KOREA (SOUTH): Kumho Tires bets big on R&D

The new R&D Center is located on a 34,873 square-meter plot of land in the city of Yongin, Gyeonggi, about an hour's drive from Seoul. The glass-faced buildings nestle among small mountains.

Inside the main, six-story building (including two underground floors) a visitor sees a message from Kumho Asiana Chairman Park Sam-koo emblazoned on a wall: "Making differences day by day is the quickest way to make a miracle.”

The new R&D Center is meant to make that "difference” for Kumho Tires. From an IBM supercomputer that costs about 1.2 billion won ($1 million) to a nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy machine, the center has all the latest technological equipment it needs.

The library has more than 20,000 books and other data, and labs are available to researchers. There are also "idea rooms” on every floor and a fitness center to take a break from the pursuits of the mind.

On the first floor, a showroom has an exhibit of Kumho Tires' history and its products. The company's "concept tires” for the future are also shown, such as an intelligent tire that reads road-surface information and adjust its performance. Also displayed are all-weather performance tires and a spherical tire.

"The R&D Center is giving a chance to our company to soar again,” said Kumho Tires' Executive Vice President Sohn Bong-young, who heads the center, at a press meeting. "It will be the control tower for integrating the company's research networks and managing projects.”

Since the company was founded in 1960, Kumho has established four R&D centers around the world, in Gwangju; Tianjin, China; Frankfurt, Germany; and Akron, Ohio, in the United States. The company said that Gwangju R&D Center will be now be transformed into the Gwangju Performance Center, which means that it will be used for testing the quality of products.

Sohn added that Yongin is the right place for its R&D Center to be located because there are many R&D centers from the automaker in the area, which is considered an automotive cluster in the country. Hyundai Motor Group and Renault Samsung Motors' R&D centers are nearby, and there are also racing circuits and auto-parts manufacturers in the vicinity.

Kumho started construction on the new R&D Center in 2008, but delays occurred after the company entered a debt workout program in 2010. However, that didn't stop the company from investing 100 billion won in it. The company hinted it will invest more money in the center in the future.

Source: "Korea Joongang Daily", Seoul; 2 Sept 2013
(Syed Rashid Ali, Karachi, Pakistan)