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South Korean Government Launches Alchemist Project
To Encourage R&D on Breakthrough Technologies
South Korean Government Launches Alchemist Project
  • By Jung Suk-yee
  • March 27, 2019, 12:10
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Jung Seung-il, vice minister of trade, industry and energy, speaks during a launching ceremony for the Alchemist Project at the Plaza Hotel in Seoul.

The Korean government plans to invest 600 billion won (US$528.63 million) for seven years in the development of technologies that have a low chance of success but high potential, such as ultra-light weight metal materials and nano-robots that find cancer cells.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy launched the “Alchemist Project” on March 26, which seeks development of high-level technologies to resolve long-standing challenges in the industry.

This project takes cues from the alchemist story, in which ancient Greek alchemists failed to turn iron into gold but discovered other chemicals like sulfuric acid and nitric acid, laying the foundations of modern chemistry.

Korea’s current research and development (R&D) system tends to focus on projects with high potential for success due to the burden of failure. In particular, it is not easy for companies to undertake more challenging projects due to the risks of failure.

Through the Alchemist Project, the government intends to support development of innovative technologies that have a large impact on the economy and may even change the paradigm of the market.

As an example of breakthrough technology development, the ministry cited penicillin, the first antibiotic of mankind, and a global positioning system (GPS), which has become the basis of various location information service industries like vehicle navigation.