South Korea sets aside W16tr for R&D on key technologies


South Korea is slated to invest around 16 trillion won ($14 billion) in research and development for 100 key technologies over the next five years in its push to become a global technology powerhouse.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced its seventh industrial technology innovation plan Tuesday. The plan sets forth industrial technology research and development policy goals and related investment plans over the next five years under the Industrial Technology Innovation Promotion Act. A total of 113 specialists from the private and public sectors took part in setting the policy agenda over the past year, the ministry said.

The government selected five investment areas and 100 key technologies given the latest trends toward an aging population that is growing more urbanized and individualistic, as well as trends in technology development, including artificial intelligence and big data.

The five sectors are future transportation, smart health care, smart living, a pleasant environment and smart manufacturing.

The future transportation sector encompasses fuel cell cars, self-driving cars, eco-friendly offshore plants and drone technology. Smart health care includes digital health care and customized bio-treatment technologies while smart living includes smart homes, service robots and wearable devices.

The pleasant environment sector consists of the hydrogen energy, renewable energy (solar power and wind power) and intelligent power system segments. Smart manufacturing includes advanced materials, next-generation chips and advanced processing.

Each year, around 3.2 trillion won will be injected into research and development for these technologies, amounting to about 16 trillion won over the next five years, according to Kim Dae-ja, chief of the Industry Ministry’s industrial technology policy division.

One of the highlights of the plan is an “alchemy project” initiative that will allow engineers and researchers to attempt to develop disruptive technologies that can change the market paradigm despite their low chances of success, according to the ministry. This year alone, the ministry set aside 10 billion won for the initiative.

As examples of alchemy projects, the government cited efforts to develop a metal structure as light as a feather, secondary batteries that can be charged within one minute, a nano-robot that destroys cancer cells in body, technologies to overcome dementia, solar-powered batteries with over 50 percent efficiency, zero-energy transportation methods and humanlike “secretary” robots. The ministry will soon be inviting additional ideas from the public in the form of a contest, it said.

The ministry will also focus on supporting the establishment of data platforms in the areas of bio-health, automobiles, energy and materials. To encourage innovation in manufacturing, it will build processing platforms so that companies can share data. 

By Shin Ji-hye (

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