Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors on Tuesday opened their creative economy innovation center in Gwangju. The Gwangju center is the nation’s sixth creative innovation center, following Samsung Group’s Daegu and North Gyeongsang centers, SK Group’s Daejeon center, Hyosung Group’s North Jeolla center, and Posco’s Pohang center.
They are all part of the Korean government’s creative economy initiative, in which large conglomerates in each industry are matched with regions to help boost sagging local economies by assisting small and midsize companies and start-ups based there with cutting-edge technologies and business networks. Hyundai and Kia were matched with Gwangju because they have been doing business there for decades.
The Gwangju center will mainly focus on enhancing the regional economy in Gwangju and South Jeolla by researching eco-friendly automotive technologies such as hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and hybrid cars. Of 17 creative innovation centers planned by the government, the Gwangju center is the largest in size, at about 1,190 square meters.
POSCO’s new Chairman Kwon Oj-joon, who is scheduled to take office on March 14, has decided on electric vehicles (EVs) as his company’s future growth driver. POSCO and its subsidiaries are planning to create new business opportunities in the EV industry by working on automobile steel sheets, auto parts, and battery materials. The steelmaker announced on March 13 that its subsidiaries participate in the first International Electric Vehicle Expo, which kicks off on March 15 in Jeju. POSCO, POSCO ICT, POSCO Chemtech, POSCO ESM, and many others are showing off their advanced technology in the world’s first EV expo.
The company is currently supplying steel sheets for Evs, and is going to focus more on related components and materials. The super-light, high-strength steel plates developed by POSCO are used mainly to manufacture EV frames and outer panels. When compared to existing products, these use at least 40 percent more ultra-high strength steel (UHSS) to reduce the weight of a vehicle body by approximately 25 percent while also satisfying the international collision safety regulations that become effective in 2015. The products are already used in Renault Samsung Motors’ SM3 Z.E. and GM Korea’s Spark EV. Kia Motors’ Soul EV is going to use the same products, too.
POSCO is concentrating as well on the development of lithium, which is a key material for secondary batteries, magnesium used in vehicle frames and panels, and neodymium permanent magnets for use in motors. The company will set up a pilot plant in Argentina in this context.
The Park Geun-hye government’s creative economy initiative received its biggest boost thus far on Wednesday with the opening of innovation centers in Gumi and Pohang in North Gyeongsang. That brings the number of innovation centers nationwide to five, designed to assist start-ups and support regional economies.
The Pohang center in particular received a lot of attention for being independently established by Korea’s largest steelmaker, Posco. It is the first innovation center established and run by the private sector. Samsung Group, which established an innovation center in Daegu in September, opened another one in Gumi to help nearby electronics manufacturers and suppliers enhance production efficiency by implementing smart systems in their factories.
Park and Deputy Prime Minister for the Economy Choi Kyung-hwan attended the opening ceremonies for both centers on Wednesday. “Regional economies have prospered mainly around industrial complexes for the past 40 years, but those areas nowadays have struggled with deteriorating production facilities and low technological competitiveness,” Park said at the ceremony. “The two new innovation centers will certainly revitalize these places by helping traditional manufacturers roll out new products inspired by technologies like the Internet of Things, big data and 3-D printing.”
POSCO, the nation’s top steelmaker, said Tuesday it is listed as the world’s most competitive steelmaker for 2013 in a survey of 34 world-class steelmakers, conducted by the U.S.-based steel industry analysis firm World Steel Dynamics.
It is the fourth consecutive year for POSCO to be ranked first in the annual survey. The surveyor rated the companies in 23 categories, including profitability, production capability, technological innovation, financial soundless and access to raw materials. POSCO received the highest score at 7.76 points out of 10 in the evaluation. Russia’s NLMK and Severstal took second and third, gaining 7.33 and 7.32 points, respectively. POSCO scored differently from previous years by gaining a perfect score in the category of strategic partnerships and M&A activities.
The nation’s drive to increase electricity generation from renewable energy sources is facing rough sailing as a number of power and utility companies failed to meet their green energy production targets in 2012. The targets were set by the government under a regulation called the renewable portfolio standard, or RPS.
RPS, which was introduced in January last year, is an annual renewable energy development quota for state-run and private power and utilities companies with more than 500 megawatts of power generation capacity.
In 2012, 13 companies, including six units of the Korea Electric Power Corp. and POSCO Power and GS Power, were subject to the RPS, which was set below 2 percent of energy production. “Most state-run power generation companies failed to meet their 2012 RPS due to a variety of reasons,” said an official from Korea Midland Power, one of KEPCO’s subsidiaries.
The Korea Energy Management Corp. said that the 13 companies are expected to have achieved only 50 to 60 percent of their annual quota.
The nation’s major steelmakers are diversifying into non-core businesses such as energy, construction and agriculture to shore up falling profits.
POSCO, the world’s fourth-largest steelmaker by output, has cut its number of subsidiaries to 46 from 70 as of Jan., 1 mainly by merging those with overlapping businesses, the company said in a press release. The number of POSCO’s affiliates surged after takeover deals for the past few years, including Daewoo International, a trading company specializing in oil and gas exploration overseas, in 2011.
“On the group level, POSCO has driven in-house reorganization since March last year under the three principles of strengthening core businesses, trimming overlapped businesses and closing non-core businesses without cutting personnel,” a company official said. The steel giant will wrap up the reorganization by the end of this year and the number of its subsidiaries is expected to be cut to 30. “The POSCO streamlining came amid diversification of its business portfolio into non-steel sectors,” Byun Jong-man, an analyst from Woori Investment and Securities, said.
LG Chem announced on Friday that it will not make any new investments in polysilicon next year citing concerns with the solar energy market amid the ongoing global economic slowdown. The battery maker wanted to advance into the photovoltaic market and invest heavily in the technology, but now says it wants to change direction. “We would like to put off new investments in polysilicon next year as we did this year until we secure profitability,” LG Chem said in a regulatory filing.
Last December, the company withheld its previous plan to invest 500 billion won ($461 million) in solar energy facilities in Yeosu, South Jeolla. LG Chem’s latest move comes a day after Hankook Silicon, a local polysilicon maker, filed for court receivership as it failed to repay notes worth 8 billion won. LG is not alone. Korea’s top 10 conglomerates unveiled bold plans to start new businesses two years ago, but not much progress has been made since.
Samsung Group, the country’s No. 1 company by assets, is no exception. The conglomerate had designated solar cells, electric vehicle batteries, light-emitting diodes, biopharmaceuticals and medical equipment as the future growth engines of the company in 2010.
South Korea’s largest private power-generating company POSCO Energy gained a technology to independently produce core parts of fuel cells in five years since the company commenced the fuel cell business.
A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that combines hydrogen and oxygen in a chemical reaction to produce electricity, useable heat and water. Fuel cells are emerging as a new eco-friendly source of generating renewable energy.
POSCO Energy said Monday (local time) that it signed a contract with FuelCell Energy, an US manufacturer of ultra-clean fuel cell power plants, to license the technology to build core components of fuel cells, becoming the first Korean company to secure the technology.
South Korea’s three major steel makers including POSCO, Hyundai Steel and Dongkuk Steel are fiercely competing over high value-added thick plates that are used for offshore structures, according to sources in the steel-making industry Tuesday.
POSCO has been implementing its strategies of increasing sales of high value-added steel products for marine structures since last year.
Notably, POSCO is promoting sales strategies of selling steel products for ship-building purposes in packages. The company has recently decided to supply its thick plates for the construction project of fixed platform awarded to Samkang M&T, the nation’s special steel-pipe provider.
Korean companies, think tanks and universities will team up with Boeing to jointly develop advanced materials and parts for aircraft as part of a government program to boost their competitiveness in the global market.
The Ministry of Knowledge Economy said it signed an agreement with the world’s largest aerospace company on Wednesday to crank up technological collaboration. Five research institutes and eight firms in Korea will take part in the project.
Among the participants, the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology will carry out research with Boeing to craft aircraft applications using new materials it developed, such as eco-magnesium and eco-aluminum.