South Korea taps on biomaterials as ‘most futuristic’ asset

Korean environment minister Cho Myung-rae said the government is betting on biomaterial technologies as a key future sustainable asset.

He made the comment after visiting a cosmetics research and manufacturing firm in Seongnam that uses biomaterials as ingredients.

Cho’s visit to Cosmax in the Gyeonggi provincial city was his fifth since February to local companies that use eco-friendly technologies in power generation, sewage disposal and other areas.

He visited Cosmax after the ministry on June 3 allocated 37.6 billion won ($31.3 million) of 695.1 billion won it requested from the National Assembly for its third supplementary budget this year to support the country’s biomaterial sector.

The ministry’s projects include selecting about 120 companies to benefit from the government’s support, building a “test-bed” infrastructure of 11,000 square meters at the Tech Hive business park for environmental companies in Incheon, and research-and-development for biomaterial technologies to tap into more sectors of cosmetics and medicines.

The ministry also anticipates the industry, which uses sustainable natural materials to create products and fuels, can replace chemical products and fossil fuels that contribute to ecological damage.

“The biomaterial industry is the most futuristic and a core industry to ramp up the country’s global competitiveness,” Cho said.

Cosmax last year applied for a patent to verify ― with the National Institute of Biological Resources (NIBR) ― the efficacy of the herb Robert’s extract in anti-oxidation, anti-inflammatory and skin regeneration.

The company also used cauliflower fungus from Jeju Island, which has skin rejuvenation effects, for Korean cosmetic brand Innisfree’s products, and the skin soothing effect of wind-dried wormwoods from Geomun Island in Yeosu, South Jeolla Province, for AHC’s SCINIC soothing essence.

The original development manufacturing (ODM) firm ― delivering its products to local sellers and distributors ― has some 600 buyers worldwide and recorded almost 1.3 trillion won in sales in 2019.

The number of Korea’s native natural materials found to be good for biomaterial development number 153 as of May, according to NIBR and the National Institute of Nakdonggang River Biological Resources. Among them, 76 were found useful for their anti-oxidization effect and 68 for anti-inflammatory properties.

NIBR shared with The Korea Times a list of 148 registered patents in the country, as well as in the United States and the Europe, that are based on more than 100 natural materials including beautyberry tree, red clover, wasp spider and frog embryo.