The Korea Herald


[Contribution] Korea-US startup cluster cooperation opens new chapter

By Korea Herald

Published : May 16, 2023 - 17:20

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SMEs and Startups Minister Lee Young (SMEs and Startups Ministry) SMEs and Startups Minister Lee Young (SMEs and Startups Ministry)

By Lee Young

SMEs and startups minister

President Yoon Suk Yeol’s recent state visit to the US, the first such visit by a South Korean president in 12 years, has proven successful. Along with a joint statement, Korea and the US announced six agreements including the Washington Declaration, while securing $5.9 billion worth investments and 50 business deals.

The two countries have confirmed the elevated status of Korea, which our people and companies have achieved over the last seven decades as well as the strong bilateral alliance.

Korea-US relations have evolved from a security alliance aimed at protecting freedom and democracy to a comprehensive strategic alliance encompassing all fields, including economics, culture, science, technology and social exchange. In particular, the "Korea-US Cluster Roundtable" held in Boston during the state visit has laid a solid foundation for cooperation between Korean and American startups.

The US city of Cambridge, Massachusetts located near Boston is the world’s top innovation cluster, known as the “Most Innovative Square Mile on the Planet” has expanded its research and development facilities over the past 30 years.

Harvard and MIT’s tech talents are at the forefront of the joint industry-academic research and startups in advanced industries. The cluster is also home to large-scale research and development infrastructure, large hospitals and companies.

Experts from law, patents and consulting firms, players have joined forces to create this unique innovation cluster with massive investment capital. World-class biotechnology company Moderna and global robotics company Boston Dynamics have both started off here.

Benchmarking the Boston biotech cluster, the Ministry of SMEs and Startups is constructing the K-Bio Lab Hub in Songdo, Incheon. Under 270 billion won ($202 million) investment on a 40,000-square-meter site, the project is set to be completed by 2025.

Unlike traditional corporate clusters, the K-Bio Lab Hub aims to facilitate the innovative growth of startups through a one-stop service with academia, large hospitals, research institutes, and anchor companies. Another goal is to establish a circular system that returns outcome or economic effect achieved by the cluster to all players at stake.

The Korean and US bio clusters also vowed to cement cooperation. After the ministry signed a memorandum of understanding with Incheon City and over 30 organizations, including Yonsei University, it delivered a meaningful outcome during the US visit.

Korean and American startup support agencies, companies, hospitals, schools and experts signed additional agreements to bolster business ties. Key members of the Boston cluster, including Massachusetts General Hospital, which has the world’s best medical and bio-clinical research infrastructure, and the global bio-startup incubator LabCentral, joined the signing ceremonies.

As Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” Only when all the members of innovative ecosystem work together can we achieve better outcomes.

We are confident that our K-Bio Lab Hub will create a unique global cluster model for Korea. Through cooperation between Korean and the US’ startup clusters, our economies will grow together and will lay the foundation for a new chapter in the 70-year history of our alliance, creating a strong pillar for Startup Korea.

Lee Young is the minister of SMEs and startups. Views expressed in this column are her own. – Ed.