SEOUL, KOREA — Achieving sales amounted to KRW 400 billion last year, Global Corporation Information Technology Co., LTD. (GCIT), newly established and registered as the only Korean developer of Smart City is a solid attestation that University Industrial Technology Force (UNITEF)  provides the finest ubiquitous mentoring and roadmap services.
UNITEF’s “R&D Consultancy Services Tailor-made for SME’s” helped paved the way for GCIT’s “Eco-Smart City” that introduces environmental concepts to Smart City developed for the first time by the Korean government and industrial complexes.
A land purchase in the first half of the year will be followed by the construction of the city as large as PY One million (approximately, 3.3 million m²) in the second half, involving a budget amounting to KRW 600 billion.
One of the biggest barriers for Korean SMEs is the shortage of a highly-skilled workforce in the technological areas. While capital for technological development and new investment is critical, the core brain that plans and leads businesses is the key to corporate success.
UNITEF is the convergence of 6,000 active associates where 3,500 university professors are mentors and 2,500 corporate members are mentees. Professorsspecializing in diverse areas and from various localities formed a brain pool system to systemically support the fields of technology, information, and workforce to improve the technological capacity of SME’s through cooperation and exchange between universities and companies.
Dr. Cho Young-im, Chairwoman of the UNITEF explained, “Our role is to help SME’s by securing a brain pool of experts, forming epistemic communities by networking, and analyzing technological barriers.”
UNITEF Spearheads Industry-Academia Cooperation
UNITEF is one of the agencies promoting industry-academia cooperation under the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. In 1996, professors from all over the country came together spontaneously and established UNITEF to advance technologies and global competitiveness of SME’s.
Korea’s Industry-Academia Cooperation was first introduced in 2000 based on the example led by Stanford University. But it was the UNITEF’s commencement that expanded and upgraded the support individually provided by each university to the national level. Currently, more than 90% of universities in Korea run a division for industry-academia cooperation.
Dr. Cho said, “Universities established Technology Licensing Offices (TLO’s) dedicated to creating various activities for the transfer of technologies they developed, leading to various activities for technology transfer. We still have a long way to go to develop technologies for industry at the university level. Seeing the UNITEF’s input and efforts leading to great achievements, we feel both proud and more responsible.”
The UNITEF’s core project includes developing a database for industry-academia networks, managing technological forums, and providing R&D consultancy services tailor-made for SME’s. It provided 14 of its services covering “Ubiquitous City Mentoring”, “Strategies to Enter New Markets through Smart Functionalization for Textiles Made of Polyurethane Membranes”, and “Strengthening Coherence of Fixation System for Intervertebral Bodies” for four months starting September to December, 2011.
For more practical impacts of these tasks, UNITEF shifted the consultancy services from one company-one mentor to one company-two or three mentors system to secure a consortium of experts from a wider range of disciplines, excavate areas of services reflecting the corporate needs, strengthen support in these areas, reinforce actual efficiency of the services based on assessment by form of support, materialize consultancy services to cope with barriers experienced by SME’s, and provide more in-depth services. “We work to secure and network a pool of experts in various areas so that they can form communities which will analyze technological barriers tangible in each area. In this way, they provide strategies for Win-Win situations,” explained Dr. Cho.
Smart City, a Winner in the Making
Among all projects tended by the UNITEF, Dr. Cho is particularly interested in “Smart City”, formerly known as “U-City” before the Lee Myung-bak Administration because she still considers it as belonging to the emerging industries overseas becoming less highlighted in Korea. “Smart City” can be a major breakthrough for Korean IT companies because of the simplicity of smart phone users can achieve in gathering even the most trivial information such as the weather and traffic status. Dr. Cho said, “The national budget amounting to KRW three trillion is allocated in the IT industry. Smart City is the killer project which can get the best out of the budget.
“Korea’s U-City still has a long way to go,” says Dr. Cho. In August 2011, she decided to arrange the workforce database from industries, academia and research to establish “Smart City” while hosting the “2011 General Meeting to Celebrate the Launch of Smart-City Technology Forum” aimed to solve all barriers to the development of it.
The forum, a cornerstone to U-City’s realization, represented Dr. Cho’s aspiration to make UNITEF a great contribution to the “Smart City” development as the center of the industry academia-research network. As elements to achieve Smart City’s core vision, she presented computing paradigms, technological principles and application domains and spaces. According to her plan, the workforce from these four areas will be recategorized into three areas of cloud, mobile and sensor-based services to secure the Smart-City Workforce Database finally by 2013. The main idea is that the participation of industrial, academic and research subjects and comprehensive inclusion of their activities shall derive recommendations to the government, which will lead to total elimination of barriers in terms of policies or technologies.
Smart City, a Winner in the Making
The World Awaits Smart City’s Perfect Bloom
In 2011, UNITEF established the industry-academia cooperation networks, provided modified R&D consultancy services, and supported technologically inclined middle and high school students. If the cooperation networks were a garden, the ideas of these young people would be the seeds that can lead to great fruition through SME’s successful cultivation. Inspiration from this young generation of visionaries may lead to technological development, generating a technological patent market where UNITEF can act as a broker. UNITEF’s vision goes further to embrace domestic and overseas patent incubation.
Its goal has been set to help the country lead the Smart City industry globally. Dr. Cho explained, “I hope to export “Smart City” for it has potentials for globalization. We might even try a brand name called “K-City” which is after Hallyu (Korean Wave). To fulfill this dream, our first job is to set the international standards and terminologies.”
Korea is about ten years ahead in the Smart City industry but the international standardization tends to fall behind such progress. International standardization is a long-term plan involving at least seven to eight years. However, Dr. Cho is hopeful based on her belief in Korea’s advanced infrastructure and the people’s prompt adaptation to new technologies. Following the lead of Singapore, Hong Kong, Denmark and Finland which have developed their custom-built software and demonstrated advanced Smart City technologies, Korea’s Smart City industry is on its way to leading the world market through its Korean-style software requiring every bit of attention as it conquers the IT world.
The Articles about Smart City will be continued with following issues.