The Chemical Daily recently conducted a round of interviews with the heads of R&D divisions of major Japanese chemical companies. For this installment, we talked with Hideyuki Yamagishi, senior executive officer (former lead executive officer and senior general manager of corporate research & development) of Asahi Kasei Corp. (TYO:3407).
The current business environment is seeing a number of calls to deal with societal issues such as global climate change and depletion of resources, as well as for digital transformation and other such technological innovations, Yamagishi said. And so to create new businesses that will make global contributions, he said, a critical point will be how quickly Asahi Kasei can create a business ecosystem. On the way to such creation, the company must analyze its core technologies to determine areas where it can succeed while also teaming up with outside parties in aspects where it lacks, he explained.
As one jumping-off point for new business, Yamagishi said that Asahi Kasei is working to build up its presence by employing its alkaline–water electrolysis system for green hydrogen production in a large-scale project in Europe, where renewable energy is on the rise.
Yamagishi said that Asahi Kasei is also going deep into CO2 chemistry, which sees CO2 used as a raw material for the creation of chemical products. And in the area of automotive-related materials, he added, the company is looking to leverage its various product and technological strong suits in the new set of trends known collectively as Connected, Autonomous, Shared, Electric (CASE).
Then in materials informatics (MI), where materials are developed with the full use of digital technology, Yamagishi said that every effort needs to be made to secure and foster human resources that will help ensure Japanese competitiveness on the world stage. To this end, he said, Asahi Kasei is focused on getting out ahead of its goal to secure 500 MI personnel in the next three years.
While having already seen results with MI in resin compounding and catalyst development, Yamagishi sees MI changing R&D methods in a significant way down the road. And with the use of digital technology, Asahi Kasei is making company-wide efforts across all fields, he said, going toward greater sophistication of production technology and the use of IP landscaping, where AI is used to analyze intellectual property to help form business strategies.