Daedeok Science and Technology Park (DSTP) is the public R&D hub in South Korea. DSTP is located in Daejeon, which is approximately an hour south by high-speed train from Seoul, the capital of South Korea. DSTP occupies 70.4 km2, including areas for research/education and venture firms. As of 2013, DSTP housed 26 GRIs, 7 universities, 1,484 firms, and more than 26,000 researchers (including 10,244 PhDs).
DSTP was constructed in the early 1970s by the Korean state to strategically foster its chemical industry as well as its heavy industry. As a planned park, DSTP played a crucial role in South Korea’s top-down S&T policy at the national level and led technology development in South Korea as “the” national R&D hub, particularly in the initial stages of Korea’s industrialization, when the private sector accounted for only a small portion of R&D investment. In DSTP, the state established a number of government research institutes (GRIs) specializing in various technologies to facilitate R&D activities for the independent development of production and manufacturing technologies instead of continuously depending on imported technologies from advanced countries.
DSTP, as the center of public R&D led by the GRIs, contributed to the creation of critical technologies, which were often commercialized by large domestic firms in high-tech industries. Some examples include the HANARO multipurpose nuclear reactor by the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI, 1994), super high-density DRAM co-developed by the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) and Samsung Semiconductor (1996), and a commercial version of CDMA launched by the ETRI (1996). In particular, the ETRI’s achievements facilitated the competitiveness of Korea’s IT industry. For example, the development of the TDX switching system opened a new chapter in the history of Korea’s communications technology, and the commercialization of CDMA laid the foundation for Korea’s dominance in mobile phone technologies. More recently, the world’s first high-speed mobile Internet, WiBro (wireless broadband internet), was developed by the ETRI and Samsung Electronics. In this way, DSTP has played a key role in advancing South Korea’s high-tech industries.
DSTP has also played a critical role in facilitating the venture boom triggered by the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s and early 2000s. A number of venture firms were created as spin-offs from GRIs in DSTP. Coping with the economic crisis, the state actively promoted venture firms through diverse policy initiatives. With this venture boom, a wide range of industrial and production activities were first allowed within DSTP in 1999. In 2000, President Kim Dae-Jung visited DSTP and proclaimed it “Daedeok Valley,” signaling the state’s intention to turn it into a regional innovation cluster like Silicon Valley. It was “a turning point for DSTP’s transition from a national R&D hub to a regional cluster.” Venture spin-offs from GRIs built a bridge between DSTP and Daejeon, and the number of venture firms in Daejeon increased sharply from 1998 to 2001 through state policies supporting those firms. However, the most promising venture firms in the final stage of product development were relocated to the Seoul metropolitan region in the early 2000s.
Since the mid-2000s, the state’s policies have actively promoted the regionalization of DSTP in various ways, and regional actors with growing capabilities have attempted to increase their interactions with DSTP. The state’s policies have ironically intended to expedite regionalization since the mid-2000s for the purpose of boosting the commercialization of public R&D outcomes. First, national policies regarding DSTP have reinforced the commercialization of DSTP’s R&D outcomes. In 2005, DSTP was designated as a “Special Zone for National R&D” to accelerate the commercialization of its R&D outcomes. The government enacted a special law to establish the Daedeok special R&D zone in 2005. Later in 2011, two other special R&D zones were newly designated by the state in Daegu and Gwangju. This added a regional dimension to the mission of each zone, and the zones in Daegu and Gwangju represented R&D hubs in southeastern and southwestern regions, respectively. In this context, DSTP is expected to place greater emphasis on regional issues in order to promote the enterprise competitiveness and the commercialization of R&D outcomes.
Since the mid-2000s, regional actors have also progressed and interacted more actively with DSTP. The number of venture firms in Daejeon has increased steadily since 2004, and DSTP’s commercialization activities have shown sustained growth, including technology transfer (from 611 cases in 2005 to 910 in 2011), patents (from 22,625 domestic patents registered in 2005 to 41,146 in 2011) and sales (from KRW 2.5 trillion in 2005 to KRW 16.4 trillion in 2011). Recently, ten cases of technology commercialization demonstrate DSTP’s current success. These venture firms and cases of technology commercialization have not been influenced by chaebol groups in the Seoul metropolitan region. They are not spin-offs, technology transfer organizations, or firms outsourcing from chaebol groups. They have been shaping a new business ecosystem at DSTP. They are more willing to be embedded in DSTP and Daejeon. This shows that DSTP has evolved toward a more cluster-based park characterized by the growth of spin-offs, technology transfer organizations, and university-industry linkages over time.