SEOUL, April 16 (Yonhap) — South Korea said Friday it plans to increase investment in research & development (R&D) on key technologies for next-generation vehicles in a bid to help local automakers take the lead in the market.

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said the government will spend 367.9 billion won (US$328 million) in supporting R&D on next-generation autos this year, up 37 percent from the previous year.

“It is urgent to make an investment in R&D on next-generation vehicles in a preemptive manner as competition has deepened to secure key technology,” Hong said at a meeting on innovative growth.

Hong said the government will focus on supporting R&D of six key technologies crucial to developing next-generation cars, including batteries, hydrogen fuel cells, self-driving communications and automotive chips.

Top automaker Hyundai Motor Co. has suspended part of its plants in the country due to a shortage of electronics parts amid a global supply crunch of automotive chips.

President Moon Jae-in held a meeting with business leaders Thursday, vowing strong and various support for the local semiconductor sector.