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Korean Scientists Receive UNESCO Netexplo Award Grand Prize

Writer : admin Date : 2015-03-04 Hit : 7531

Korean Scientists Receive UNESCO Netexplo Award Grand Prize
Wearable Thermo-Element Developed by Jo Byeong-jin
Venture Business TEGway Aims 100 Billion Won of Sales in Five Years
 

 

The wearable thermoelectric generator developed by Professor Byung Jin Cho and his team of researchers at KAIST received the Grand Prix at the Netexplo Award 2015, emerging as a promising star on the global science stage.

 

Not only the government agencies and scientific institutes in Korea, but also a number of leading global companies including Google are expressing their interest in KAIST graduates, which is creating a positive atmosphere at the Daedeok Innopolis, the cradle of new technology.


Since 2008, based on a panel vote participated in by over 200 experts and businesspeople around the world, UNESCO and Netexplo, which survey the social and cultural impact of digital technology, have annually announced the top ten IT innovations that are expected to change the world and have awarded the grand prize to the top innovation in technology as selected by Netizens the world over.

 

The technology developed by Professor Cho’s research team was published as breaking news in the March 2014 online edition of Energy & Environmental Science, an international academic journal, and received passionate responses from international media and scientists. Ten months later, the wearable thermoelectric generator was designated one of the top ten technologies that will change the world, and was finally awarded the Grand Prix.

 

  201503030953.jpg

▲ Example of thermoelectric power generation
(Photo courtesy of TEGway)

 

The technology for wearable thermoelectric power generation has a fundamental difference from the existing generation technology, which uses solar energy or geothermal heat.

 

This new technology generates electricity using the temperature difference created by human body temperature. Able to be made into light, free-style clothes with glass fiber, this thermoelectric generator is no less than a “wearable independent power generator.” The efficiency of electricity generation per unit weight can be increased 14 times compared to that possible with existing technology, and a whole new concept of clothing will be created that can warm or cool the wearer based on the weather conditions.

 

This technology is not limited to the clothing industry. It is expected to come into the spotlight as a groundbreaking technology to supply power to a range of wearable and portable products, such as smart watches, smart glasses, healthcare devices that can be attached to the human body, and clothes that can charge mobile phones.  

 

201503030954.jpg

▲ Wearable, extremely flexible thermoelectric generator
(Photo courtesy of TEGway)



KAIST Network Takes a Step Further Toward Commercialization

 

After developing wearable power generation technology, the research team led by Professor Cho could have remained content with publishing quality papers. Then, the team started to mull over starting a business. Turning a start-up into a successful business, however, is not guaranteed simply by novel technology, because a start-up business succeeds only through a balanced combination of marketing, accounting, personnel management, and many other factors.           

 

Professor Cho recalled Kyongsoo Yi, his friend of thirty years and a CEO with start-up and management experience.

 

“Professor Cho and I went to the same school and have been friends for 30 years. We meet once or twice every year and always keep each other up to date on our work,” Mr. Yi said. “One day, he asked me to start a business with the technology he had developed, and the concept interested me. At first, however, I just encouraged him to give it a try. But he kept asking for my help. When I went to Daejeon and talked with him face to face, I made a decision.”

 

After a direct conversation with Professor Cho, the experienced CEO no longer hesitated; he decided to start a business and resigned from his position as head of a research institute of a large company.

 

Finally, Professor Cho and Mr. Yi established TEGway on September 1, 2014, with the goal of commercializing wearable technology. The former CEO served as CEO again, and Professor Cho became the Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

 

Having studied at KAIST and worked at the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute, Mr. Yi rejoined the science town after 12 years as a founding member of TEGway.

 

“I met many helping hands in the course of starting our business,” Mr. Yi recalled. “In particular, we owe a lot to Cheol-hwan Kim, Chairperson of the KITE Entrepreneurship Foundation, who took note of the excellence of our technology.”

 

TEGway was selected as a “global venture start project” sponsored by SK Group and was granted funds for to start its business. The company is also expected to receive up to 200 million won from an SK technological development fund; the company plans to builds a base in Silicon Valley with support from SK Innopartners, an American subsidiary of SK Telecom.

 

201503030955.jpg
▲ Professor Byung Jin Cho (left) and CEO Kyongsoo Yi (right) holding their company signboard
(Photo courtesy of TEGway)

 

Since the UNESCO announcement about wearable power generation as a technology that can change the world, TEGway has been receiving many enthusiastic offers from over 40 companies around the world, including Google and Microsoft. It is extraordinary for a new venture, born in September 2014, to receive partnership offers not only from Korean companies, but also from prominent global businesses.

 

CEO Yi said the company is determined to commercialize its technology within a year and achieve sales of 100 billion won within the next five years. He also added that TEGway will complete producing samples by the end of the first half of 2015, as the company might dominate market trends when it applies wearable technology to the battery life of smart watches and other mobile devices.

 

The CEO has a far-reaching vision beyond the primary goal of commercialization. “While many global companies are making courteous offers to become business partners, some Korean companies still see TEGway as one of their subordinate suppliers,” Mr. Yi laments. “We’re ruling out such companies from possible partnership.” He expressed his grand aspirations, however, by adding that, “We’re not entirely preoccupied with the success of TEGway. We want other companies in Korea to develop competitiveness and contribute to national development.”

 

Mr. Yi believes that the Korean economy has stopped its growth. Korea has achieved spectacular growth as a ‘fast follower’, able to imitate complex systems, but now the country has lost its momentum and will need to become a ‘first mover.’

 

Based on this accurate understanding of the current state of the economy, Mr. Yi is determined to manage his company with a long-term perspective and contribute to national development as a first mover.

 

In this sense, TEGway has two sets of signboards. One is for the company; the other for its R&D center. “We asked the 40 global companies that replied to us to send their researchers to our R&D center,” said Mr. Yi. “By doing so, we will transform the Daedeok Innopolis into a global hub for research into and industrialization of wearable generating elements.”

 

 201503030956.jpg
▲ CTO Byung Jin Cho, CEO Kyongsoo Yi, and CFO Byeong-hwi Yu (from front, right), in consultation with a foreign company
(Photo courtesy of TEGway)


 

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