A robotic rest home caregiver called Charlie may be the start of a lucrative conjoint Korean/New Zealand healthcare industry.

"Charlie", launched last year, is being tested at Selwyn Retirement Village in Pt Chevalier. It is the offspring of a three-year project between Auckland University and Korea's Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI).

It is hoped the robot heralds the start of a multi-million dollar collaboration combining Korea's information and communications technology industry with New Zealand's healthcare know-how.

As Prime Minister John Key continues free trade negotiations in Seoul this week, Peter Lee, chief executive of Auckland University's commercialisation arm UniServices, will talk to Korean business people about how New Zealand's health research capabilities can plug into an enormous healthcare hub being developed in Daegu City.

Korea's third-largest city is investing US$6.5 billion ($9.5 billion) in creating the new healthcare industry, Lee said.

"Can you imagine Auckland saying, 'Here's US$6.5 billion, let's reinvent our city'?"

Daegu was anxious to replicate joint projects with New Zealand, such as the robotic caregivers, he said.

"As soon as Daegu heard about the relationship with ETRI they said, 'me too'."

The aim was to jointly develop products for sophisticated Western markets, such as the US, which neither country could have produced on its own.

UniServices was already conducting a project with Daegu to test Korean medical devices in New Zealand rural communities.

The devices constantly monitor their patients, feeding information such as blood pressure readings to a central data collection agency.

"You have enabled the rural doctor, if you like," Lee said.

While some people might complain about our health system, Lee believed New Zealand was one of the top countries in the world for e-enabled medical services.

Lee said UniServices also hoped to create a parallel medicinal chemistry industry with Daegu.

New Zealand had expertise in designing drugs to tackle particular targets, such as types of cancer.

"We're saying, 'Look we're good at this, we suspect that you would need this capability inside your medical community in Daegu, how about we set up a conjoint laboratory?"'

Auckland University had a similar laboratory in Singapore that was joined with foetal and child health expert Peter Gluckman's Liggins Institute.