Korea Aims to be Major Robotics Player by 2018

Industrial robots make up the majority of the robotics industry. The international market is estimated to be worth around US$9.4 billion a year, with service robots making up around a third of this figure.

Service robots perform tasks to help people such as cleaning up oil spills, assisting the elderly and even preparing and serving food. The industry is forecast to grow to some $100 billion by 2018, and service robots are expected to dominate 85 percent. The market has grown rapidly from a mere $4.5 billion in 2003 to $7.5 billion in 2005, $8.1 billion in 2007 and $9.4 billion in 2008, according to the latest data available from the International Federation of Robotics.

Korean-made products however, currently lag behind those made by other leading countries.

Korea aims to become one of the top three robot-making nations by 2018, according to a proposal by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy on Thursday. The ministry plans to narrow Korea’s current technology gap of 2.5 years and expand its share of the global market from 10 percent to 20 percent by 2018, by providing funds to support Korean-made products entering overseas markets and boosting their competitiveness.

The Korean government aims to nurture the service robot industry as one of the country’s next-generation growth engines to succeed in the currently flourishing semiconductor and automobile businesses. The Ministry of Knowledge Economy (MKE) said Thursday that it will channel a total of 30 billion Won ($26.3 million) next year alone to become one of the three powers in the robot industry by 2018.

“The robotics market will shift its focus from today’s mass-production models to service models down the road. We must strive to pre-empt the trend through brisk efforts. Presently, our market share in the global scene is around 10 percent. We are looking to double the figure by 2018 to join the ranks of the world’s top three by then” an MKE official said. “

That means that Asia’s fourth-largest economy is looking to earn as much as $20 billion a year in 2018 as the world market is expected to grow to $100 billion by then from today’s $10 billion.

The robotics business is also projected to positively affect related businesses such as motors, sensors, actuators, displays and chips.

“We will come up with tailor-made strategies in tapping into the international market. For instance, we will attempt to export robots caring for senior citizens and helping with surgery to advanced markets such as the EU and the United States. Surveillance robots would be attractive to the African buyers and those helping with household chores and education would target the Southeast Asian and Chinese markets.” The MKE official went on to say.

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