Building a Research-friendly Environment
KU restructured its research capacity in 2015 to enhance its competitiveness. The position of Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, who oversees the Korea University Research and Business Foundation and other research institutes within KU, was newly created to ensure the comprehensive planning and coordination of the overall research efforts of KU. In addition, the Office of Research Planning was established to enhance university-level R&D planning activities in relation to large-scale national research projects and industry-academia-research cooperation. Moreover, the Research Planning Committee came into being in order to plan and promote large-scale tasks in each research field, and Research Coordinators were tasked with coordinating plans and making their expertise available to the heads of research groups. Additionally, KU analyzed the R&D trends in each field of technology research and held information-sharing sessions in each department on that basis. Furthermore, a comprehensive research information network system was established to connect researchers and to collate research information on a single platform so that researchers can access the big data which is most relevant to them. KU also recommitted itself to honoring outstanding researchers. For example, the Seoktap Research Award was newly established to reward faculty members who are in the top 3% in Korea in terms of the publication of research articles and books and in terms of gaining research funds.
Kwan Young Lee, the Executive Vice President for Research, stated that, “The improvement in the quality and quantity of research funding was achieved by intensively analyzing the focus of government investment, and by promoting our core work via the enhancement of our research structures, and by introducing Research Coordinators.” He continued, “In the future, the evaluation standard for university competitiveness will center around how much high-quality intellectual property is produced.”
The Spirit of Challenge and Innovation Sweeping Through the General Biomedical Field
As a result of all these efforts, the vision of the last decade to put Science KU at the forefront of cutting edge research has borne fruit, with KU's engineering department now ranked in the top 50 in the QS World University Rankings. The Medical Center has also made great strides, and was selected as a participant in the Precision Medicine Project of the National Strategy Project, a contract which is worth 76.9 billion won. It has also had startling accomplishments in multiple areas including the production of research theses, R&D, intellectual property rights, technology transfer, and clinical trials, becoming the unparalleled leader in the biomedical field in Korea and beyond, which is often regarded as one of the fundamental keys to future progress.
The Precision Medicine Project is staffed by the first project team in Korea that conducts precision medical research in areas such as the development of cancer medications specific to Korean people, and a cloud hospital information system aimed at enhancing the efficiency of precision medicine.
The project team plans to lead the Precision Medicine Project by developing three new types of anticancer medicine and by collecting the medical data of 10,000 Korean cancer patients by 2021. Following their selection in 2017, the team has put great effort into expanding the horizon of anticancer-related clinical trial research, thereby bringing forward the day when cancer is conquered.
“For most domestic hospitals, medical treatment is their focus, in terms of their business model and their activities. However, considering the current medical environment, the provision of medical treatment alone cannot create sufficient income for these institutions, and thus they must grow their research activities. The profit derived from research of Massachusetts General Hospital, part of the Harvard Medical School, or of Johns Hopkins Hospital is 12~25% annually. The KU Medical Center has had accomplishments such as the establishment of a medical technology holding company and nine other current subsidiary companies. And building on this, we intend strengthen our research activities in ways that would improve the profit model of hospitals that focus only on treatment, and enhance research into curing patients,” said Kee Hyoung Lee, the Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs.
The process through which strides can be taken toward future medicine is also important. Currently, KU is fast-tracking a plan to establish ‘a team to select the leading technology for future medicine’ and to lead the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the field of medicine. Also, in order to systematically develop promising technologies in the biomedical field, KU has established KU-MAGIC (KU-Medical Applied R&D Global Initiative Center) and has built infrastructure for convergence research. Accordingly, the cutting edge Convergence Medical Center, in which the research capacities of KU will be integrated, has been under construction since September 2017.
From the Reproduction of Knowledge to the Pioneering of a New Research Ecosystem
KU has been developing a transformative new research ecosystem based on the conviction that creative and innovative ideas are rooted in a strong research environment. The KU-FRG (Future Research Grant) is the first research fund established by KU that is aimed at superseding research which merely reproduces knowledge, and at creating a new knowledge ecosystem. In 2016~2017, 252 areas were selected for future-oriented creative research, and a research fund of 4,005 million won was created to support pioneering work in uncharted academic territories.
Additionally, KU has been selected for various research projects such as the Leading Research Center Support Project (research fund of 43.1 billion won), the Nuclear Safety Research Project (research fund of 28.5 billion won), the SW Computing Industry Source Technology Development Project (research fund of 18 billion won), and the Specialized Research Center for National Code Technology, part of the Fundamental Research Project for Core Defense Technology (research fund of 14.3 billion won). These developments demonstrate not only the strides KU is making but also the fact that Research KU is in the vanguard of the innovation that will change the future of the country.
The changes that began in research labs are now forming the path which universities should pursue into the future.