The Korea Herald


LG chief travels to US to examine future growth engines including AI

By Jo He-rim

Published : June 23, 2024 - 14:51

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LG Group Chairman Koo Kwang-mo (left) observes Figure AI’s humanoid robot, Figure 01, in action, at the startup's headquarters in Sunnyvale, California. (LG Inc.) LG Group Chairman Koo Kwang-mo (left) observes Figure AI’s humanoid robot, Figure 01, in action, at the startup's headquarters in Sunnyvale, California. (LG Inc.)

LG Group Chairman Koo Kwang-mo traveled to the US last week to check on the operations of the group’s major affiliates and examine future growth engines, including artificial intelligence, robots, biotechnology and cleantech -- technology that reduces negative impacts on the environment -- the company said on Sunday.

During the four-day trip from June 17, travelling across the country from Tennessee to the California's Silicon Valley, Koo also met with Jim Keller, the chief executive officer of rising chip design startup Tenstorrent, the company said.

In Tennessee, Koo visited LG Electronics’ manufacturing plant, LG Chem and Ultium Cells, where he reviewed trends in the rapidly changing industry and trade policies subject to potential change.

"Let’s take on big challenges and move forward confidently to win the long-term race to achieve sustainable growth,” Koo told his employees.

At Ultium Cells, which is the joint venture created between LG Energy Solution and General Motors, Koo reviewed the outlook for the North American electric vehicle market and trends among major customers, according to the company.

LG has chosen Tennessee as its “forward base” for market expansion in North America, due to it being bordered by eight states and efficient for transportation and logistics.

As global carmakers including GM, Volkswagen and Nissan are operating plants there, it is also optimal for LG to run its cathodes material plant there, the company said. LG Chem plans to build the largest cathode material plant in the United States in this region, with full-scale production of nickel, cobalt and manganese cathode materials set to begin in 2026.

“Everyone is facing the same volatility in the business environment with the changing market and customer trends, the competitive landscape and the shifts in trade policies and logistics,” Koo said.

“To overcome this, let’s create new opportunities and strive for a fundamental strengthening of competitiveness by reinforcing our product portfolio, supply chain, innovation processes and localization capabilities to improve yields and quality," he said.

In Silicon Valley, Big Tech's base and startup mecca, Koo visited LG’s startup investment hub, LG Technology Ventures and LG Electronics' North America Innovation Center to discuss startup investment and development strategies for future readiness, particularly in the field of AI, the company said.

LG Technology Ventures, a startup incubator, operates a fund worth 1 trillion won ($719.7 million) and has invested $360 million in over 80 startups and funds to date, the company said.

In his meeting with the Tenstorrent CEO, the two discussed trends in AI semiconductors and fabless technology, as well as the impact of the proliferation of AI on the chip industry.

Koo also visited Figure AI, an AI humanoid robot startup, and met with the founder Brett Adcock to learn about the current state of the humanoid robot market and key trends in the field. He also observed Figure AI’s humanoid robot, Figure 01, in action.

Koo’s attention to startups reflects his belief that AI will drive innovation across all industries and significantly impact business structures in the future, LG said. Koo had also visited Vector Labs and Xanadu Labs on Toronto, Canada last August to gain insights on the latest AI trends.

The Korean conglomerate has been ramping up its efforts in the AI field. LG AI Research Institute, developed Exaone, a multimodal AI model capable of bilingual language processing and the bidirectional generation of language and images, in 2021.

Koo has traveled to North America every year since he took office in 2019, except for 2020 and 2021.