Lightbulb Moment: KHIDI Builds Global Bridges for Healthcare Innovators

The KHIDI team standing in front of the Korea Bio Innovation Center.

Take the elevator to the 11th floor of the CIC Innovation Campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and you will find the U.S. headquarters of the Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI). Its primary mission is to enhance the international competitiveness of the Korean healthcare industry.

For nearly 20 years, KHIDI USA has facilitated expansion into the U.S. for Korean healthcare companies in biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, medical devices, cosmetics, and other related industries. KHIDI staff provide expert counsel, share market insights, connect entrepreneurs and innovators with resources, and optimize networking opportunities.

“The Cambridge/Boston area has the best biotech ecosystem in the world, and CIC is at the center of it all,” said Soonmahn Park, chief representative of KHIDI USA.   

Kendall Square is the Hub for Healthcare Innovators 

KHIDI tried a few locations for its U.S. headquarters before settling in Kendall Square in 2021. 

Kendall Square is a strategic landing spot for international companies looking to establish a foothold in the U.S. because of the ample networking opportunities and access to a talented workforce. 

“Cambridge is an important center for biotechnology and biopharmaceutical innovation with a concentration of global companies, smaller startups, research institutes and top universities. It’s a strategic location for Korean biotech companies that helps expose their R&D pipeline to global pharmaceutical companies and co-invest in emerging biotechnology innovation,” said Park. 

He cited the Broad Institute, Koch Institute, Whitehead Institute, and the presence of Pfizer and Novartis as examples of the industry giants enticing healthcare innovators to Kendall Square. 

“The Kendall Square area is continuing to be built up – with new buildings under construction, new relationships between companies – and something is always going on. It is wonderful for us and Korean companies to connect to the local community,” added KHIDI researcher Jung Kug Lee. 

One of Park’s friends specifically recommended CIC Cambridge because he started a business there. The CIC innovation campus fulfilled exactly what KHIDI sought in its U.S. headquarters – a partner that understands how to facilitate a vibrant community of innovators by offering flexible workspace solutions for biotech and biopharma companies of all sizes and stages. 

In addition to its own office space, KHIDI sponsors the Korea Bio Innovation Center on the 14th floor of CIC Cambridge. It operates as a coworking space for seventeen Korean companies breaking into the U.S. biotech and biopharma market. Thirteen more KHIDI-supported companies have their own space throughout the One Broadway building.

Twelve companies, including EUBiologics, HLB, and Able Labs, were recently added to this community. All were selected as part of KHIDI’s K-Blockbuster Going Global Project, which offers various forms of assistance in setting up a presence in the U.S. KHIDI provides rental assistance to these companies for a set period and helps facilitate office openings.

EUBiologics and HLB are among the most recent additions to this community, each opening CIC Cambridge offices in April 2024. Both were selected as part of KHIDI’s K-Blockbuster Going Global Project, which offers various forms of assistance in setting up a presence in the U.S. KHIDI provides rental assistance to these companies for a set period and helps facilitate office openings.

KHIDI staff and members of the K-Blockbuster Going Global Project in the Korea Bio Innovation Center at CIC Cambridge
KHIDI staff and members of the K-Blockbuster Going Global Project in the Korea Bio Innovation Center at CIC Cambridge

The Welcoming CIC Community Facilitates Networking and Collaboration Opportunities 

KHIDI specifically mentioned how friendly, approachable and welcoming CIC staff are.

“Everyone at CIC seems to be positive and enterprising. They communicate comfortably, smile and laugh often,” Park remarked. 

Minji Kwon, a KHIDI researcher, shared, “CIC’s welcoming environment and atmosphere help connect people, especially important for those starting in a new location like the companies we support.” 

One example: Alexander Cheung, the director of Venture Café Cambridge, will often pop by KHIDI’s office just to say hi. Started within CIC in 2009, Venture Café is an innovation ecosystem activator offering high-impact programming, spaces and facilitates engagement that creates a connected community of innovators.

Venture Café’s Thursday Gatherings are a weekly staple for the KHIDI team and the companies the organization supports. These events center around specific topics that spark discussion and facilitate networking that can lead to productive conversations in the community. 

“We’ve heard that some companies we support have met their business partner at CIC or through Venture Cafe events,” Kwon added. The KHIDI team also appreciates that CIC offers regular networking events beyond after-work hours. On Tuesday mornings, CIC hosts breakfast for members as a space to connect, chat and collaborate. 

Park thinks these natural networking opportunities are invaluable for companies entering the U.S. market. “The events that CIC hosts are helpful beyond networking – they also help non-native English speakers improve their natural language skills regularly,” he said. 

In addition to its own events, CIC accommodates meetings and events of all sizes on its innovation campus. KHIDI annually hosts Korea Bio Innovation Night, which routinely draws hundreds of people.

“We have the space to share culture as human beings beyond business. The Korean Innovation Night we host introduces Korean music and food to our CIC neighbors,” said Lee.

KHIDI staff and members of the K-Blockbuster Going Global Project
KHIDI staff with three K-Blockbuster companies: Voronoi, HLB, and HAII Corp

The Global Exchange of Ideas, Innovation and Culture

Government agencies like KHIDI are vital connectors for entering a new market.

“Companies that want to expand their operations to other countries do so for business development or marketing purposes. To do that well, you must have a presence in an ecosystem that offers active networking opportunities,” Park advises.  

The flexibility, programming, and community at the CIC Innovation Campus in Cambridge gathers organizations from around the globe. 

“Beyond making local connections and breaking down cultural and language barriers for those new to the U.S., CIC Cambridge offers access to international markets. CIC’s Japan Desk, Swissnex, Business France and more are all located in the same building. We can link up and learn from each other,” said Lee.

The exchange of ideas flows both ways, with CIC team members actively participating in events that bridge global markets.  

KHIDI organizes the annual BIO KOREA conference in Seoul, Asia’s largest healthcare innovation convention. This year, CIC’s founder and CEO Tim Rowe participated in a panel discussion about innovation ecosystems and their importance to global economic cooperation and development. Rowe shared his experience founding CIC and the role innovation campuses play worldwide.

“I’m looking forward to how the KHIDI and CIC session about our strategic approach to global collaboration encourages more Korean companies and researchers to enter the U.S. market,” said Kwon. 

CIC Cambridge Helps Facilitate International Business Expansion 

Park emphasized that a careful, strategic plan is one of the keys to success in international business expansion. “Rather than committing to rent independent office space, I recommend gradually expanding while experiencing networking in a shared office space like CIC,” said Park. 

Operating 1.5 million square feet of shared workspace, shared wet labs, and event space in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, CIC innovation campuses anchor leading innovation districts around the globe.
Looking for a flexible partner to support your world-changing business as you grow? Explore what CIC Cambridge has to offer.

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