Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A snapshot of Korea's centers for creative economy and innovation

The Korea Joongang Daily today carried a very informative article on the current status of this nation's new network of creative economy and innovation centers.  The headline of the article, "Outside Seoul, new centers have a sleepy feeling," may be a bit misleading and it reminds me somewhat of comments frequently made about the new city of Songdo, where I live.  It seems to me that vacant space is something to be expected and "comes with the territory" when you build either a new city or a new nationwide network of venture startup centers.
As noted in the article and shown in the accompanying graphic, the creative economy centers were allocated to 17 cities and provinces around Korea and matched up with major companies, including the 10 largest conglomerates.  The overall tone of the article is largely critical and it makes some important points.  One is that the functions of the new creative economy centers overlap with existing techno-parks.  Another is that initiatives such as this tend to rise or fall at five year intervals along with changes in presidential administrations.  Finally, the article questions the depth of commitment to this network of centers by Korea's large conglomerates.  It quotes an executive from one as follows “I am not sure what’s going to happen [with the creative economy centers] in three years,” said an executive from one of the participating conglomerates who is now dispatched to a center. “There is a saying already that the centers will be gone at the turn of the administration. We also think the centers will pretty much be temporary.”   We shall all see.   In fact, I suspect that the digital network revolution has unleashed forces that demand change even from the conglomerates which led Korea's development over recent decades.  That sort of change inevitably requires strengthening the nation's venture startup ecosystem.

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