South Korea’s leading steelmaker Posco plans to nurture biopharmaceuticals and lithium metals as its new growth engines for the future.
Kwon Oh-joon, chief executive of Posco, expressed the company’s ambition to diversify its businesses at a ceremony celebrating its 50th anniversary on Sunday. “We can’t depend on steel alone in the next 50 years. While adding more value to our steel operations, we need to start branching out to new areas,” he said.
Kwon was particularly keen on the bio sector, citing how Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) has emerged as the country’s hotbed for bio technologies. The university, established by Posco founder Park Tae-joon, became the third institute in the world to run a fourth-generation synchrotron accelerator in 2016 and has since been conducting advanced research in new drugs and medical treatments as the radiation facility allows for more accurate cell analysis.
“POSTECH is equipped with a talented research staff that has turned out impressive results in recent years,” said Kwon. “We’re considering taking the patents of POSTECH professors and commercializing them into real-life applications.”
While he said it was too early to go into specifics, one area of interest was blood-based testing for disease diagnosis. But he was wary of new drug development, which he said may deliver huge rewards but requires heavy investment and an arduously long clinical period of over 10 years.
Kwon stressed that Posco would ramp up investment in materials to help boost the country’s weak standing in the industry. He was assured that lithium, a key material that goes into rechargeable batteries of electric vehicles, would become “the company’s largest revenue source in the future.”
“We wanted to set up a stable lithium supply system for domestic battery makers, which so far have had to rely entirely on imports,” said Kwon. He added the company would strengthen partnership with local battery makers in more lithium projects, like the recent consortium with Samsung SDI, which won a project in Chile to build a cathode plant to be used in making lithium batteries for EVs.
Kwon said Posco is developing other materials like the lightweight magnesium to expand its metals portfolio.
By Woo Je-yoon and Kim Hyo-jin
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