Innovation centres to nuture creativity

SEOUL • South Korea's eastern Gangwon province is known for its rising mountains and pristine beaches.

But with the launch of a two-storey innovation centre in its capital Chuncheon in May, the tourist hot spot is set to become the country's big data and crowdsourcing hub.

This is the 10th Creative Economy Innovation Centre opened by the government as part of President Park Geun Hye's push to boost economic growth by developing creative industries that tap the nation's strength in science and technology.

Unveiling her three-year plan for economic innovation in a national address early last year, she said the government will commit up to 960 billion won (S$1.1 billion) for start-ups and set aside a budget of 4 trillion won "to create an ecosystem conducive to starting venture businesses".

Three more such centres have opened since the one in Chuncheon - the latest in Sejong city on June 30 - with the country moving on track towards the final goal of 17 this year. These centres "will play a pivotal role in realising a creative economy and also serve as a cradle for the development of local communities and the nurturing of human resources", said Ms Park.

Each centre is supported by a corporate partner that will provide funding and help to harness creative ideas from start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises.

Samsung, the country's largest conglomerate, took the lead in opening the first innovation centre in Daegu last September, promising to mentor young entrepreneurs and provide a 20-billion-won fund to help them start their own businesses.

Chuncheon's partner is the country's largest search portal Naver, which pledged 105 billion won, while Sejong is working with petrochemical and telecommunications giant SK Group on ICT-enabled smart farming.

Chang May Choon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2015, with the headline 'Innovation centres to nuture creativity'. Print Edition | Subscribe