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 Naoki Furukawa, executive officer of Kaneka Corp. (TYO:4118).
Furukawa noted that Kaneka goes about development through a system of four segments that the company refers to as Solution Units. These are the Material, Quality of Life (QoL), Health Care and Nutrition Solution Units.
In the area of materials, Furukawa said that biodegradable polymers represent one high-priority theme for Kaneka. He noted that a market for these polymers has already formed in Europe, where plastics-related legislation continues to advance. And there is also the potential, he said, that needs for such materials will grow tremendously in other markets around the world, including those of the U.S. and Japan.
For other efforts in the segment, Furukawa said that Kaneka is making use of open innovation as it expands its materials operations. On the business side of things, this is seeing the company work with its customers on plastic manufacturing technologies, the development of new applications and even business operations, he explained.
Kaneka’s Material Solution Unit is also focused on composite materials, Furukawa said. And this includes the aviation sector, he noted, where Kaneka has acquired companies that are engaged in raw materials and compound resin technologies for aircraft parts. Furukawa said that this has given the company a lineup of materials that to some extent provide heat resistance to a range of different temperatures – examples in this lineup being epoxy, polyimide and benzoxazine resins.
Moving then to the topic of Kaneka’s QoL Solution Unit, Furukawa said that one core of operations here is solar cells, where the company is aiming for the world’s highest conversion efficiency. By working on research alongside Belgian-based IMEC, Kaneka hopes to become even better at presenting solutions to energy-related social issues, he said.
In its Health Care Solution Unit, Furukawa said, Kaneka is aiming to get new developments into society in the near future. This includes the area of regenerative medicine and cell therapy, he noted, where the company is working to facilitate the supply of cells to companies, universities and research institutions looking to apply treatment.
Furukawa then noted that Kaneka established a new strategic unit last year for the development of pharmaceuticals and other medical treatments. The unit serves to advance Kaneka’s development of new businesses in the medical sector, he said – including businesses revolving around new treatments.
Kaneka’s Nutrition Solution Unit is similarly looking to find practical uses for its efforts in the near future. Here, Furukawa said, the company is aiming to support food production, and has conducted joint development to this end alongside Japan’s National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO). This has seen the company develop technologies for genetically modified crops by combining genome editing technology with gene transfer technology.