Government to invest in robots

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Government to invest in robots

The government and private sector will invest nearly 500 billion won ($427.9 million) through 2020 to develop robotic technology for the medical, transportation and public safety sectors.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced on Tuesday that the investment will help robotics become the country’s new growth engine and improve weakened exports, adding that the global market size and demand will continue to expand.

“Both the public and private sectors need to cooperate to have the Korean robotics industry gain competitiveness and lead the global market,” said Jeong Man-ki, vice trade minister. “The government will do its best and give various supports to help firms and research institutions focusing on robots.”

The global market size for robotics was $16.7 billion as of 2014, far lower than the construction equipment sector’s $159 billion. The Korean government, though, is betting on the industry’s more rapid growth in the future as artificial intelligence technology and cloud systems continue to improve.

The government’s plan is to proceed with 80 projects that have high chances of becoming new growth engines in the near future. The ministry said it would place 10 to 15 robots in hospitals to help transport supplies and medical devices. Another 5 to 10 robots will help with patients’ rehabilitation treatment at state-run hospitals.

By 2018, the government will introduce robots at post offices to support shipping and pick-up. Up to five locally made surgical robots will be provided to public hospitals. The ministry also plans to develop robots that will guide and transport people visiting the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

“We will select 10 to 15 research institutions run by the private sector and give up to 10 billion won to each of them to develop robotic technology,” said Chung Chang-hyun, a director at the Trade Ministry.

The government expects some 100 billion won worth of investment coming from both public and private sectors that will allow those research institutions to develop at least 20 new robots.

The government will spend another 15 billion won to create a research center at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. The goal of the research center set to open next month is to train 100 advanced-degree researchers in humanoid robotic research.

The government will also select 15 educational research institutions and give 100 to 300 million won a year to each of them for five years.

The Trade Ministry said it would finalize the plan by communicating with private-sector companies and academic institutions and then announce the final roadmap for the robotics industry by February next year.

The ministry added it would submit proposals to the National Assembly to request some deregulation in the robotics sector next year.


BY KIM YOUNG-NAM [kim.youngnam@joongang.co.kr]

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