, Volume 104, Issue 1, pp 265–293 | Cite as

The evolution of South Korea’s innovation system: moving towards the triple helix model?

  • Jungwon Yoon


The South Korea’s innovation system has been transformed in tandem with rapid economic growth over the last three decades. In order to explore the evolution process of the innovation system in Korea, this study examines the trends and patterns in collaboration activities among the triple helix actors, such as university, industry, and government (UIG), using co-patent data. The triple helix framework is employed to analyze innovation dynamics within the networks of the bi- and trilateral relations embedded in patent collaborations. The analyses focus on how the triple helix dynamics have been shaped and transformed in the course of development of the innovation system. The results reveal that collaboration activities among UIG largely increased across three developmental phases from 1980 to 2012. In the early periods, strategic R&D alliances between industry and government sector were set up to strengthen enterprises’ innovation capabilities. When the Korean large conglomerates, Chaebols, became a dominant driver of domestic innovation activities, the primary agents of the collaborations shifted from industry-government to industry-university. The network analysis shows that university-industry collaboration is the strongest within the triple helix in recent years, followed by industry-government relations and then UIG relations. The tripartite collaboration has emerged with the rise of entrepreneur universities, but its network has rather been weak and inactive. While Korea has experienced a transition from statist model to a triple helix, the full-fledged triple helix model has not been established yet.


Co-patent Innovation systems Triple helix University-industry-government relations Collaboration network South Korea 



This research is funded by the Science and Technology Policy Institute. The author is very grateful for the valuable comments and suggestions of the anonymous reviews.


  1. Arocena, R., & Sutz, J. (2005). Innovation system and developing countries. Danish Research Unite for Industrial Dynamics Working Paper (02–05). Accessed November 15 2010.
  2. Breschi, S., & Malerba, F. (1997). Sectoral innovation systems. In C. Edquist (Ed.), Systems of innovation: Technologies, institutions and organizations (pp. 130–156). London: Pinter Publishers.Google Scholar
  3. Carlsson, B., Jacobsson, S., Holmen, M., & Rickne, A. (2002). Innovation systems: Analytical and methodological issues. Research Policy, 31(2), 233–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Carlsson, B., & Stankiewicz, R. (1991). On the nature, function and composition of technological systems. Journal of Evolutionary Economics, 1(2), 93–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cassiolato, J. E., Lastres, H. M. M., & Maciel, M. L. (2003). Systems of innovation and development: Evidence from Brazil. Massachusetts: Edward Elgar.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chen, Z., & Guan, J. (2011). Mapping of biotechnology patents of China from 1995–2008. Scientometrics, 88(1), 73–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chen, J. H., Jang, S. L., & Chang, C. H. (2013). The patterns and propensity for international co-invention: The case of China. Scientometrics, 94(2), 481–495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Choi, S., Yang, J. S. W., & Park, H. W. (2014). Quantifying the triple helix relationship in scientific research: Statistical analyses on the dividing pattern between developed and developing countries. Quality and Quantity. doi: 10.1007/s1113501400525.Google Scholar
  9. Chung, S. (2002). Building a national innovation system through regional innovation systems. Technovation, 22(8), 485–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cooke, P. (1996). The new wave of regional innovation networks: Analysis, characteristics and strategy. Small Business Economics, 8, 159–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Edquist, C. (1997). Systems of innovation: Technologies, institutions and organizations. London: Pinter Publisher.Google Scholar
  12. Edquist, C. (2005). Systems of innovation: Perspectives and challenges. In J. Fagerberg, D. C. Mowery, & R. Nelson (Eds.), The oxford handbook of innovation (pp. 181–208). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Etzkowitz, H. (2003). Innovation in innovation: The triple helix of university-industry-government relations. Social Science Information, 42(3), 293–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Etzkowitz, H., Dzisah, J., Ranga, M., & Zhou, C. (2007). The triple helix model of innovation. Asia Pacific Tech Monitor, 24(1), 14–23.Google Scholar
  15. Etzkowitz, H., & Leydesdorff, L. (2000). The dynamics of innovation: From national systems and “Mode 2” to a triple helix of university-industry-government relations. Research Policy, 29(2), 109–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Eun, J. H., Lee, K., & Wu, G. (2006). Explaining the “university-run enterprises” in China: A theoretical framework for university-industry relationship in developing countries and its application to China. Research Policy, 35(9), 1329–1346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Freeman, C. (1987). Technology and economic performance: Lesson from Japan. London: Pinter Publishers.Google Scholar
  18. Gao, X., Guan, J., & Rousseau, R. (2011). Mapping collaborative knowledge production in China using patent co-inventorships. Scientometrics, 88(2), 343–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gao, X., Guo, X., & Guan, J. (2014). An analysis of the patenting activities and collaboration among industry-university-research institutes in the Chinese ICT sector. Scientometrics, 98(1), 247–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gibbons, M. (1994). The new production of knowledge: The dynamics of science and research in contemporary societies. London: Sage Publication.Google Scholar
  21. Guan, J., & Chen, Z. (2012). Patent collaboration and international knowledge flow. Information Processing and Management, 48(1), 170–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hekkert, M. P., Suurs, R. A. A., Negro, S. O., Kuhlmann, S., & Smits, R. E. H. M. (2007). Functions of innovation systems: A new approach for analyzing technological change. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 74(4), 413–432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hemmert, M. (2007). The Korean innovation system: From industrial catch-up to technological leadership? In J. C. Mahilch & W. Pascha (Eds.), Innovation and technology in Korea (pp. 11–32). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hong, W. (2008). Decline of the center: The decentralizing process of knowledge transfer of Chinese universities from 1985 to 2004. Research Policy, 37(4), 580–595.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Keenan, M. (2012). Moving to the innovation frontier: Lessons from the OECD review of Korean innovation policy. In J. Mahlich & W. Pascha (Eds.), Korean science and technology in an international perspective (pp. 15–40). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Khan, G. F., & Park, H. W. (2011). Measuring the triple helix on the web: Longitudinal trends in the university-industry-government relationship in Korea. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 62(12), 2443–2455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kim, S. H. (2008). The shifts in South Korea’s national innovation system: Its interpretation and directions. Science and Technology Policy, 18(4), 32–47. (in Korean).Google Scholar
  28. Kim, L., & Nelson, R. (2000). Technology, learning, and innovation: Experiences of newly industrializing economies. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Kim, L., & Yi, G. (1997). The dynamics of R&D in industrial development: Lessons from the Korean experience. Industry and Innovation, 4(2), 218–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kwon, K. S., Park, H. W., So, M., & Leydesdorff, L. (2012). Has globalization strengthened South Korea’s national research system? National and international dynamics of the triple helix of scientific co-authorship relationships in South Korea. Scientometrics, 90(1), 163–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lei, X. P., Zhao, Z. Y., Zhang, X., Chen, D. Z., Huang, M. H., & Zhao, Y. H. (2012). The inventive activities and collaboration pattern of university-industry-government in China based on patent analysis. Scientometrics, 90(1), 231–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lei, X. P., Zhao, Z. Y., Zhang, X., Chen, D. Z., Huang, M. H., Zheng, J., et al. (2013). Technological collaboration patterns in solar cell industry based on patent inventors and assignees analysis. Scientometrics, 96(2), 417–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Leydesdorff, L., & Zawdie, G. (2010). The triple helix perspective of innovation systems. Technology Analysis and Strategic Management, 22(7), 789–804.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ma, Z., & Lee, Y. (2008). Patent application and technological collaboration in inventive activities: 1980–2005. Technovation, 28(6), 379–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Ma, Z., Lee, Y., & Chen, C. F. P. (2009). Booming or emerging? China’s technological capability and international collaboration in patent activities. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 76(6), 787–796.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nelson, R. (1993). National innovation system: A comparative analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Nooy, W. D., Mrvar, A., & Batagelj, V. (2005). Exploratory social network analysis with Pajek. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Organization for economic cooperation and development (OECD). (1997). National innovation systems. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  39. Ortega, J. L. (2011). Collaboration patterns in patent networks and their relationship with the transfer of technology: The case study of the CSIC patents. Scientometrics, 87(3), 657–666.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Park, H. W., Hong, H. D., & Leydesdorff, L. (2005). A comparison of the knowledge-based innovation systems in the economies of South Korea and the Netherlands using triple helix indicators. Scientometrics, 65(1), 3–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Park, H. W., & Leydesdorff, L. (2010). Longitudinal trends in networks of university-industry-government relations in South Korea: The role of programmatic incentives. Research Policy, 39(5), 640–649.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Patel, P., & Pavitt, K. (1994). National innovation system: Why they are important and how they might be measured and compared. Economics of Innovation and New Technology, 3(1), 77–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Petruzzelli, A. M. (2011). The impact of technological relatedness, prior ties, and geographical distance on university-industry collaborations: A joint-patent analysis. Technovation, 31(7), 309–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Porter, M. (1990). The competitive advantage of nations. London: MacMillan.Google Scholar
  45. Saad, M., Zawdie, G., & Malairaja, C. (2008). The triple helix strategy for universities in developing countries: The experiences in Malaysia and Algeria. Science and Public Policy, 35(6), 431–443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Shapiro, M. (2007). The triple helix paradigm in Korea: A test for new forms of capital. International Journal of Technology Management and Sustainable Development, 6(3), 171–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Trajtenberg, M. (2001). Innovation in Israel 1968–1997: A comparative analysis using patent data. Research Policy, 30(3), 363–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Viotti, E. B. (2002). National learning systems: A new approach on technical change in late industrializing economies and evidences from the cases of Brazil and South Korea. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 69(7), 653–680.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Williams, L., & Woodson, T. (2012). The future of innovation studies in less economically developed countries. Minerva, 50(2), 221–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Yim, D., & Kim, W. (2005). The evolutionary responses of Korean government research institutes in a changing national innovation system. Science Technology Society, 10(1), 31–55.MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Zheng, J., Zhao, Z., Zhang, X., Chen, D., & Huang, M. (2014). International collaboration development in nanotechnology: A perspective of patent network analysis. Scientometrics, 98(1), 683–702.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Zheng, J., Zhao, J. Y., Zhang, X., Chen, D. Z., Huang, M. H., Lei, X. P., et al. (2012). International scientific and technological collaboration of China from 2004 to 2008: A perspective from paper and patent analysis. Scientometrics, 91(1), 65–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of Technology ManagementSogang UniversitySeoulSouth Korea

Personalised recommendations