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BOE plans major investment in high-tech for growth

By FAN FEIFEI | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-07 09:18
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Visitors check out products at the BOE booth during a high-tech expo in Chengdu, Sichuan province. WANG QIN/FOR CHINA DAILY

BOE Technology Group Co Ltd, a major Chinese display panel maker, will increase investments in technological innovation, especially in fundamental and cutting-edge technologies, and is doubling down on new-generation semiconductor displays represented by organic light-emitting diodes and micro/mini LED displays, a top company executive said.

Chen Yanshun, chairman of BOE, said the company is transitioning from a semiconductor display enterprise into an innovation-oriented internet of things firm, with about 7 percent of its annual revenue spent on technological innovation.

Chen said BOE will invest nearly 50 billion yuan ($7 billion) in research and development over the next three years. It is accelerating steps to expand its presence in sensors, mini LED, IoT and intelligent healthcare, as well as promote the integration of artificial intelligence, big data and 5G with display technologies.

He added that the focus of BOE's technological R&D will be extended to materials and equipment, and the company will team up with upstream enterprises to make breakthroughs in display materials and chips, with an aim of taking a leading position in materials, equipment and other frontier technologies worldwide.

In addition, based on rich experience in intelligent manufacturing capacities, BOE has established an industrial internet platform, which provides digital transformation services for manufacturing companies across the nation and helps them improve productivity.

The platform is expected to enhance intelligent manufacturing and digitalization levels along the upstream and downstream segments of industrial chains.

BOE is also betting big on next-generation semiconductor display technologies, including OLED and micro/mini LED displays, which boast immense application potential in various fields such as smartphones, televisions, vehicle-mounted displays and wearable gadgets.

Last week, the company announced that it plans to invest 63 billion yuan to set up a new active-matrix organic light-emitting diode, or AMOLED, production line in Chengdu, Sichuan province. The products will be mainly high-end touch screens such as those used on laptops and tablets, it said.

Currently, BOE owns three flexible AMOLED production lines in Chengdu and Mianyang in Sichuan, as well as in Chongqing. Compared with traditional liquid crystal displays or LCDs, OLED is a relatively new technology and part of the latest innovations in displays, and boasts great improvements in terms of image contrast, brightness and color spectrum.

Market research firm Omdia said BOE ranked first worldwide in terms of shipments of LCD panels for smartphones, tablets, computers and televisions in 2022.

It topped the domestic market, with shipments of flexible OLED panels used in smartphones reaching 76.65 million units last year, making it the world's second-largest OLED maker after South Korea's Samsung Display, the consultancy said.

China will ratchet up resources to further expand the application of new-generation display technologies in fields such as 5G, AI, IoT, new energy vehicles and the metaverse, as part of a broader push to build a modern industrial system, said the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

The country will speed up industrialization in emerging display technologies, and spur fiscal support to promote the development of innovation in the new display industry. Official data showed the output value of China's new display industry exceeded 490 billion yuan in 2022, ranking tops worldwide and accounting for 36 percent of the global total.

Against the backdrop of potential risks from decoupling, more coordinated efforts are required to resolve bottlenecks and increase investments in basic research and strategic forward-looking technologies, said Chen Duan, director of the Digital Economy Integration Innovation Development Center at Central University of Finance and Economics.

Chen called for the push to expedite the translation and application of key scientific and technological breakthroughs and support leading high-tech companies — which play a critical part in technological innovation — to pour more capital into state-of-the-art technologies to better serve the country's development strategy.

Rong Chaoping, senior research manager at AVC Revo, a unit of market consultancy firm AVC, said after years of development, LCD technology has become very mature, but it faces some bottlenecks and has difficulty meeting the diversified needs of consumers for display products.

"The new display technologies will usher in speedy growth, along with the maturity of such technologies and continuous decline of costs," Rong said.

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