Korea to develop Gwangju as hub of car ventures

By Seo Jee-yeon
  • Published : Jan 27, 2015 - 21:40
  • Updated : Jan 27, 2015 - 21:40

The presidential office said Tuesday that South Korea would help nurture the country’s southwestern region as a center of automotive start-ups in cooperation with Hyundai Motor Group, the world’s fifth-largest carmaker.

Cheong Wa Dae said Hyundai Motor Co. and its smaller sister company Kia Motors Corp. would provide about 1,000 unused patents to those who want to open automotive start-ups in an innovation center in Gwangju.

“Hyundai Motor will offer substantial assistance in the whole process of corporate growth ranging from the development of ideas to industrialization to making inroads into global markets,” President Park Geun-hye said in a ceremony marking the launch of an innovation center in Gwangju.

Gwangju is the latest city to launch an innovation center meant to nurture local start-ups and venture firms with the assistance of conglomerates.

South Korea has so far created five innovation centers, including one that is supported by Samsung Group, South Korea’s largest family-controlled conglomerate whose flagship unit is Samsung Electronics Co., the world’s top smartphone maker.

South Korea plans to set up 12 other innovation centers in major cities across the country this year as part of Park’s push to build a creative economy.

Hyundai Motor said it launched the innovation center to transform the city into a mecca for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, dubbed “ultimate’’ eco cars with zero emissions.

The automotive group has built a market presence in the global fuel cell car market with the world’s first mass production line for a first hydrogen-powered sport utility vehicle, the Tucson, in February 2013.

“Together with financial investors, the group will raise 177.5 billion won ($164 million) to develop the eco-friendly industry in Gwangju,’’ the group said in a press release.

Park hailed the automaker’s vision, saying, “I expect that the center will take a hub role in cultivating start-ups in the auto industry.’’

In an effort to realize the vision, the nation’s top automaker announced it would share about 1,000 auto technology patents that are currently held by Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors.

“The center will focus on nurturing start-ups, providing key infrastructure and creating an “ecosystem” for the hydrogen economy by training workers and strengthening necessary networks,’’ the company said.

The center’s facility consists of two major sections. The one facility will be used to offer support for automobile-related hydrogen fuel cell businesses in conjunction with local research institutes and universities. The other one will lead projects that can help improve the livelihoods of ordinary people.

Regarding the fund allocation plan, the company said about 100 billion won will be spent on supporting small and medium-sized enterprises in their innovative efforts. Another 52.5 billion won will be allocated to supporting automobile-related start-ups and development of new technologies, and 15 billion won will go to helping nurture the hydrogen fuel-cell industry.

At the city government level, Gwangju has passionately cooperated with Hyundai Motor to transform the city into a hub of FCVs. The city is the largest customer for Hyundai FCVs. The city currently runs five Hyundai FCVs and has a plan to buy 10 more Tucson FCVs this year for use during the Gwangju Summer Universiade in July.

By Seo Jee-yeon, news reports