Global cities around the world are now in competition for innovation with a great deal of effort channeled toward start-ups. At the center of this trend are universities, where the competitiveness of the start-up originates. Good examples are Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley in Silicon Valley, home to the largest amount of venture capital in the world. In the case of Finland, there was full support and effort from universities and the government to help innovative entrepreneurs after the fall of Nokia. China is creating a start-up cluster centered around Zhongguancun, Beijing, home to the nation’s most important universities of China, including Tsinghua University, Beijing University, and Renmin University.
With 52 universities and 650,000 college students, Seoul boasts the world's best innovation growth potential. Despite this, the entrepreneurial enthusiasm in college has yet to take off. The ratio of young entrepreneurs is only one tenth of that of China, and the best students are focusing on exams to enter large corporations or to become public officials. In China, 89.8% of university students have entrepreneurial intentions; only 2.8% of their Korean counterparts do so. This lack of entrepreneurial spirit inspired the city of Seoul’s 2016 Campus Town Comprehensive Plan, with the aim of linking local communities with universities and revitalizing employment. In the first year, Korea University was the only university to sign an MOU and carry out a pilot project in Seoul.
Supported 27 start-up team activities for 2 years
AEOL Inc. attracts 3 billion won worth of investment after just one year after receiving start-up support.
▲Representative Baek Jae-hyun (AEOL Inc.) presenting a start-up success story.
For the past two years, Korea University has been working with the city government and autonomous districts to carry out various programs and to converge the university and the regions into vibrant university town. First, Korea University operated nine start-up studios and one café in the Campus Town and selected 27 start-up teams through a start-up competition. The selected start-up teams were provided housing space, office equipment support, start-up funding of 3 to 4 million won, start-up training, and mentoring. The start-up teams held a “Campus Town Fair” that displayed and promoted their prototypes for investors. Within the Campus Town, start-up programs were made available for enrollment. With this support, 27 start-up teams have achieved 7 billion won of sales and capital investment in the last two years
In addition to supporting the establishment of businesses, Korea University hosted 28 lectures based on the region and induced the participation of local residents and youths by holding a university festival outside the campus, “Embracing Anam,” which had hitherto only taken place within the confines of the University. In addition, facilities at Korea University such as cultural facilities and KU Makerspace have been opened to the private sector and are available for use by various residents.
The aggressive transfer of know-how and support from Korea University President Chung Jin Taek has played an important role in the Korea University Campus Town Project’s remarkable achievements within only two years. Prior to being elected the president, President Chung attended the Campus Town Competition as a judge and helped students.
Within one year, AEOL, a Year 3 Campus Town start-up team has developed a next-generation smart ventilation system that combines dehumidification, ventilation, air purification, and secondary cooling and received an investment of about 3 billion won. Baek Jae-hyun, currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering said, "I had original technology and ideas, but I had no idea how to start. Participating in the Campus Town competition gave me the opportunity to receive the initial funding and start-up space, which were the most difficult barriers I was facing, and the mentoring support and investment attraction support from professors at Korea University were a great help. The start-up environment is important for the revitalization of college student entrepreneurship and I believe that the role of the public institutions and universities is crucial. I hope that support for initial funding, space, and mentoring will continue."
Korea University cooperates with the Hongneung Research Cluster to cultivate bio-related talents and to expand start-up space. The goal is to produce a unicorn company by 2025.
The Campus Town Project, which celebrates its third anniversary this year, will provide up to 10 billion won for four years for the establishment of start-up space, business incubation program, and university-area linkage projects. On March 26, a joint cooperation agreement was signed with Seoul Metropolitan Government and Seongbuk-gu for the successful promotion of the Campus Town Project to serve as the advanced base for innovative entrepreneurship. Based on the experience and achievements of the pilot project in Korea University, three additional universities were selected as Campus Town comprehensive models in 2019. Joongang University, Sejong University, and Kwangwoon University joined hands, and as comprehensive Campus Towns, the four universities will begin work in earnest.
While universities announce their initial goals and plans for the Campus Town Project, Korea University announced its goals of producing an IPO (Initial Public Offering) company by 2020, producing a unicorn company (unlisted start-up with enterprise value of over 1 trillion won) by 2025 and producing a Top 50 ranked unicorn company by 2030. To accomplish this, in order to create an environment where entrepreneurs can concentrate on entrepreneurship, three start-up support facilities, including start-up anchor facilities and start-up studios will be added to expand the number to 13 by the end of the year. Korea University will start and operate an artificial intelligence related department from this fall and concentrate on artificial intelligence field start-ups in connection with the neighboring Hongneung Bio Cluster. This past February, Korea University was selected as an artificial intelligence (AI) graduate school sponsored by the Ministry of Science and ICT.
At the agreement ceremony, President Chung said, "Today, at a time when many industrialized countries are suffering from problems of slow growth, high unemployment, and an aging population, and many occupations are disappearing due to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, this signing is very important in terms of being the starting point in pioneering the future. "
President Chung has always advised students by saying “Take on challenges without fear” and “You must be without fear to boldly take on the challenge of entrepreneurship.”
Meanwhile, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has plans to expand the number of start-up spaces from 20 locations to more than 100 locations for the purpose of establishing youth entrepreneurship and the mutual growth of university and local districts. There are plans to provide an environment where entrepreneurs can feel pride and devote themselves to starting up a company. These plans including offering access to university professors, allowing the usae of campus equipment, and providing services for business operations such as logo production for start-ups. In addition, a Technology Consulting Matching Center will be established within the year so that the founders can get help when they encounter technical difficulties or need professional advice (e.g. legal, tax, or accounting) related to start-ups. In particular, the center will expand its capabilities so that professors and researchers can perform their role as accelerators and will endeavor to support the success of the establishment.
Korea University's Systematic Entrepreneurial Roadmap
Korea University's start-up support includes:
The creation of ideas through entrepreneurship education such as Campus CEO, Entrepreneurship Academy, Business Training for Entrepreneurship and the KU Pioneer Village (π-ville) as facilities for idea support ▲ Start-up Researcher or Anam-dong Campus Town for the realization of ideas ▲ Production of prototypes at KU Makerspace and X-Garage ▲Brownbag Meetings and Start-up Job Fairs introducing start-up support programs. ▲The Start-up Express program to receive continuous advice and support from experts. Choo Choo Day, a start-up demo day that invites investors and presents an opportunity to enter the overseas market.