration rate of R&D costs borne by top-notch companies, the top five, 10, and 20 companies in sales account for 32.2 percent, 39.0 percent, and 45.4 percent, respectively, of the combined R&D costs of all companies, a strong indication of their concentration rate. Sixty-six percent of company researchers have undergraduate degrees and only 20 percent of all doctorate holders in Korea are engaged at the forefront of corporate R&D. To overcome those challenges and further develop Korea s industrial technology, changes need to be made to the policy of government support so that existing quantitative growth can be made qualitative. To this end, first of all, support for enhancing the efficiency of private R&D investment and creating an investment ecosystem shall be reinforced. Since the amount of support for companies is already world class, the support system needs to be innovated in terms of quality. Second, the support system shall be transformed from supplier (government)-oriented to customer (company)-oriented. In other words, a customized support system meeting the needs of individual company shall be established. Third, knowledge of science and technology accumulated in universities, government-funded research institutions and other public sectors shall be actively shared and utilized. For that purpose, among other things, an ecosystem shall be created where links between public sectors and industry can result in active collaboration. 5

6 In 2014, KOITA also will make every effort to strengthen competitiveness in science and technology by: developing a customer-oriented policy and expanding participation; identifying policy demands from a variety of industrial sectors and making suggestions; helping company research institutions sharpen their competitive edge; strengthening networking for open-ended R&D collaborations; improving R&D capabilities through expanded technical exchange and cooperation; and enhancing the demand-oriented membership support system. 6

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