Last week, the Seoul Metropolitan Government, or SMG, announced its intention to be a “robot-friendly city.” It said it plans to establish a technology investment fund, introduce robotic services in healthcare facilities, and build the Suseo Robotics Cluster startup and venture hub.
SMG said in a release that it plans to invest ₩202.9 billion (about $160 million U.S.) through 2026 in becoming a leader in the robot services industry. It said the Seoul Comprehensive Robotics Industry Development plan is partly intended to respond to the challenge of an aging population.
South Korea has one of the world's lowest birth rates, and the average age of its population has increased, leading its central bank to warn of a potential economic slowdown. While debates continue worldwide about demographics and migration, robots are seen as one way to address shrinking working-age populations.
A class for seniors with smartphone-controlled robots. Source: SMG
Korea reliant on robots
South Korea already has the worlds highest “robot density,” with 1,000 robots per 10,000 human workers as of 2021, according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). The IFR credited the country's automotive and electronics industries as major users of automation, as well as direct governmental support of research and development.
“Seoul plans to support the innovative growth of robotics industry by creating a robot-friendly environment and aims to increase public familiarity with robots by expanding the utilization of robot services across various domains,” stated SMG.
It added that its strategy will promote the development of robots that “exhibit high growth potential and have a substantial impact on citizens’ lives.” This includes healthcare and social robots for long-term care facilities, “storytelling/childcare robots for daycare centers,” and new educational facilities such as the AI & Robotics Science Museum, SMG said.
The municipality's strategy also includes plans to create a robotics theme park.
Rendering of an aerial view of Seoul's AI & Robotics Science Museum. Source: SMG
Seoul to support robotics startups
SMG said its new robotics investment fund will advance technology development, safety design, field testing and certification, commercialization, and mass production. The government's stated goal is to improve the competitiveness of South Korea's robotics industry, and it mentioned its intent to establish six public-private partnerships for innovation.
In addition, SMG committed to regulatory reforms, smart robotics zones, and the construction of a Seoul Robot Tech Center. The city also plans to find ways to foster the development of robotics talent in its workforce.
The Suseuo Robot Venture Town and Suseo Robot Science Center are key elements of SMG's plan to create a Suseo Robotics Cluster. The AI & Robotics Science Museum is already under construction.
Seoul broke ground for its AI & Robotics Museum two years ago.
About the Author
Eugene DemaitreEugene Demaitre is editorial director of Robotics 24/7. Prior to joining Peerless Media, he was a senior editor at Robotics Business Review and The Robot Report. Demaitre has also worked for BNA (now part of Bloomberg), Computerworld, and TechTarget. He has participated in numerous robotics-related webinars, podcasts, and events worldwide.
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