HO CHI MINH CITY -- Vingroup, a Vietnamese property conglomerate, is setting up new research and development projects this year in foreign countries in a move to boost its digital technology-related business, including artificial intelligence, robotics and the internet of things.
As its first step, the group launched VinTech Korea, its first R&D center, in Daegu, South Korea on March 4. It plans to open additional operations in China, Israel, Japan, Russia and the U.S. by the end of this year, with the projects to be members of the VinTech Research Network, whose main mission is R&D, the company said in a statement.
With an initial investment of $11 million, VinTech Korea plans to research, develop and design electronic controller units for cars and battery control systems. The group also plans to manufacture electrical-electronic car components, industrial robots, and LCD screens for automotive products, phones and other household electronics.
Vingroup Deputy Chief Executive Vo Quang Hue, on March 5 said South Korea had been picked as the home of Vintech's first overseas office because of its leading 'Creative index', experience in research and development and success in global commercialization.
"The investment and cooperation in South Korea will help develop resources for high-quality technology research and development activities, aiming to make Vingroup a technology conglomerate with the ability to compete internationally," said Hue, adding that the center aimed to attract experienced engineers and employees into the wider group.
The move is in line with a policy by the group's founder Pham Nhat Vuong's to reposition the real estate developer as a leading technology conglomerate.
Vuong told shareholders at the company's annual general meeting in November that the group was moving into manufacturing and technology, with its real estate and services arms supporting the expansion.
Currently, the group's main business is in real estate. According to the latest results, 82.7% of the group's revenue of 122 trillion dong ($5.25 billion) in 2018 came from property.
In 2017, the group launched VinFast Production and Trading as its first manufacturing subsidiary to produce electric motorcycles. VinFast plans to start mass-producing the country's first electric car this year. The group entered the smartphone business last December, teaming up with Spanish device maker BQ to make affordable and mid-range smartphones for export to European and Asian markets in the coming months.
Vuong often mentions his aim to lead Vingroup to become "a world-class competitor" in technology, industry and services in the next 10 years.
Vuong was educated in the Soviet Union during the 1980s and launched a trading and restaurant business in Russia. In 2000, he invested in the real estate and tourism sectors in Vietnam, launching Vingroup in 2012 by combining the subsidiaries of Vinpearl, a resort operator, and Vincom, a property developer. He is Vietnam's first billionaire in dollar terms, with a net worth is $7.6 billion as of March 2019, according to Forbes.