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South Korea pledges $2.8bn annual investment to nurture deep-tech unicorns.

Photo by Daniel Bernard / Unsplash

The South Korean government has announced ambitious plans to invest KRW 3.5 trillion (US$ 2.8 billion) annually in scale-up research and development (R&D) by 2027 to nurture ten unicorn companies in the deep-tech field.

The Ministry of Science and ICT announced the ‘pan-ministerial scale-up R&D investment strategy’ at a recent video conference, outlining plans to invest KRW 15 trillion over five years (2023-2027) to create ten deep-tech unicorn companies. 

The strategy includes expanding participation in the private sector, strengthening pan-governmental cooperation, diversifying business support methods, and supporting ecosystems.

The government will focus funding on innovative companies within three years of founding. 

It will establish a scale-up national technology strategy center to analyze current R&D investment and strengthen investment strategies. 

A customized corporate R&D support system based on innovative capabilities will also be established, and the cost burden on companies will be reduced by introducing postpaid, competitive, and voucher-type R&D projects.

Additionally, the government plans to nurture an industry-academia-research scale-up valley in which regional research institutes, government-funded research institutes, and companies strengthen cooperation centered on regional-based universities.

This move by the South Korean government comes as deep-tech companies are receiving increased attention globally. Boston Consulting Group predicts that global deep tech investment will reach $140 billion by 2025, concentrating on synthetic biology, new materials, and artificial intelligence. 

While South Korea has a high startup rate, its survival rate of 63.6% is lower than that of Japan, the UK, and the US.

The Ministry of Science and ICT stated that this plan is an attempt to “leap forward as a scale-up powerhouse based on our R&D achievements and innovation capabilities” and to foster global unicorn companies.