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 Yoshihiro Hasebe, representative director and senior managing executive officer (former director, senior managing executive officer, senior VP for global research and development and senior VP for global strategic innovative technology) of Kao Corp. (TYO:4452).
Hasebe noted how Kao last November started on a new initiative: announcing its technologies to the public before applying them in products. As a general rule, he said, companies have the mission of keeping their intellectual property to themselves as a means of bringing about better profits. But in striving to contribute to society, Hasebe said, Kao ultimately aims for its technologies to become widely used anyway. And the company has also determined that the move will aid in increasing its corporate value, he added.
Environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria currently sit at the center of all of Kao’s corporate activities, Hasebe said. And this, he continued, is leading Kao to pursue open innovation – as does the fact that providing technology is what allows the company’s R&D department to show its unique skills and be useful in a speedy fashion. The company has technology in a wide range of areas, Hasebe noted, spanning not only daily necessities, toiletries and cosmetics but also chemical-related operations.
Hasebe then mentioned an event that Kao held late last year at which the company revealed five new technological innovations. This included the company’s Fine Fiber technology – which sees superfine fibers used to form an ultrathin membrane directly on skin – as well as technology for monitoring and analyzing ribonucleic acid (RNA) isolated from sebum from the face.
The event, Hasebe said, led to Kao receiving a wide range of proposals and ideas on how the technologies could be used in ways that had not been thought of in-house. Going forward, the company plans for the technologies unveiled at this event to be rolled out for use in products and services by the end of next year, he said.
Moving to the topic of Kao’s research system, Hasebe said that the company integrated its Perfumery Development Research and Kansei Science Research laboratories earlier this year to form a new set of facilities based around the senses. People get information from a wide range of senses, he noted, including through sight, smell and taste. And so when deciding on products and services, he continued, it is not only functional aspects that have an effect but also the various senses. Kao therefore plans to take a more scientific approach here going forward, Hasebe said, conducting detailed research into the senses.