LG NOVA teams with West Virginia to invest $700M in tech startups and other projects

LG NOVA has formed a strategic partnership with the state of West Virginia to invest in tech startups that could drive economic growth.

West Virginia and LG Electronics, the parent firm of LG NOVA — LG Electronics’ North American Innovation Center — have announced a strategic initiative aimed at fostering new business ventures. This collaborative endeavor intends to advance technology developments in renewable energy, healthcare, and burgeoning industries.

Spearheaded by LG NOVA, these upcoming enterprises are projected to bring 275 job opportunities to West Virginia. That’s not a lot, but it is significant in that the state doesn’t have many tech startups jobs at present, as its economy is built on coal and other industries.

Beyond job creation, the initiative is slated to serve as a catalyst for pioneering technologies, investments, and economic expansion, marking the inception of an innovation corridor sprawling across the Appalachian region.

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“It starts as a regional effort, but it’s not just regional in West Virginia,” said Sokwoo Rhee, executive vice president of innovation at LG Electronics and head of LG NOVA, in an interview with VentureBeat. “I will say that’s just the beginning of the much bigger initiative. The way we see this, especially the sectors that we are focusing on digital health and clean tech, which includes renewable energy and so on, it is extremely important to work with organizations that have a broader reach.”

Shilpa Prasad and Sokwoo Rhee speaking at Transform 2023.
Shilpa Prasad and Sokwoo Rhee speaking at Transform 2023.

Rhee noted that the state of West Virginia has about 70% of its hospitals run by the state. He noted that the West Virginia University Hospital System is one of the best in in that region.

“So it makes total sense for us to partner with the state government and start the deploying the solutions,” he said. “We see a lot of opportunities. We work with the state government, we deploy and we test out and we help out with the infrastructure. And we benefit from it from the business perspective. But at the same time, West Virginia gets a benefit because they become the first state to adopt such advanced technologies to help out their their residents.”

Aligned with LG’s jobs creation initiative, NOVA West Virginia Investment Fund, an impact fund, plans to infuse $700 million into project investments within West Virginia over the next five years. These substantial investments aim to nurture and foster growth within the state.

LG NOVA, established in 2021, collaborates with startups and partners to cultivate innovative ventures that not only benefit humanity but also positively impact the planet. Through their Mission for the Future and Commercial Acceleration Program, LG NOVA actively engages with the innovation community to spearhead transformative changes on a global scale.

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice lauded the achievement for the state, affirming the partnership’s potential to generate hundreds of employment opportunities, stimulate technological advancements, and fortify an innovation corridor across the Appalachian region.

“This is a tremendous day for our great state,” Justice said in a statement. “This partnership with LG Electronics is a game-changer, and it’s going to create hundreds of good-paying jobs, spur investment in new technologies, and help us build an innovation corridor across the Appalachian region. I’m proud to work with LG to bring these new opportunities to West Virginia, and I can’t wait to show the world what West Virginians are capable of.”

William Cho, LG Electronics Global CEO, said in a statement, “LG is on a continual growth path to bring new value to its customers and partners; and build transformational businesses. We’re thankful for leaders like Governor Justice and his team for welcoming us to West Virginia as true collaboration partners. LG is committed to building a better future, and through this initiative, we have great hopes for what we can accomplish in West Virginia to further deliver solutions that have impact on the world.”

Mitch Carmichael, Secretary of West Virginia Department of Economic Development, echoed Governor Justice’s sentiments.

LG Electronics

“This is another spotlight on the innovation and advancement occurring in the great state of West Virginia,” Carmichael said in a statement. “We are honored to share this economic development announcement highlighting LG NOVA, LG Electronics’ North America Innovation Center, and the job and career opportunities it will create in the Mountain State. We are here to support the entire LG team.”

Rhee underscored the significance of collaboration with West Virginia.

“This strategic alliance transcends West Virginia, envisaging robust economic investments in Appalachian communities. It’s a collaborative venture uniting business leaders, public-sector innovators, and universities, aiming to fortify resilient economic growth across the Appalachian Region,” he said.

Speaking to the jobs being created, Rhee said, “These jobs are a little different than typical jobs that are created in this kind of deal. Our jobs are going to be high paying knowledge worker jobs. We’re creating jobs for software engineers and hardware engineers.”

The idea is to get a cycle of innovation going in the state that can keep up with other regions across the country, he said. Rhee noted that West Virginia has a great education system and that this can fuel a tech industry hub in the state.

“We are planning to expand it into what is called the Appalachian region, including West Virginia, Ohio, and also part of the Maryland and Virginia.”

A part of the $700 million will go into investing in startups. But LG and the state will also channel money from outside investors into the state as well. LG could also partner with other businesses to generate that investment for the state.

“It is not Silicon Valley. However, it has the potential to become a Silicon Valley, especially if it is expanded into Appalachian region,” Rhee said.

LG NOVA is three years old. It partnered with eight startups (out of 1,300 or so that applied) in its first year and it added another six startups (out of 2,100 or so that applied) in the past year, where LG works with the companies and helps them achieve their business objectives.  

It took about a year to get the West Virginia program under way.

“This is a new collaboration model that is mutually beneficial and it took a while to create,” he said. “It is the first of its kind. It’s a beginning of a long process and l will say it has a much bigger picture. We start with West Virginia as an extremely important partner for us. Then we go much bigger and broader.”

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