(Chris Devlin) #1

204


FORTUNE.COM // JUNE.1.19


ible marking is, at the top corner of one
wall, a stylized orange outline of a familiar
object: a battery. K-8 appears whimsical,
almost a bauble, until Hwang explains
that four other buildings on the campus,
plus another one under construction, also
are for battery research—an activity at SK
that employs several hundred people and
counting. When I ask to go inside K-8 for
a look, Hwang says it’s out of the question.
When I raise my camera to take a picture,
he stops me. “In this area,” he says, “photo-
graphs of the buildings are prohibited.”
SK has a sprawling R&D campus
because it has a storied technological
pedigree—as Korea’s oldest oil refiner. Now
the petrochemical company is hitching its
future to electric cars. It has inked deals

T FIRST GLANCE, all seems serene on
a spring morning at the research-
and-development campus of
SK Innovation, one of Korea’s
biggest industrial conglomer-
ates. The campus sits in Daejeon,
a tidy, planned city an hour’s
high-speed-train ride south of
Seoul that the national govern-
ment has built up as a technology
hub. Dotting SK’s rolling acres
are tastefully modern glass-and-
steel buildings that wouldn’t be out of place in a glossy architecture
magazine. One contains a library, its tables stocked with rolls of
butcher paper and Post-it notes to spur creativity. Another houses an
espresso bar where engineers queue for caffeination. A cool breeze
blows. Birds chirp. Pink cherry blossoms bloom.
Then Jaeyoun Hwang, who directs business strategy for SK’s
R&D operation, steers the Kia electric car in which he is driving
me around the campus to a stop at the top of a hill. In front of us
looms K-8, a seven-story-tall cube of a building sheathed in matte
silver siding and devoid of any visible windows. Its only discern-


A


RENEWABLE ENERGY THE RACE TO BUILD A BETTER BATTERY


GLOBA L PL AY ER


CEO Kang Sun has helped Amprius raise money
from both American and Chinese backers.

PHOTOGRAPHS BY CHRISTIE HEMM KLOK