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South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT establishes public-private Natural Innovations Growth Promotion Team

South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT establishes public-private Natural Innovations Growth Promotion Team

South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT has established a “Natural
Innovations Growth Promotion Team” as a cornerstone in the country’s drive to
create an “ innovative ecosystem of natural products via regular
forum operations, joint research promotion, and policy proposals”, according to
a press release issued by the Ministry on 1st June.

The “Natural Innovations Growth Team” will be a collaborative partnership
consisting of 20 members, including companies specialising in natural products
and health foods, academia, 6 government-funded research institutes, the
Ministry of Science and ICT and the Chungbuk provincial government. The
inter-sectoral nature of the team is indicative of South Korea’s drive towards
tapping on private sector expertise and needs via public-private partnerships
to further the country’s prospects for economic growth and policy
innovation. 

Under the stewardship of the Korea Drug Research Association and
directed by the country’s Bio Synergy Research Center, the “Natural Innovations
Growth Team” provides a platform for joint action between government, research
and industry. In providing a central hub for the growth of South Korea’s
natural products ecosystem, the team is expected to better channel the
government’s annual 140 billion won investment expenditure in natural product
research & development.

According to the press release issued by the Ministry, funding goes
to projects such as creating a “natural material bank”, a “smart-farm testbed”,
development of therapeutic substances to reduce fat absorption in the pancreas
derived from traditional medicine extracts”, as well as the development of a
“virtual human model” to help identify how natural materials interact with the
human body.

The establishment of the “Natural Innovations Growth Promotion Team”
comes in light of the Ministry’s commitment towards achieving the country’s
vision, “Bio-Economy Initiative 2025” ,and complements the earlier “Strategy
for Innovative Growth of Natural Products in the Korean Peninsula”. According
to an article published in the Korea Biomedical Review, the “Bio-Economy Initiative
2025” is intended to increase South Korea’s market share of the global
bioengineering market from an output of 1.7 percent in 2017 to 5 percent in
2025
. The “Strategy for Innovative Growth of
Natural Products in the Korean Peninsula” refers to the Ministry of Science and
ICT’s strategy of developing 10 world-class natural products over the next 22
years; this
strategy consists of 3 aspects — to secure natural ingredients, to “identify
scientific principles”, and to create innovative growth ecosystems — and  constitutes part of South Korea’s
“Bio-Economy Initiative 2025”.

South Korea’s bid to become a heavyweight in the global biotech and
bioengineering market has been underscored by significant investment in
relevant sectors by actors in both the public and private sector. The
South Korean government had earlier announced in 2017 that it plans to invest
500 billion won into the pharmaceutical sector over a period of 10 years in a
bid to produce nearly 100 new drugs by 2026
;
Due to a confluence of progress in bioscience, industry and the cultural appeal
of “Hallyu”, South Korea has also become a leading innovator in cosmetics and a
global leader in “cosmeceuticals”, or cosmetic
products that have medicinal or drug-like benefits
. The launch of the “Natural Innovations Growth Promotion Team”
builds upon the country’s mounting success and provides more opportunities for
further innovation in the field of bioengineering.

“In order to create a premium for traditional
natural products on the Korean peninsula, industry-academia-government
collaboration is essential”, said Kim
Jung-won,  Director
of the Ministry of Science and ICT R&D Policy Bureau. To complement the
establishment of the “Natural Innovations Growth Promotion Team”, the Ministry
of Science and ICT also plans to support joint research between private
companies and public research institutes to improve global product development
via a “Natural Product Innovation Growth Leading Project”. This initiative is
expected to be announced in July.

Image credits: http://m.science.ytn.co.kr/view.php?s_mcd=0082&key=201804111643056116