“Electricity is just like water. It is always present throughout our lives. Consequently, people sometimes seem to take it for granted. Having understood the importance of using precious electricity in an easy, safe, an convenient manner, KERI has always searched for ways to utilize its 34-year-old, cutting-edge technologies for the advancement of Korean society,” Kim Ho-yong, President of Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute (KERI) recently stated.
KERI will participate in the 26th International Electric Vehicle Symposium and Exposition (EVS 26), the global electric transportation industry's premier and largest forum, slated to be held on May 6 through 9 at the Los Angeles Convention Center (LACC). KERI seems fully prepared to introduce its R&D capabilities and business visions at the EVS 26. Specifically speaking, KERI is scheduled to put its prototypes on display and make presentations on its R&D achievements related to EV monitoring, charging infrastructure, charger, secondary batteries, power train, traction motor/drive, charging equipment test system, etc. on May 7. In the lead-up to the EVS 26, Korea IT Times sat down with Ho-Yong Kim, President of KERI, to learn about the future visions of the small but strong research institute that aspires to become the global leader in the electrotechnology industry.
Q. We’d like to learn what kinds of changes have been brought to KERI since your inauguration as KERI president last year.
A. I have been assuming this top position for six months. Though I have worked for KERI since the very early days of KERI’s foundation, I have rediscovered KERI’s strengths after spending several months at the helm. KERI is a stable organization that is unafraid of changes and once goals are set, it pushes ahead towards those goals in a single-minded fashion. As a matter of fact, visitors to KERI often leave with the opinion of KERI as a bona fide research institute that truly smacks of a R&D center.
Under the slogan of “The first in Korea, The best in the world," KERI aims to become a small but strong research institute that is armed with global competitiveness. Above all, setting a high premium on low-carbon, highly credible, convergence-based strategies, KERI seeks to differentiate itself from its rivals and become the world’s number one. To that end, KERI is steering its R&D activities towards less trodden areas, such as next-generation power grid technologies, high-voltage, direct current (HVDC) technology, convergence of medical equipment technologies, electric propulsion technologies, testing and certification of electrical devices, as well as nano-based electrical new materials.
Furthermore, KERI researchers are ramping up their demand-oriented studies rather than locking horns with other companies in short-term, performance-based competition. Whether their work is demand-based is also factors into the process of selecting and evaluating R&D tasks to ensure that KERI’s R&D achievements truly live up to the demands of the nation and industry. By doing so, KERI hopes to be recognized as an electrotechnology research institute that creates genuine value.
In particular, the fact that KERI has been handpicked as one of the world’s three certifying authorities, along with the Netherlands’s KEMA and Italy’s CESI, in the global electrotechnology testing and certification sector, proves that all of KERI’s employees have been highly goal-oriented.
Q. What were the last year’s R&D achievements and what are this year’s key R&D projects of interest
A. As a result of KERI’s continuous endeavors to maintain pace with the times, KERI’s growth has been more splendid than any other government-funded research institute in Korea. As KERI has either earned the title of the world’s first or developed the world’s first-tier technologies in numerous research areas, KERI has grown rapidly and stably enough to be benchmarked by other R&D institutions around the world.
KERI is also spearheading the commercialization of cutting-edge technologies: it successfully developed and transferred the technology for the world’s top-notch high-performance, high-temperature, superconducting power lines that are capable of carrying up to 170 times more power than copper cabling of the same size, a technology which was developed last year. On top of that, KERI’s technology for mass-producing graphene, touted as "the next big thing," was named as “the world’s No.1 technology” by Korea Research Council for Industrial Science and Technology (IstK), a body that is part of the Ministry of Knowledge Economy and is in charge of coordinating government-funded research institutions in Korea. This technology was transferred to a private company this year at KRW 500 million in initial lump sum payment and a running royalty rate of 2.7%.
KERI has continuously seen its royalties increase over 18% annually: in 2011, KERI raked in KRW 5.5 billion in royalties, a barometer of the excellence of our R&D achievements. This clearly indicates that KERI is conducting demand-based R&D projects in a preemptive manner so as to better support companies.
In the testing and certification sector, KERI attained the goal of earning full membership of the Short-Circuit Testing Liaison (STL), which can be dubbed as “the G10” in the global testing and certification sector. Furthermore, KERI, along with the Netherlands’s KEMA and Italy’s CESI, has emerged as one of the world’s three electric technology certifiers. Continuing its march towards the world’s best, Keri set its next goal: expansion of 4000MVA power testing facilities.
Research-wise, KERI has set its sights on developing next-generation power grids that can be likened to the national energy industry’s artery and high voltage direct current transmission (HVDC) systems, which are thought to be one of the future technologies that would lead the next-generation electricity industry forward. Projects for next-generation power grids are about developing technologies that would ensure the economical, sustainable management of national power networks in real time. To keep power transmission cheaper and electric losses down, a high-voltage, direct current (HVDC) electric power transmission system uses direct current for the bulk transmission of electrical power, in contrast with the more common alternating current systems. On top of this, HVDC systems can run on much smaller, lower towers.
In addition, KERI plans to channel much of its R&D capability into the electric propulsion sector such as electric vehicles and electric vessels. KERI already has the three key technologies under its belt: secondary batteries, high-speed charging and discharging systems and control systems. In particular, KERI has already commenced the development of four-wheeled, vertical-axis EVs that run without a transmission and gear, the essential parts of internal combustion engine-powered vehicles. Furthermore, KERI’s efforts to enhance the energy density of lithium batteries and developing new batteries and key technologies for building up EV infrastructures, such as charging systems, are expected to bear fruit in the near future, thereby expanding EV ownership.
Another vital project this year is carrying out the reinforcement of 4000MVA power testing facilities without fail, one of the long-fostered business projects of the Korean heavy electric equipment industry. KERI has already set up a taskforce dedicated to the building-up of 4000MVA power testing facilities and is making efforts to facilitate this project through the allocation of equity resources.
Q. We heard that KERI last year became a full member of the Short-Circuit Testing Liaison (STL). Could you elaborate on the significance of earning full membership status
A. Though KERI entrenched itself as one of the world’s three official electric equipment certifiers, KERI had left two projects unresolved for the long term: one, completing full membership status of Short-circuit Testing Liaison (STL), and two, the building-up and upgrade of 4000MVA power testing facilities.
KERI went to great lengths to become one of the world’s top accreditors. After having made several unsuccessful attempts, KERI finally succeeded in earning full membership of the STL in May of 2011, an accolade that the Korean heavy electric equipment industry had long yearned for. By doing so, KERI jumped over the high barriers erected by global certifiers, mostly European, to become the world’s tenth STL member.
More important is that KERI certifications are now able to be passed anywhere in the world. Therefore, it is fair to say that KERI has laid the groundwork for massively increasing the Korean heavy electric equipment industry’s exports. KERI is also projected to see an increase in revenues from testing and certification services for overseas companies.
Q. KERI seems to be keen on strengthening technological exchanges with other R&D institutions and companies. What do you expect from industry-academia technical tie-ups
A. The notion that R&D institutions’ raison d'etre lies with the creation of practical values is an irresistible trend of today. Taking full advantage of Technology Licensing Office (TLO), KERI has worked hard to make excellent R&D achievements result in technology transfer. In March of this year, KERI launched “KERI Technology Transfer Committee” and 52 out of 420 companies, who did business with KERI through either technology transfer deals or joint research projects for six years, were selected as the initial members of the committee. Also, KERI has recently held a slew of technology transfer symposiums with industrial heavyweights (e.g. POSCO, Korea Water Resources Corporation, Doosan Heavy Industries& Construction Co, etc.) in the areas of superconductivity, new renewable energy and electric power facilities).
Q. What does KERI do to bump up its global competitiveness and could you tell us about your preconceived plans
A. KERI has already obtained world-class, key technologies such as carbon nanotube (CNT) transparent electrodes, the world’s best second-generation, high-temperature superconducting power lines and nano-based exposure apparatus. These technologies are now being commercialized through technology transfer.
KERI’s other technologies are also considered as pioneering, instilled with global competitiveness in the near future–for example, the 4000MVA power testing facilities; semiconductor device-based pulse generators, high-temperature, superconducting energy storage devices (MJ-level coil technology for HTS SMES (high temperature superconducting magnetic energy storage)), and nano-based hybrid materials. Thus, KERI is going the extra mile to advance the development of these technologies in a world-class institute.
By 2015, A total of KRW 160 billion will be ploughed into the project in the attempt to expand 4000 MVA power testing facilities, which the Korean heavy electric equipment industry has long pursued and would be the largest-ever business project undertaken by KERI. Once this project is completed, more brisk R&D activities by companies and a sharp increase in exports by the Korean heavy electric equipment industry are anticipated. Ultimately, the completion of this project will greatly help KERI grow into the world’s best electrotechnology accreditor by 2020, a title currently held by the Netherlands’s KEMA.