Loans under the government’s “technology finance” initiative have reached nearly 6 trillion won ($5.4 billion). A start-up created last September has a patent on enriching and refining waste produced in the manufacture of computer chips.
It is the first such technology in Korea, but the company lacked the collateral required for bank loans and was unable to secure the capital needed to build production facilities. But the start-up recently took out a 1.3 billion won loan from Shinhan Bank after the Korea Technology Finance Corporation (Kibo) and the bank conducted due diligence on the company and evaluated its technology. In addition, the technology-based company received 500 million won for management. Thanks to the loans, the start-up signed a contract with a conglomerate and expects about 1.5 billion won in annual revenue.
According to Korea Institute for Robot Industry Advancement (KIRIA), the production scale of the Korean robotics industry jumped from USD 600 million in 2007 to USD 2 billion last year, and is expected to reach USD 2.7 billion in 2012. The structure of the industry has also been changing. The industry has traditionally focused on manufacturing robots as the strength of the Korean economy lies in hardware. However, it is now gradually expanding its areas into professional and personal service robots. The manufacturing robots of the annual average percentage change was 21.3%(USD 1.4 billion, 2011), professional service robots 40.6%(USD 61 million) and personal service robots 49.3%(USD 214 million) for the last six years.
“Given the worldwide slowdown in the robotics industry, as well as the global financial crisis over the last decade, the Korean robotics industry has fared quite well. Now the Korean robotics industry has grown to a level where it can compete with, if not exceed, the U.S., or Japanese products, and the technology gap has significantly narrowed. It has also become the benchmark for some nations, and even advanced nations in robotics are paying keen attention to its industry and policies,” said Kam-chan Kang, Director General for Emerging Industries at the Korean Ministry of Knowledge Economy (MKE). Compared to the U.S. (100), the Korean robotics technology remains at 79.2 with 2.1 years of technology gap.