UK and Republic of Korea launch new innovation twinning programme

Cities are engines of national growth and centres of innovation, creativity and connectivity. In our globalised innovation economy city twinning is having a data-led renaissance - and the UK and South Korea are leading the way.

However, traditional bilateral research & innovation relationships tend to be national in scope. Countries agree to cooperate with missions between capital cities, and a few select Tier 1 cities are visited. As more and more countries worldwide focus on ‘levelling up’ their regional economies, there is now more focus on supporting the science, research, innovation and technology partnerships of other parts of the country, including Tier 2 and 3 cities.

The Connected Places Catapult’s Innovation Twins programme is based on a methodology for finding high potential city pairings between countries and supporting them to collaborate across government, business and academia to drive real outcomes for the Smart Cities agenda.

This programme helps UK and South Korean cities become key actors in their innovation ecosystem. And by building relationships between cities with areas of synergy and complementarity, we believe it is possible to accelerate long-lasting R&I collaborations and create a pipeline of opportunities for bilateral trade and FDI. This will help both countries realise the latent potential of their highly innovative SME sector. This initiative is being delivered by Connected Places Catapult and funded by the UK’s Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) through the Global Research& Innovation Programme, Innovate UK and supported by the British Embassy in Seoul.

Partnering for Transformative Success

The UK-South Korea Innovation programme has been designed to support long term city-to-city relationships with a focus on:

  • Smart Cities, mobility, and enabling technologies
  • Economic development and diversification
  • Start-ups and SME support
  • Research & Innovation (R&I) and collaboration

The multi-year programme operates through three phases which then create long term and sustainable relationships between cities that lead to ongoing bilateral investment and market opportunities.

Phase 1: Research & Evidence Gathering – Completed

During Phase 1, the project team developed a framework, methodology, and rationale for city-to-city pairings between the UK and South Korea. Applying this unique approach, the team assessed which pairs of cities have the capacity and propensity to create meaningful new subnational partnerships and networks across academia, businesses, and city governments, to support smart and focused economic development and enhance economic resilience.

CP Catapult Report – UK South Korea Twins
File Type: pdfFile size: 8.2MB
CP Catapult Report – UK South Korea Twins – SK Translation
File Type: pdfFile size: 1.5MB

Phase 2: Convening & Lighthouse Project – Currently being delivered

This project has moved from research to project-based collaboration between the cities of Belfast and Sejong, looking at improving the development and application of innovations in their cities and how they can open new R&I and business collaborations. This Lighthouse Project is testing a more in-depth operational approach between cities and showing tangible outcomes on the ground.

It also offers opportunities to bring together wider groups of paired cities to begin knowledge sharing and relationship-building across business, science and research.

Phase 3: Demonstration & Scale Up

Building on the previous phases, Phase 3 will seek to create a cohort of city twins, focusing on cross-city start-up acceleration and demonstration projects. The paired cities will set up bilateral steering committees that identify common city challenges, accelerate the start-up innovations and run shared demonstrators.

To find out more about the project, you can watch our launch webinar that took place below. We also have a Korean version of the Phase 1 report coming soon.

Watch the launch event here


If your city or region is interested in taking part in a similar programme and would like to partner with us, please contact our team at