Learn from Silicon Valley

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Learn from Silicon Valley

Young aspiring entrepreneurs who start businesses from campus projects through a government sponsorship program end up with piles of debt instead of fame and wealth. Various projects designed to merge university research infrastructure with business, and experiments to turn campuses into laboratories of innovation, over the last three years have so far been fruitless. According to Rep. Choo Mi-ae of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, 46.3 percent of students or groups who started a business on a government-led college sponsorship program worth 144.9 billion won ($135 million) over the last three years have not made a single won in profit and are having a hard time repaying the seed-money loans.

The government runs various sponsorship and subsidy programs under the national agenda to build a “creative economy” but has made scant progress. The reason may be because the funds fall into the wrong hands. The government should re-examine various sponsorship programs it runs at universities. There needs to be some traffic control among start-up internships and academy-industry cooperation programs run separately by the Small and Medium Business Administration, Education Ministry, and Employment and Labor Ministry.

Silicon Valley offers examples of start-up investments that bear fruit after at least five years. Start-up investments require farsightedness and a long-term perspective. Nagging for fast results would only put pressure on the adventurous spirit of young people who are working under difficult circumstances. Universities appropriate government subsidies for 1,600 startup projects and cannot offer substantial and concentrated support to the most promising ones. Such structural problems must be fixed.

Universities must rationalize their support system so that their spending goes to promising projects. There are many complaints among young people that government funds mostly go to projects led by employees of large companies instead of young students with innovative and adventurous ideas. Universities must draw up more a workable and effective system so that state funds help promising entrepreneurs to pursue their ideas and build innovations.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oc.t 11, Page 30

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