Technological innovation in the EU and the Republic of Korea: Similarities, di!erences, and areas for cooperation

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Given the exponential rise of the Korean innovation system on the world stage, into one of the world's leading innovators and startup ecosystems, in this report we compare the ROK’s innovation system with the EU. We detail the role of government policy and changes to the institutional setting in the ROK since the East Asian Financial Crisis in 1998 through to 2020 in order to unpack the drivers of its meteoric rise. Crucially, we offer a synthesis of the EU innovation system over a similar period (2000-2020). By distilling the thrusts of the two innovation systems over these share time periods, we are able to identify the similarities and differences between the ROK and EU systems. We also zoom into the Spanish context, to offer further depth in the coverage of the European innovation setting. Collectively, this comparative approach helps us to identify potential lessons that can be drawn from the ROK approach, and outline arenas for potential bilateral cooperation between the EU and ROK. The lessons we draw from the ROK’s open innovation system approach, in which collaboration between large firms and startups is at the core. To begin with, we observe that funding, of both R&D and startup ecosystem development, has been crucial to the boost in innovation capacity and activity levels. Korea’s large firms are major R&D spenders, and there is notable public-private R&D collaboration. The state has fuelled the startup ecosystem, in particular, with the launch of startup-friendly stock markets and public investment in venture capital. The ROK government has purposively worked to ensure that the regulatory framework supports both the development of intellectual property and also the exit strategies available to high-growth startups. The marked rise in innovation capacity, and startup activity in particular, has been enabled by government investment in human resource training. There is a steady pipeline of STEM graduates, who enable the large firm (chaebol) capacity, and also, constitute a strong talent pool of startup founders
Original languageEnglish
PublisherEuropean Parliament
Commissioning bodyEuropean Parliament
Number of pages44
Publication statusPublished - 25 May 2021


  • Korea
  • European Union
  • Startups
  • Policy


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