Toward the top four in materials

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Toward the top four in materials

MK Electronics, a midsize company, has developed next-generation electrode material, which is the core of the lithium secondary cell, and has begun production. Internationally, the competition to take the lead in the secondary cell market is intensifying, and MK Electronics’ breakthrough is great news. What’s more pleasing is that a leading conglomerate provided multidimensional support to help the company develop the material. The development items were provided, step-by-step technics for design and approval were transferred and joint research was also conducted.

The collaboration between the company and the conglomerate was made possible by the World Premier Materials project that the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy launched in 2010. The project focuses on strengthening the competitiveness of Korea’s material industry, aiming to develop 10 world-class core materials to take over 30 percent of the market share by 2019.

There is no need to emphasize the importance of the materials industry. The materials industry is the basis of all other industries, and with high market dominance, successful development brings great added values. For example, DuPont’s Gore-Tex has been dominating the outdoor apparels market for more than 30 years. However, Korea has been struggling in the materials industry. Even in the semiconductor and display fields, where Korean companies are leading the international market, companies depend on Japan for most of the core materials. Last year, the overall material and parts industry marked $97.6 billion in surplus, but the balance with Japan left $20.5 billion in the red. The figure shows how highly Korean companies are dependent on Japanese materials.

It takes a great investment to develop a new material. Also, the research takes time. Therefore, not just small and midsize companies and start-ups but also big enterprises are reluctant to invest on materials development. However, we have experience in making the world’s leading materials from challenging circumstances. We have already made great accomplishments in semiconductor and secondary cells. The semiconductor field became a success model as the big companies made investment under the government’s assistance, and small and midsize companies grew along.

By the time the WPM project is completed in 2019, Korea’s materials industry will have enhanced competitiveness. The project should not remain at simply developing new material but could become an engine that leads the mutual growth of small and big companies, laying the foundation for Korea’s entry into the world’s top four leaders in materials.

By Kim Jae-hong, Vice Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy

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