- Nurturing talent through researches by allowing outstanding overseas research institutions to participate in government R&D projects
- Promptly responding to rapidly changing technological landscape by easing preliminary feasibility assessment criteria, while also innovating evaluation system
- Concentrating investment on seven essential and innovative R&D projects including advanced bio, AI, quantum and etc.
- Restructuring 3.4 trillion won by eliminating redundancy of and integrating 108 R&D projects through a review of inertially implemented and underperforming projects
The Ministry of Science and ICT (Minister Lee Jong Ho, hereinafter referred to as the 'MSIT') announced the "Innovation Plan for Government R&D system" (a report, hereinafter referred to as the "Innovation Plan"), and "2024 National R&D Budget Allocation and Adjustment Results" (in deliberation, hereinafter referred to as the "Allocation and Adjustment Results"), which were presented and discussed at the 4th meeting of the Presidential Advisory Council on Science and Technology (PACST) on August 22, 2023.
In the meeting, the Ministry stated that it is committed to going beyond just rectifying some misguided practices, such as uneven distribution of research and development (R&D) resources, as criticized during the Fiscal Strategy Meeting on June 28, with an aim to achieve a transformation towards pioneering R&D model, of which previous administrations failed to realize. MSIT has conducted a thorough examination of innovative measures throughout all stages, from budget allocation to execution and evaluation, and those measures have been incorporated into the "Innovation Plan" and the "Allocation and Adjustment Results."
MSIT noted that despite South Korea being no longer a country that lags behind in the R&D sector, as it ranks fifth in the world in terms of R&D quantity, the system and workforce of R&D have remained unchanged. The Ministry explained that if past administrations took the easier path of merely increasing the budget, the Yoon Suk Yeol administration has chosen the challenging path of dismantling outdated practices and inefficiencies, to make a step towards a pioneer in R&D.
MSIT highlighted the philosophy for science and technology policy of Yoon Suk Yeol administration as "Making government R&D system as It Should Be." Through this approach, the government aims to generate growth engines and nurturing talent, a crucial element of national competitiveness, envisioning research that competes at a global top-tier level, research that contends with skills without any other factors, and research jointly conducted with the countries that shares values with us.
In the process of 2024 budget allocation and adjustment, MSIT boldly restructured groundless projects which distributed budgets to small and medium-sized businesses without reasonable evaluation, as well as short-sighted projects which had seen a significant increase in budget during the past years. With the reform of the government R&D system, MSIT plans to intensify investment, focusing on innovative R&D projects at a global top-tier level and essential R&D projects crucial to performing national missions.
1. Innovation Plan for Government R&D System
The "Innovation Plan" has been in preparation since earlier in this year and can be summarized as follows:
Improving global joint research system by allowing overseas research institutions’ participation in government R&D projects;
Securing expertise, transparency and trustworthiness from project planning, selection, execution and evaluation;
Easing preliminary feasibility study criteria for R&D-only projects and introducing integrated budgets by government-funded research institutions’ core mission;
Introducing annual review of budget execution
(1) R&D system will be refined to facilitate cooperation with leading countries based on shared values.
We will put forward legislative amendments* to enable direct participation of outstanding overseas research institutions in domestic R&D projects. Also, the Ministry will establish a guideline that provides specific instructions for matters related to ownership and utilization of research outcomes, as well as other requirements for international joint research projects. Government-funded researchers will be supported in collaborating with domestic and overseas universities, research institutes, and businesses beyond institutional barriers through the selection and operation of "Global TOP Strategic Research Teams."**
* The enforcement decree of National Research and Development Innovation Act will be amended.
** Through fair and open competition, outstanding consortia will be prioritized for support without an upper limit of financial support.
(2) Government R&D support will be innovated to respond to the needs of the nation and society in a more agile and flexible manner.
Currently, preliminary feasibility assessment for R&D is applied to "all research and development projects above a certain scale," which has posed limitations on the prompt initiation of research projects carrying a world-class potential for their originality. MSIT has decided to significantly ease relevant criteria and procedures* for projects which focus exclusively on research and development, excluding, for example, research facility and equipment establishment and system development projects. Importantly for challenging and innovative R&D projects, the exemption from preliminary feasibility assessments will be proactively implemented.
* Relevant regulations, such as the "Guidelines for Preliminary Feasibility Assessment of National R&D Projects," will be reviewed and updated.
Inertial adherence to spending limits of each ministry and resulting constraints will no longer be allowed in allocation and adjustment of budgets. Instead, MSIT will ensure that budgets be allocated to the most crucial areas for completing national missions. In doing so, fragmentation of R&D projects will be prevented by the expansion of continuous programs related to each ministry's unique missions. For government-funded research institutes, integrated budget system with respect to key missions of each institute will be introduced, and flexible human resources management will be employed to provide personnel and budgetary support for capable institutes selected through competition.
(3) Innovation of evaluation system and implementation of data-driven, transparent and professional R&D management.
17 specialized research management institutes will be reevaluated, and a "Pan-Ministry Innovation Plan for Specialized Research Management Institutes" will be formulated and implemented, to enhance transparency and expertise from the entry point to the exit of R&D management process (project planning, selection, execution, evaluation). In particular, initiatives will be taken in parallel to reinforce expertise, such as reducing the range of definition when conflicts of interest are reported during project evaluation, and to secure transparency so that cartel-like behaviors, such as influential planners and R&D brokers, could be eradicated in advance.
The Pan-Ministry Integrated R&D Management System (IRIS)* was launched for full-scale operation this year. IRIS will go beyond mere system and data integration, evolving into "IRIS 2.0" which incorporates digital technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and big data. This advanced version will support transparent research management and decision-making to a greater extent. Such advancement in the system will lead to discovery of outstanding researchers, discouragement of inappropriate research practices, such as, redundant proposals and monopoly by specific figures, and finally, enhancement of the credibility in project selection, transparency in budget execution, and expertise in evaluation.
* IRIS is an integrated platform of research management systems, each operated by respective ministries before the development of IRIS. Participating ministries have been extended from 5 in 2022 to 9 in 2023.
Key features of IRIS 2.0
|‧ Project details and expenditures of agents, of which the research grant is larger or more frequent than certain standard, to be disclosed to the public|
|‧ Big data and AI analyses of researcher contribution to discover distinguished researchers|
|‧ The expertise of evaluation to be improved by sharing the pool of evaluation committee members from both Korea and overseas countries.|
|‧ Inappropriate practices to be prevented, including redundant proposals and monopoly of funds by specific figures|
|‧ Objective and impersonal investigation of research contributions, expenditures of research fund, qualifications of a researcher, and more.|
※ IRIS 2.0: AI and big data-based R&D management system by improving the current version of IRIS
(4) Leakage of R&D budgets will be thoroughly prevented.
Starting from the second half of this year, projects suspected of dissipation, such as projects with poor performance and those which faced external criticisms from the National Assembly and etc., will undergo thorough review of budget execution by a "Budget Execution Inspection Team." Depending on the results, a restructuring or cutback of research funds for the following year may be required. Moreover, relative evaluation will be introduced comprehensively into R&D evaluation processes, and projects falling within the bottom 20% will be restructured.
Additionally, excessive allowances proliferating on research sites, which are outcomes of the previous increases in R&D budget, will be reasonably reduced. And management procedures will be reinforced to ensure that indirect expenses are used in line with their initial purpose and intended usage.
Furthermore, co-utilization and sharing of large-scale equipment, which requires substantial funding, will be promoted, and incentives including operational cost support will be provided to facilities with high utilization records.
2. 2024 National R&D Budget Allocation and Adjustment Results
The Allocation and Adjustment Results reflect a total allocation of 21.5 trillion won to key research and development projects that align with the governance philosophy of Yoon Suk Yeol administration, including concentrated investment in innovative R&D at a global top-tier level and reinforced efforts to nurture future generation of leaders.
A total of 3.4 trillion won was reconsidered as a result of rigorous restructuring aimed at business subsidy-like scattergun projects and underperforming projects, resulting in integration and termination of 108 projects. The main contents of the Allocation and Adjustment Results are as follows:
(1) A concentrated investment of 10 trillion won will be directed towards innovative R&D projects aiming for global top-tier excellence.
Importantly, the national strategic technologies will receive a 5 trillion-won investment, a 6.3% increase from the previous year's 4.7 trillion won. In particular, budgets are significantly expanded for 7 key areas such as advanced bio (16.1% increase), AI (4.5% increase), cybersecurity (14.5% increase), quantum (20.1% increase), semiconductors (5.5% increase), secondary batteries (19.7% increase), space exploration (11.5% increase).
Furthermore, a total of 2.8 trillion won is allocated to secure global competitiveness through international cooperation and cultivation of world-class talent. Joint research efforts between outstanding research groups of Korea and overseas countries, the Boston-Korea Project for biosciences cooperation as a good example, and R&D collaboration with nations sharing global values together will be further promoted. Moreover, full-scale support will be provided for young researchers to participate in leading overseas research, while domestic research facilities and equipment such as in universities will be modernized to meet with global standards, enabling world-class research within the country as well. To ease the burden on universities to secure student stipends, the ratio of student stipend obligations within basic research projects will be increased as well.
* Boston-Korea Project for biosciences cooperation (Ministry of Health and Welfare, Ministry of Science and ICT, Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy): 84.5 billion won
* MSIT to make a bold investment of 314.2 billion won (+45%) to research funds for outstanding junior researchers (150 million won → up to 300 million won per year) and laboratory establishment costs (100 million won → up to 500 million won, 200 laboratories).
Second, a total of 2.5 trillion won will be invested in the future strategic technologies to secure future growth engines. Domestication of innovative technologies with high importance in terms of technological security, such as advanced bio and quantum, and the development of core next-generation technologies, such as space exploration and next-generation nuclear power, along with other initiatives to boost private sector’s capabilities will be intensively supported.
* The Korean ARPA-H Project for Innovative and challenging R&D in Biotechnology (Ministry of Health and Welfare): 49.5 billion won.
Third, a total of 3.1 trillion won is allocated to the super-gap technologies in key industries that are considered as the driving forces for continuous national growth. This will support the acquisition of core technologies in those industries, namely semiconductors, display, secondary batteries, and advanced mobility, while maintaining the super-gap in technological edge of related materials and components. Especially, significant amount of investment will be made to the development of next-generation foundational technologies, such as AI chips and solid-state batteries, where the level of private investment is still relatively low.
Fourth, a total of 1.6 trillion won will be invested to secure world-class digital capabilities and foster digital convergence. MSIT will be in active support of the advancement in digital infrastructure and platforms, providing a foundation for the creation of new industries in the private sector. The highlighted areas of interest are next-generation digital technologies, including 6G, super large-scale AI and cybersecurity.
(2) Investments will be continuously made in essential R&D for national missions.
In the defense sector, the government will ensure uninterrupted advancement in the development of high-tech weapon systems technologies that are directly tied to national security, and timely acquisition of core technologies.
In the public R&D sector, emphasis will be placed on technologies that are crucial for frontline needs, so that the safety of citizens from various crimes and disasters could be assured. Attention is given to the eradication of drug-related crimes, which have emerged as a national concern. Comprehensive R&D covering from drug detection, tracing, addiction prevention, and to treatment will be supported. More investment will also be made in the development of technologies that employ digital solutions to preemptively address various safety issues, including accidents in densely populated areas and urban flooding due to heavy rainfall.
* Drug detection and tracing, cutting-edge investigation, and addiction prevention and treatment (National Police Agency): 11.3 billion won
In the carbon neutrality sector, investments will be focused on key R&D projects, such as securing technologies directly related to low-carbon transition of carbon-intensive industries, including steel and cement, and developing hydrogen technologies. In the commercialization sector, bold support for commercialization of public technologies and early-stage startups in advanced technology will be provided, while also improving efficiency in the areas where businesses are capable of independent execution.
(3) Minimized budget reductions in basic research and government-funded research institutes, considering their role as a foundation for the overall R&D ecosystem
Basic research will receive an investment of 2.4 trillion won (-6.2%), a slight decrease compared to the 2.6 trillion won in 2023. In order to develop global-level human resources and research capabilities, basic research will be reorganized to become more agile.
Government-funded research institutes will receive an investment of 2.1 trillion won (-10.8%), a decrease compared to 2.4 trillion won in 2023. This reduction is at a level lower than the overall R&D decrease of 13.9%, while maintaining the previous year's level (+0.2%) for vital operational and human resources expenses. In addition, additional funds of 100 billion won will be established for the entire government-funded research institutes, concentrating on support for cooperative research groups that can create innovative R&D outputs. It is expected that the cooperative research group researchers selected through a competition among government-funded institutions will accomplish pan-nation key missions based on competition and collaboration.
(4) R&D investments will be streamlined to improve efficiency.
Business subsidy-like budget allocation, scattergun approaches, conventional practices, and redundant projects have undergone intensified restructuring*, and further structural adjustments will continue with budget execution inspections. For areas where budgets have surged in recent years to address short-term issues, investment has been substantiated through reassessment of missions and budget reorganization. With these efforts, inefficiencies and side effects that came along with a budget surge in recent years, such as the R&D projects selected without a fair competition and strict budget system that maintained the same amount without a reasonable review, are expected to be resolved.
Minister Lee Jong Ho stated, "The Ministry will take bold measures to eliminate inefficiencies accumulated over time and innovate budget and regulations to prevent any vested interest cartels from regaining their foothold." He added, "I feel a strong sense of responsibility as the head of the corresponding ministry for not having preemptively prevented and addressed R&D inefficiencies. I pledge to initiate the R&D innovation starting from MSIT."
"I believe that R&D and experts in various sectors of science and technology played a pivotal role in the course of Korea joining the line of advanced nations in the world." He further stated, "R&D innovation could be a challenging mission, however, we need to make concerted efforts to survive and thrive amidst a global competition over technological hegemony. In the process of innovating R&D system under the Yoon Suk Yeol administration's commitment to making "R&D as it should be," I will attentively listen to the voices of 500,000 members of the science and technology community and work together to achieve our goals."
For further information, please contact the Public Relations Division (Phone: +82-44-202-4034, E-mail: email@example.com) of the Ministry of Science and ICT.