The concept of the ‘valley of death’ prevents the progress of science from the laboratory bench to the point where it provides the basis of a commercially successful business or product. Due to limited resources, small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) can find this valley especially difficult to cross. This situation is particularly regrettable when it applies to eco-innovative companies, who through the commercialisation of a technology can deliver a positive externality to society, for example a reduction in external costs from environmental damage.
The Korea Environmental Industry & Technology Institute (KEITI), a quasi-government organisation affiliated with the Ministry of Environment, supports SMEs which possess outstanding environmental technologies but lack the resources to commercialise them.
KEITI helps at each stage of business development by establishing commercialisation strategies and providing support (advise/consultancy), so that new companies can succeed in both market entry and business management.
Early stage companies can benefit from innovation consulting services in areas such as product development, legislation, and patenting. Start-ups can also make use of facilities at the Environmental Venture Centre run by KEITI.
More developed SMEs are eligible for business management consultation, and financial support through public loan funding for development and demonstration. Late stage companies can continue to receive support on matters such as internationalisation strategies, expert recruitment and advertisement.
KEITI is able to help more than 100 companies per year, helping to increase sales, job creation and productivity amongst eco-innovative SMEs.
Additionally, KEITI looks to build demand for eco-friendly or low-carbon products in Korea through a series of activities promoting sustainable consumption. Korea Eco-Label, a government-initiated eco-labelling program helps consumers identify products and services that have a reduced environmental impact throughout their life cycle, from production to disposal. Another scheme offering Green Credit Cards allows consumers to earn bonus points when buying eco-friendly products. More than 6 million people are using the card.
The Korean Government clearly recognises the potential for eco-innovation to contribute to sustainable development. Through a dedicated body such as KEITI, this is effectively nurtured by providing a broad spectrum of support services all along the innovation value chain.
Eco-innovative SMEs in general tend to face many of the same problems, so support services such as those provided by KEITI would be widely applicable in other territories. Cost and skill shortages are possible factors which could limit replication. It is estimated at GML 8.