University-Industry Engagement Week

South Korea investing $2 billion in bid to compete for artificial intelligence market

By David Schwartz
Published: October 16th, 2018

When it comes to competing for the artificial intelligence market, South Korea is playing for keeps. The country’s ministry of science and ICT recently announced a $2 billion budget for AI research and development to develop its workforce and leverage its strong university-industry links in a bid to become a global AI powerhouse by 2022.

“We aim to reach the global top four by 2022,” Chang Byung-gyu, head of the Presidential Fourth Industrial Revolution Committee — a body set up in October 2017 — said when the new AI funding was announced earlier this year. South Korea is chasing the top three — the United States, Japan and China — which are also investing heavily in AI and related technologies.

The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), one of the country’s leading research institutions with a strong history of industry partnership, is at the center of the effort to build out AI capabilities.

“Korea is still behind the U.S. and China in terms of AI technological competitiveness, investment and manpower. I think the sense of urgency toward this emerging technology pressured the government to make an investment plan,” said KAIST President Sung-chul Shin.

“Korea is very strong in the fields of semiconductors, smartphones, electronic appliances and automobiles. When applied with advanced AI technologies, Korea’s flagship industries will be more dominant in the global market in the near future,” Shin said.

The new funding will be used to set up six AI graduate programs, with a goal of turning out 5,000 AI and data management specialists in the next decade, while also and strengthening partnerships with industry.

A dozen university ICT research centers are planned, each focused on training talent “in critical technologies of the fourth industrial revolution,” the ministry said. Three of those will be in blockchain research, AI and big data at Hoseo University, KAIST and Korea University. The KAIST center will focus on deep learning for AI and will be involved in international joint research projects and public-private partnerships, not just with big corporations but also small and medium-sized enterprises, KAIST’s Shin said.

The institute is no stranger to industry collaborations. In fact, Shin asserts, “I can say the success of [Korean companies] Samsung, SK Hynix, LG and Hyundai are the results of these collaborations over the last 40 years.” In Samsung’s semiconductor division more than 1,000 research personnel are KAIST PhDs, he reports Shin, but more broadly, “one in every four PhDs in the semiconductor industry … is a KAIST alumnus.”

About 20% of KAIST’s total research funding comes from industry, and more than 100 professors are already working tithe Samsung and semiconductor giant SK Hynix, Shin adds, and Samsung is eying the AI space along with the rest of the tech world. The company in August announced a $22 billion investment plan for AI over the next three years, including the hiring of AI researchers at some 1,000 AI centers around the world.

Source: University World News

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week