By Scott Watkins, Chief Marketing Officer of KISCO and Centre Advisory Board member for Exciton Science.
While COVID-19 has caused many problems for research and researchers, I want to share some recent good news stories that I have observed in my role with KISCO.
Firstly, I want to acknowledge the stress and despair that many of you must be feeling. Disruptions to your research careers, job cuts in academia and restrictions on movement are all incredibly depressing. I encourage you all to keep talking and looking out for each other.
KISCO is a Korean chemical company. We began as a manufacturer of dyes and colorants for the textile industry but now make chemicals for a very wide range of applications. Most relevant to the Centre is our work in making chemicals for electronic devices. With Korean companies such as Samsung and LG being major players in the global electronics industry their supply chains in Korea are extensive. KISCO makes a number of different products that we sell into these supply chains. These include materials such as photo initiators and polymers for high precision photo resists, intermediates for OLED organic semiconductors and dyes and pigments for use in LCD color filters. One of our most recent projects has been the development of a new process to make high purity monomers for the substrates in flexible displays.
One thing that has thrived in 2020 is demand for electronics. As we all work from home the need for newer, better devices has grown. Accordingly, in 2020, orders for all of KISCO’s electronics chemicals have been at record levels. We opened a new factory in March that cost almost $US40 million and have commenced construction of stage two. We are going ahead with a total investment of around $100 million in new factories over the next four years to expand our electronics chemicals business. All of this despite the pandemic. Underpinning the manufacturing is R&D. For example, monomers for flexible displays are being made using flow chemistry, a technology that we first encountered when we funded a small research project with CSIRO.
Other Korean companies are also continuing to invest in R&D. Samsung, for example, this week announced over $US30 million in research funding for the remainder of 2020 that will be distributed to public research institutes in Korea. Korea’s population is about double Australia’s but the two countries have similar GDPs. Korea is Australia’s fourth largest trading partner and Australia is Korea’s seventh largest trading partner. We have complementary economies and the bilateral relationship is very strong.
While it may appear daunting to go and work in Korea, my experience is that it is a very welcoming culture and there are a lot of opportunities in academia and industry. The opportunities in industry emphasise that the majority of people studying PhDs will not move into academia, so I always recommend planning your PhD activities with that in mind.
In summary, there have been some positive outcomes from the pandemic and there absolutely still will be opportunities for research in the future.