High-tech Research Infrastructures (RIs) require large budgets, high operating costs and extensive human resources, making them available only to a small number of prominent researchers. Up-and-coming junior researchers or technical staffs from SMEs, who account for the majority of technology development, are therefore not able to utilise expensive RIs. The South Korean government planned and established the national RIs governance system to solve this issue and fairly allocate opportunities for utilising RIs.
Problem: The benefits of national R&D projects are provided only to a few groups
South Korea has invested more than 4% of its GDP in national R&D every year to lay the groundwork for sustainable growth. In particular, it has invested more than 860 million dollars a year in research infrastructure, such as research facilities and equipment for the past 20 years.
However, high-tech research infrastructure requires a large budget, constant operating costs and human resources. Therefore, there is a clear limit for individuals or developing countries to manage leading research infrastructure.
Despite the recent effort of many countries dispatching their high-calibre talent to advanced countries for national science and technology development, there is a problem that on-going research can be discontinued due to a lack of research infrastructure, even after returning to the homeland.
Research infrastructure is available only to a concentrated number of prominent researchers. Therefore, the up-and-coming junior researchers or technical staffs from SMEs, who account for the majority of the country's technology development, cannot utilise them.
To solve these problems, the South Korean Ministry of Science and ICT planned and established the national research infrastructure governance system, ZEUS (Zone of research Equipments Utilization Service), to fairly allocate opportunities for utilising research infrastructure for technological innovation and to increase efficiency in science and technology investment.
ZEUS: promoting a virtuous circle of system research infrastructure
Expensive research infrastructure is essential for advanced science technology research and development. However, due to the limitations of national finances, not all researchers can equally utilise the infrastructure.
ZEUS aims to provide all researchers with equal opportunities to utilize research infrastructure. To make this possible, ZEUS collects and analyses all research infrastructure information in South Korea so as to understand the status of the deployment and operation of facilities.
This increases the efficiency of research infrastructure, preventing unnecessary research infrastructure from being built, relocating underutilised infrastructure, and reserving equipment online.
The government's credibility increases by transparent disclosure of information on the operation and financial investments in research infrastructure.
Economically, the government can curb unnecessary investment in science and technology, enabling strategic investment in new R&D areas.
From a movement of the scientific society to a national policy
Since 2013, Korea has started providing ZEUS, a portal service for national research infrastructure. In 2011, ZEUS implemented the Information Strategy Planning (ISP) and Information Technology Architecture (ITA) to plan an information systems with the research infrastructure that used to be managed at the individual ministry level. Starting from the equipment reservation service in 2013, ZEUS has expanded its scope to review services in 2014, transfer idle equipment in 2015, and also manage large facilities in 2016. Now, ZEUS plays a leading role providing the comprehensive information service that supports the whole lifecycle of the national research infrastructure. Infrastructure worth more than 25,000 dollars is being built with a separate review process and the use of infrastructure is examined every year to evaluate whether it is not in use and whether to transfer it to other researchers who need.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Strengthening the Dynamics of R&D Investment
Through ZEUS, it is possible to deter additional demand through the establishment of infrastructure based on joint utilization and promotion of management and reduced demand for the establishment of infrastructure can be distributed to new investment and marginalized groups. The improved access to research infrastructure promotes innovative and adventurous research from often excluded or resource-poor researchers.
What is the current status of your innovation?
Currently, ZEUS holds the research infrastructure information of the entire country and has a system that automatically collects all information through connection with the information system of individual research institutes. When researchers acquire research infrastructure, they are automatically registered through ZEUS, and can make real time reservations, enabling the government to monitor the utilisation status.
Collaborations & Partnerships
ZEUS is based on integration and collaboration.
ZEUS has a collaborative relationship with 18 government departments and 430 research institutes.
To coordinate opinion and role sharing among the different ministries, the residential Advisory Council on Science & Technology designated the MSIT as the coordinating ministry, with each ministry playing a role based on its characteristics.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Researchers can make real-time reservations for all research infrastructure in one place.
Each research institute and government department can monitor the research infrastructure that is distributed among various management entities at a glance.
Government officials can monitor the status of investment in research infrastructure and make efficient investment plans.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
The integrated management system for research infrastructure is an innovative policy that improves the soundness of research and development investment under the current circumstances of South Korea, where 28 government ministries are making investments in the development of science and technology individually (the share of joint utilisation equipment among total equipment went from 18% in 2009 to 65% in 2019).
Through ZEUS, it is possible to deter additional demand through the establishment of infrastructure based on joint utilisation and promotion of management and reduced demand for the establishment of infrastructure can be distributed to new investment and marginalised groups. The improved access to research infrastructure promotes innovative and adventurous research.
Challenges and Failures
As each ministry and local governments started establishing their own research infrastructure utilisation system in early 2010, the competition within the government posed significant obstacles in implementing policies for integration.
The MSIT overcame the obstacles by coordinating the roles of various stakeholders (G2G, G2B, G2C) and making them cooperate with each other.
- G2G: Research infrastructure information and reservation system were integrated into a single platform. Each ministry was assigned with individual tasks such as information checking, status survey, and operation of reservation system to change the relationship from competitor to the partner.
- G2B: Linkage between Research Infrastructure Management System and Government System via Application Protocol Interface (API).
- G2C: Providing information and online consulting on research infrastructure.
Conditions for Success
ZEUS pursues continuous innovation through change, shifting away from the individual ownership culture of research infrastructure, which had been widespread in the research field. The success of ZEUS would not be possible without efforts and shared understanding of interested parties.
Three lessons could be learned from the process of implementing ZEUS.
Firstly, policies implemented across the country should be approached with strategy.
Secondly, there should be an integrated implementing agency.
Thirdly, the policy should be maintained and outcomes should be monitored continuously.
ZEUS was presented as a solution to maximize the inclusiveness of the research and development budget. In 2015 and 2016, training courses were developed under the theme of national research infrastructure management targeting high-ranking policy officials in ASEAN member countries to explain Korea’s research infrastructure policy. Among them, policy consulting was provided to Cambodia, Brunei, the Philippines and Vietnam. Currently, a joint utilization program is being panned for ASEAN member countries, providing information on available research facilities through the English web service.
This was presented as an effective measure to improve governments' local R&D. Accordingly, the national model was monitored, with 7 local governments currently implementing policies for joint utilisation. ZEUS is now planning systems to strengthen cooperation with local governments and looking forward to another innovation model stemming from this.
The establishment of an integrated information system faces a lot of opposition at the beginning. In particular, it may be perceived as unnecessary for researchers. This shift in perception can lead to the success of systems like ZEUS. In addition to a strong management system, it is necessary to lead this shift in awareness through periodic public relations activities. ZEUS explains the system to more than 3000 researchers through more than 30 offline lectures each year.
- Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways
18 March 2021