Hankook Tire gets rolling on Daejeon R&D center

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Hankook Tire gets rolling on Daejeon R&D center


From top: Computer image shows the interior of the Hankook Technodome. Hankook Tire CEO Suh Seung-hwa, center, and other guests wield shovels at the groundbreaking ceremony yesterday for the new R&D center at Daedeok Innopolis in Daejeon. Provided by the company

DAEJEON - Founded in 1973, Daedeok Innopolis has long been the country’s top cluster of high-tech research institutes, government agencies and venture businesses. The latest arrival is Hankook Tire, which held a groundbreaking yesterday for its new Central R&D Center.

Korea’s largest tire manufacturer said it will spend more than 266 billion won ($261 million) for the new R&D Center that will be called the Hankook Technodome. Construction is expected to be completed by 2016.

“We have been supplying safe and good quality tires to 186 countries, but we are not going to settle there,” said Suh Seung-hwa, Hankook Tire vice chairman and CEO. “To raise our quality level and develop original technology and future technology to become global leading company by 2020, we decided to build this facility.”

Hankook already has another R&D center in Daejeon and other in the United States, Germany and China. However, the company said that expanding R&D facilities was necessary to become top tire brand. Hankook is currently world’s seventh-largest tire manufacturer by sales.

“The R&D centers overseas are for developing localized tires,” said Suh. “R&D centers in Korea are for studying basic and future technologies.”

The CEO said the new center is not replacing the old one, but should be considered as adding more advanced equipment and staff. There are about 600 researchers in Korea, and the company will add 400 more when the Hankook Techodome is completed.

Hankook also is building its Test Engineering Center in Sangju, North Gyeongsang, by 2018 to boost its R&D ability and capacity. It hopes to smooth communication between the two facilities and its plants in Daejeon and Geumsan, South Chungcheong.

“We first will focus on developing environmentally friendly tires, aiming to reduce CO2 and made with environmentally friendly materials,” said Lee Sang-ju, Hankook Tire senior vice president of the R&D Division. “Like Apple did in the mobile phone industry, developing new tire concepts shouldn’t be overlooked, as we plan to go from being a ‘fast follower’ to a ‘fast mover.’”

Hankook Technodome was designed by Foster+Partners, an architectural firm founded by Sir Norman Foster that designed Apple’s headquarters. It will be built on 70,387 square meters (17.4 acres) of land and the main building will have 90 laboratories along with training facilities.

Hankook said the building is designed to earn a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold Level from the U.S. Green Building Council.

“Since the proximity to our plants is important, it is right to have the R&D center,” said Cho Hyun-bum, Hankook’s chief marketing officer and chief corporate management officer. “Since it’s far from Seoul, it’s going to be difficult to recruit good manpower, but that’s why we invested a lot on facilities and creating an inviting corporate culture.”

Cho said the company has been investing up to 4 percent to 5 percent of its revenue in R&D. Hankook last year had sales of 7.06 trillion won.

“A tire is a product that has many variables and we need to keep testing those variables,” said Cho, who is the second son of Hankook Tire Chairman Cho Yang-rae. “In the tire industry, it is also important to have economy of scale, and we will try to achieve that.”

By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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