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INNOPOLIS, South Korea


SMEs often cannot afford investments in AI, and “INNOPOLIS AI Friends” addresses this problem through AI festivals, training, co-working spaces, and pilot solution consulting, linking entrepreneurs, academics, and researchers.

Purpose of the solution

The primary objective of INNOPOLIS AI Friends is to mitigate barriers to AI-tech adoption for SMEs. According to Korea Development Institute's survey of 500 Korean companies in 2020, the rate of AI solution adoption was only 3.6%, and the majority (91.7%) of companies that adopted AI solutions were large companies. The major barriers were mismatch with corporate needs, expensive costs, and insufficient in-house human resources with expertise. INNOPOLIS AI Friends addresses these challenges together with AI experts in INNOPOLIS, one of the national hubs of AI research in Korea and home to 7 of the country’s 14 AI Graduate Schools. By making such excellent AI human resources accessible to SMEs, INNOPOLIS AI Friends facilitates AI-driven innovation even for companies that have limited investment capacity for emerging technologies.


Since 2019, AI Festivals and AI solution competitions have been regularly organized to encourage general public interest in AI technologies. Three AI festivals, public conferences on AI, were organized and more than 21,000 people participated, with another 1,747 entering AI solution competition AI SPARK CHALLENGE. INNOPOLIS AI Friends also empowered SMEs by offering AI training, office spaces, and AI solution consulting. AI training workshops customized for corporate demands were also provided to 133 C-level executives and hands-on workers from SMEs, mostly organized in Space-S, an AI startup incubation center in Daedeok INNOPOLIS. Space-S consists of a makerspace, an open co-working space, and 11 office spaces for early-stage AI companies. Together with incubation support, consulting services were also provided for 72 companies to develop AI solutions, and 29 cases eventually led to the actual production of pilot solutions. 85% of companies were satisfied with consulting services.

What is innovative about it?

What distinguishes INNOPOLIS AI Friends from other existing programs is that it focuses on establishing links between public laboratories and private industries at the nascent stage of AI solution development. The existing research support programs are mainly concerned with post-technology-transfer stage from prototype to mass manufacturing. For the emerging technologies such as AI, however, the division between industrial, academic, and research areas is quite rigid, and technology transfer contracts are difficult to achieve. In order to fix such a problem, INNOPOLIS AI Friends connects AI technology suppliers such as researchers and academics to ordinary citizens and entrepreneurs via open networking events, business incubation centers, and AI solution consulting services. By supporting both hardware and software aspects of AI solution development in one package, INNOPOLIS AI Friends facilitates AI knowledge spillover from laboratory to the private sector, and has contributed to the creation of AI Friends Community, a private study group consisted of industry, academia, and research professionals in 2021.

Who are the main users?

The wider community of citizens and SMEs resident in INNOPOLIS.

Who runs it?

The Korea Innovation Foundation is responsible for the overall framework of INNOPOLIS AI Friends by designating key components of the program. For the actual operation of the program, Korea Innovation Foundation closely works together with both public and private organizations with AI expertise.

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