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Finding the Future of the Bio Industry in the Sea

Date. 2021-02-04
Hit. 1344

Finding the Future of the Bio Industry in the Sea

- Government Announces “Strategy to Preoccupy the Global Marine Bio Market” -




◈ The goal is to expand the size of the Korean marine bio market to be worth 1.2 trillion won; to secure advanced marine bio technologies matching up to 85% of those owned by the countries with top relevant technologies; and to reduce the country’s import dependency ratio on materials (from 70% → to 50%) by 2030

◈ The government will establish a step-by-step support measures for commercialization to address difficulties faced by businesses, increase investments in strategic R&D projects, and strengthen commercialization linkages focusing on core technologies

◈ The government will develop high value-added food processing technologies such as biodegradable fishing gear using seaweed, alternative fisheries products such as artificial tuna, 3D printed fisheries products, etc.



The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF; Minister MOON, Seong-Hyeok) said it formulated the “World Marine Bio Market Preoccupation Strategy,” which includes major tasks to promote the marine bio industry by 2030, and reported it at a coordination meeting on key state affairs presided over by Prime Minister on January 14 (Thursday).


Marine Bio is a field that develops biomaterials and produces products and services in marine life. The marine bio industry is projected to hold vast promises, considering that only 1% of about 330,000 marine life species worldwide are currently used as biomaterials, leaving immense opportunities and possibilities of developing new biomaterials using marine life species. The OECD predicted that the marine bio industry will be the solution to international issues and a driving force for economic growth (Marine biotechnology, 2017). The US and the EU are also increasing support to secure marine biological resources and build marine bio infrastructure.


Meanwhile, partly due to marine bio industry’s short history of research, there are insufficient amount of information available to conduct clinical tests on marine bio resources, and there is no sophisticated system for mass production of materials, raising the risk for companies entering the marine bio market. As a result, businesses are often reluctant to make investments and the inflow of professionals decreased, leaving today’s Korean marine bio market to be valued at only about 500 billion won. Many among the 390 companies in the Korean marine bio industry are small-sized, which means they often face difficulties in making sizable profits from commercialization process.


In response, the government drafted the “World Marine Bio Market Preoccupation Strategy,” a measure that contains a 10-year plan to secure a national growth engine and get the upper hand in the global marine bio market by actively promoting the domestic marine bio industry. The measure is composed of two pillars: ① Providing step-by-step support for commercialization in order to address businesses’ difficulties such as insufficient information on materials, difficulties securing large quantities of material, and difficulties going through the licensing and approval processes to release the product, and ② Designating key technology areas to foster in order to make strategic R&D investments, and strengthening commercialization linkages in an effort to effectively commercialize promising technologies.


The government will grow the size of the domestic marine bio market to be valued at 1.2 trillion won by 2030. With goals to narrow the technology gap with leading countries [(2017) match up to 78.6% → (2030) 85%] and reduce import dependency of materials [(2019) from 70% → (2030) to 50%], it will: ① Develop the industry infrastructure; and ② Promote innovation strategies for marine bio R&D.


【❶ Developing the industry infrastructure


First, the Marine Biobank* will provide information on characteristics of materials that have been graded, such as anti-cancer properties of marine organisms, and also distribute materials free of charge to assist businesses discover materials with industrial potential. In particular, as for the case of core materials with high industry demand, the government will develop mass production technology and support productization by establishing an empirical test site (test bed) to verify the technology and by building specialized production facilities for marine materials.

* The Marine Biobank is an institution that discovers and distributes materials with industrial potential, and provides information on marine life resources. It is operated by an institution in charge of marine bio resources (National Marine Biodiversity Institute of Korea).


In addition, a support system will be established to provide support in all stages of industrialization, to prevent businesses failing to commercialize their products for reasons including the difficulties in passing clinical trials after a successful R&D, and lack of infrastructure for product productizaion. First, the government plans to overhaul regulations including adjusting of the licensing and approval standards considering the characteristics of marine materials. The government will also formulate and distribute a comprehensive set of guidelines that would better inform businesses of the licensing and approval process and methods to prepare necessary documents. To this end, the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries plans to sign an MOU with the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety within the first half of this year to strengthen inter-ministerial cooperation.


In addition, the government will provide funds to start-up companies for technology development, foster talent to promote commercialization, and provide support for consulting service fees and other expenses for obtaining international certification to help prominent marine bio products advance into foreign markets. In addition, the government will also promote further development of formulation technology to address problems such as viscosity and odor peculiar to marine organisms that have hindered the commercialization of marine bio materials into health foods and cosmetics, and also to improve absorption in the human body.


Along with such efforts, the government plans to create a Specialized Marine Bio Cluster in line with the characteristics of each sea (East Sea, Western Sea, and South Sea), and support linkage with regional infrastructure to produce successful outcome. First, the government support to the Western Sea region will include support to businesses throughout the commercialization process centered around the “National Marine Biodiversity Institute of Korea” and the “Marine Bio Industrialization Incubator,” which is scheduled to be completed in 2023. It also plans to designate the site behind Incheon Port to a marine bio-specialized zone by 2025 to provide long-term lease to marine bio companies. Second, leveraging upon the Southern Sea region being the largest seaweed producer in the country, the government plans to build a biomaterial production facility and develop it as a materials supply base. Third, the East Sea region will be developed as a basic and convergence/integration research base with government support utilizing the existing research infrastructure.


In this regard, South Chungcheong province is consulting with the Korea Biotechnology Industry Organization on ways to support bushiness moving to the Marine Bio Industrialization Incubator, while South Jeolla province plans to work together with bio companies such as Korea Prime Pharm. Co., Ltd. in practical advice and sharing of equipment related to the establishment of a seaweed-based material production facility.


【❷ R&D innovation


By strengthening the participation of businesses in R&D and the connection between expert groups, the government will support outstanding research results to be commercialized. First, a public-private consultative body participated by the Korea Biotechnology Industry Organization and the Korean Society for Marine Biotechnology will be formed to strengthen cooperation among experts through joint research, and expand the participation of businesses from the planning stage of R&D projects. In addition, through a consortium between food companies and pharmaceuticalㆍbio companies, a win-win R&D system will be introduced to develop technologies in the healthcare and medical fields by utilizing research results in the field of food ingredients.


The government will also seek solutions to social problems through marine bio R&D. The focus will be on developing materials that can contribute to improve the marine environment, such as new materials that can replace the existing chemical products, biodegradable bioplastic fishing gears using algae, and marine microbiome that can suppress harmful plankton.


In addition, the government will strive to give high added value to fisheries industry by developing digital breeding technology that can produce better seeds by digitalizing genomic information on aquaculture organisms. Furthermore, the government will develop high added value food processing technologies such as alternative fisheries products* such as artificial tuna, and customized fisheries products using 3D printing. Along with this, the government plans to increase investments to discover new industrial materials. For example, developing well-aging and anti-aging materials suitable for the aging society, and developing functional healthcare products using marine resources with healing properties.


* E.g. New Wave Foods (US) produces artificial shrimp using algae and vegetable protein, and Atlantic Natural Foods (US) produces cans of vegetable tuna using seaweed mixed powder.


This strategy will enable businesses and researchers to enter the marine bio market more easily, by addressing the difficulties in the fields of marine bio research and the industry. It is projected that tangible results will be produced in the future, placing Korea in the leadership position of the global marine bio market by actively supporting development of new materials and technologies using marine bio resources.


Minister MOON, Seong-Hyeok of Oceans and Fisheries said, “We stared to witness significant achievements in the marine bio field, such as bio-adhesive that can seal wounds without scars using the adhesive component of mussel protein.” He added, “We will spare no efforts to foster the marine bio industry based on this strategy, so that it can become a new national growth engine.”