Kuraray’s basic R&D policy and core research areas
Message from Management
The Kuraray Group originated with the commercialization of synthetic rayon. Under our mission, “For people and the planet—to achieve what no one else can,” we have consistently worked to fulfill our social obligations and create unique technologies. In commercializing KURALON™, Japan’s first synthetic fiber, we recognized the importance of integrated production—we could not ensure quality unless we were involved from the raw materials stage. We overcame numerous challenges to establish the in-house production of the raw material PVOH resin. We’ve done this since the origin of the Kuraray Group, and it has enabled us to create products that capture a high market share. Since then, we have drawn on our base of unique polymer and synthetic chemistry technologies to transition from being simply a fiber manufacturer. We’ve evolved to become a Specialty Chemical Company creating numerous products and businesses that have won top market share globally in the vinyl acetate sector and beyond.
Under “PASSION 2026,” as part of our ongoing evolution, in January 2022, we established the Innovation Networking Center (INC) as a step to create a new driver of growth. In an age of VUCA—volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity—the mission of the INC is to lead the way in creating frameworks. It is shaping the corporate culture and developing human resources in such a way as to accelerate innovation by integrating internal and external resources, including our ties with customers and partner companies, both worldwide and across the Group. As well as digitalizing collaboration, dialogue, and other customer activities to enable shared access, we will put in place other platforms to drive continued innovation through globally collaborative utilization of the Kuraray Group’s comprehensive strengths. These range from proprietary technologies and equipment to a diverse pool of talent. We also expect this to act as a catalyst to stimulate the corporate culture to create new organizational structures that do not exist under the existing divisional framework.
On the R&D front, we are channeling efforts into “Development based on the customer perspective,” “Development that contributes to sustainability,” and the “Planning and promotion of an intellectual property (IP) strategy.” We have numerous technologies in the R&D pipeline at present and envision that, with the help of INC in obtaining market information and identifying unmet needs, these technologies will feed into the development of materials that offer new value. By outlining a future corporate vision based on the consumer and customer perspective and then undertaking a backcasting process to identify research themes, we will make inroads into new areas beyond the scope of our current research domains. To promote development that contributes to sustainability, we will not only accelerate the development of greenhouse gas reduction technologies, which is a Group policy, but also continue to offer solutions and develop materials that contribute to improving the natural and living environments. Our efforts will be in the areas of waste reduction, use of biomass and biodegradable products, health and beauty, and high-speed telecommunications. In January 2022, we established the Environment and Energy Research Laboratory, whose mission includes actively developing biomass-derived new carbon materials. To drive the planning and promotion of an IP strategy, we also established the IP Management Center in January 2022. This Group-wide organization supports the IP strategies of our various divisions. The Center will formulate and implement a global strategy for the effective use of IP, including monetizing IP rights through expanded out-licensing.
Our greatest mission is to create technologies that lead to new businesses. To do so, coordination with other divisions in areas ranging from customer information to the design of large-scale production equipment is vitally important. Through our current initiatives, we plan for the entire Kuraray Group to come together as “One Kuraray” under a framework that enables closer collaboration toward achieving the corporate mission, as we continue pursuing innovation for the next generation.
Officer, Innovation Networking Center;
Officer, Research and Development Division;
Officer, IP Management Center
Competition is increasing in the chemicals industry due to the entry of companies from emerging countries,
and the commoditization of specialty chemicals is also underway.
Technological development capabilities to create valueadded products are increasing in importance as an essential management resource for maintaining and strengthening global competitiveness.
In the Research and Development Division, the corporate organization which is the heart of the Kuraray Group’s technological development capabilities, we promote projects that contribute to Group-wide business expansion and profit growth under the corporate missions of “creating new business,” “strengthening and expanding existing businesses,” and “establishing and deepening core technologies,” through close collaboration with in-house companies, business divisions, and R&D divisions in the Group companies. In 2016, we launched the Supporting Project to support the sustained enhancement and expansion of existing businesses. In 2017, we began the full-scale rollout of “new business creation activities” aimed at both discovering promising new opportunities in areas peripheral to our businesses and broadening the scope of Kuraray’s business foundation. Under “PASSION 2026,” while carrying on existing approaches, we will coordinate with the INC to promote marketing activities for items under development worldwide as well as seek to accelerate innovation by incorporating new foundational platforms through R&D pursued under a backcasting process.
Priority Issues of “PASSION 2026”
“PASSION 2026” set forth the priority issues of “development based on the customer perspective,” “development that contributes to sustainability,” and the “planning and promotion of an intellectual property (IP) strategy.” By steadily addressing these issues, we will accelerate innovation in R&D.
Development based on the customer perspective
To bring the ideas and seed technologies generated by the Research and Development Division to market, we will pursue global marketing activities through the INC. With a view to new business creation, we will outline our vision for future business areas based on the consumer and customer perspective and use this vision to inform our selection of research themes the Kuraray Group needs to address.
Development that contributes to sustainability
Seizing the challenge of sustainability as an opportunity, we will develop materials that contribute to improving the natural and living environments to deliver solutions to the world. Particularly with regard to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in line with Group policy, we are accelerating the development of technologies for the capture, storage, and use of CO2. In January 2022, we established the Environment and Energy Research Laboratory to drive powerful research into environment- and energy-related fields.
Planning and promotion of an IP strategy
The Kuraray Group’s business development has typically concentrated on harnessing unique technologies to create unparalleled products. We have sought to stay out ahead of the competition by filing patent applications and securing IP rights on our R&D achievements in Japan, where our development bases are located. However, due to various pressures, notably mounting competition from startup enterprises and other products in different sectors that have accompanied the globalization of business activities, the existing IP framework alone is no longer sufficient to protect our businesses adequately and maintain our competitive edge. Moreover, in an increasingly complex IP environment, the importance of IP risk management is growing, especially in overseas markets.
To meet this challenge, the IP Management Center established in January 2022 will work not only to support the IP strategies of each business division, but will also formulate and implement a globally integrated IP strategy. In this way, we will implement IP activities that go beyond the former strategy, focused on securing rights, to include business development activities.