South Korea throws a $21 million bone to OLED industry

South Korea, a country known for government-backed technology advances, is putting some new weight behind OLED lighting, launching a $21.5 million fund to help develop the industry over the next five years.

The investment doesn't exactly have the same ring as the billions that Seoul has plowed into other technologies, such as broadband and high speed telecommunications. (Earlier this year, the science ministry announced $1.7 billion for 5G mobile network development, for instance).

Still, in the South Korean tech zeitgeist, it could help push forward a segment of the lighting industry that has not yet lived up to expectations of redefining the lighting industry.

'The new initiative is called “OLED Lighting Industry Cluster Construction Business”, and the MOTIE aims to help local companies kick start manufacturing processes, prototype production, standard and measurement systems, help with a comprehensive information network and marketing support, and more, OLED-info reported.

South Korean OLED lighting companies include LG, NeoView Kolon and others. Samsung announced they were entering the market about five years ago but so far have only produced prototypes, as the article noted.

The initiative follows Taiwan's recent formation of the OLED Lighting Commercialization Alliance last month.

OLEDs are light emitting diodes made from organic material, swaths of which light up when excited by a current. Supporters have long said they will transform the lighting industry, as they will literally become the fabric of everything from buildings to fashion to furniture.

They have made inroads, but are still expensive to manufacture and are inefficient compared to LEDs, which are rudimentary, single point light sources built into bulbs and equipment. Efficiency is a big LED selling point.

Lux Review recently included OLEDs as one of the lighting industry's 10 great unsolved problems.

Still, Cambridge, England research fimr cintelliq last month predicted that OLEDs will compete strongly against LEDs by 2016. Perhaps a bone from the South Korean government will help. 

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Photo: Seoul at night, like other cities, could in the future shine with OLEDs. Image is from Shutterstock.