South Korea will invest over US$400 million this year to help develop new and indigenous products and technologies that will help boost the country’s economy and exports, the government said Tuesday. The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said the government seeks to develop 13 new industrial growth engines that include smart wearable devices, self-driving vehicles and a high-speed unmanned aerial vehicle that can take off and land vertically. For their development, the government will invest 254.8 billion won, or about $230 million, this year with an additional 194 billion won earmarked for the commercialization of the new growth engines.
“The ministry will soon launch the so-called stepping-stone project that will allow early commercialization of products that are made available as an interim outcome of the development program,” it said in a press release. The program aims to help secure new growth engines for the future but also help advance and diversify the country’s export items.
In August 2003, the South Korean government chose ‘intelligent robots’ as one of the top 10 most promising, next-generation growth industries that were expected to help raise the national per capital income to USD 20,000. Ten years have passed since then and over the past decade, several industries on the top 10 most-promising list, such as displays, semiconductors, and next-generation batteries, have become among the world’s best. However, the intelligent robot industry is still wrestling with a tough task of creating private markets that continue to expand.
As South Korea’s slow-growing robotics market has been led by a small-sized venture firm which was created just four years ago, that firm has been thrown into the spotlight. The market leader is Future Robot, developer of newly launched advertising robot Furo-D. Future Robot has been on a roll in the domestic market, as well as such overseas markets as Japan, China, Brazil, Singapore, and Russia. Against this backdrop, Korea IT Times sat down with Song Se-Kyong, CEO of Future Robot, a company that aspires to be a “future-oriented business,” to learn about this small but strong robot maker.
Korea should foster its agricultural and fisheries industries as twin parts of a new growth engine over the next decade by boosting food exports and globalizing “hansik,’’ Korean cuisine, according to the country’s top agricultural policymaker.
In an interview with The Korea Times, Suh Kyu-yong, minister for food, agriculture, forestry and fisheries, said the future of the nation’s agricultural, livestock and fisheries sectors is bright, projecting Korea will soon be competing with other agricultural powerhouses.
“The international crops, livestock and fisheries market stood at $5.8 trillion in 2010, larger than the combined revenue accrued from both the information technology and automobile sectors. It will continue to expand in the future in line with world population growth. It is important for Korea to secure larger shares in this rapidly growing industry,’’ Suh said.
The minister said opening up the domestic agricultural market to foreign competition presents farmers here with both risks and opportunities. `When we open our door, foreign countries have to do the same. This provides local farmers with access to new markets. The government will do everything it can to help modernize agricultural infrastructure and nurture a new generation of farmers.’’
Aggressive efforts by many nations to recruit science and technology talent have put the spotlight on Korea’s own workforce. New industries like green energy, robotics, biomedicine, and nanotechnology will require highly skilled personnel, but Korea is coming up short in these promising areas. New initiatives like Korea’s “10,000 Plus Plan,” and investments in basic research are trying to address these gaps.
Developing new growth engines is an urgent priority for economies around the world. This is prompting more attention to grooming and acquiring elite science and technology (S&T) personnel. Advanced countries and emerging economies alike are mounting efforts to foster personnel that can lead the next-generation growth engines of their economy.
Technology powerhouses, including Japan and Germany, have emphasized home-grown talent. In Germany, the “High-Tech Strategy (Die Hightech-Strategie fur Deutschand)”1 adopted in 2005 seeks to nurture expertise in 17 emerging high-tech industries, including space technology and energy. In contrast, the US and Singapore are investing in attracting top-tier foreign talent. The “American Competitiveness Initiative”2 focuses on promoting high-risk, high-return research and expanding the labor pool for research and development (R&D).
Korea is shifting its hiring of S&T personnel from leaders who can drive a “catch-up” business model to leaders who can pursue a “frontier” strategy that leverages next-generation industries. Through this, Korea hopes to stay ahead of emerging market rivals like China on the value chain, while catching up with existing technology powerhouses.