Helping Solve Social Challenges through the Pursuit of Innovation Promoting Customer-Driven Innovations × Strengthen Capabilities to Propose Solutions Next Generation Plants
Shin Fukuda
Managing Executive Officer, Center Executive, R&D Center

Promoting Customer-Driven Innovations × Strengthen Capabilities to Propose Solutions

Heading toward a New Era of Innovation

Mitsui Chemicals has made the pursuit of innovation one of the basic strategies of its 2025 Long-Term Business Plan. In R&D and new business development, we are promoting customer-driven innovations and strengthening our capabilities to propose solutions as basic policies supporting this pursuit.
Looking back on past innovation in the chemical industry, the 20th century was an era of new materials. In some cases, a chemical manufacturer would develop a material with more advanced specifications and their sales rep would then present a table of the material’s properties to a customer and that would be all that was required. They did not even need to specify the material’s applications for a sale to be made.
Now, however, customer needs are growing ever more sophisticated and diverse, and this trend appears to be constantly accelerating. Given this situation, we need to be solution providers, uncovering customers’ latent needs in light of major trends and social challenges and then shaping tangible solutions to those needs in order to make proposals that include practical materials applications. Going forward, we will continue embracing a new form of innovation for chemical manufacturers that looks to strengthen our customer-driven business model and transform our position from a materials supplier into a solutions provider.

Initiatives Aimed at Open Innovation

There are limits to what our development efforts alone can do to provide solutions to customers’ increasingly sophisticated and diversifying needs. Open innovation, wherein new value is created through collaboration with a wide variety of people, grows in importance each year. Mitsui Chemicals is cooperating with many partners, including customers and universities, and one of its initiatives is collaboration with ventures.
The breadth of a major company’s technological lineup is a major advantage when it comes to open innovation. However, as an organization grows larger, it tends to compartmentalize vertically, making it more difficult to fully tap into that advantage. Within Mitsui Chemicals, there are still cases where employees do not really know what other people in the same research facilities are doing. In addition, with the increasing compartmentalization of roles, there are not many opportunities for people to start from scratch and see a product all the way through to the design of practical applications. Conditions are similar all across research and development, making it difficult for anyone to have a hand in development from beginning to end.
So what should we do? Right now, we are working to bring together capable and eager people and provide them with a spark.
The leading-edge technologies of ventures and the entrepreneur spirit of the people working there are the fuel for that spark. Through collaboration with these people, we will ignite a zeal for development among Mitsui Chemicals employees. And, as that flame spreads, it will help create value and generate new ideas while opening communications between a variety of people inside and outside of the Company. This is already happening. Our open innovation efforts have only just begun, but, going forward, we will continue to help solve social challenges and create new value through various initiatives.

Customer Views × Solutions

Case Study ARRK/Mitsui Chemicals Seat Project

Mitsui Chemicals incorporated ARRK CORPORATION into the Group in January 2018. Operating mainly in the automotive sector, ARRK provides developmental support as well as total support for customers’ product development, from design and analysis to prototyping. Going forward, the Group will combine these operations with Mitsui Chemicals’ material technologies with the aim of providing total solutions. As part of our efforts to provide such solutions, we have launched the ARRK/Mitsui Chemicals Seat Project. This project will make use of both companies’ technologies to create appealing automobile seats with the watchwords of lightness, leading edge, and comfort.
As a first step, we have incorporated a Mitsui Chemicals piezoelectric sensor into a seat made with one of ARRK’s leading-edge designs to propose automobile seats that collect data on the driver’s vital signs, such as heart rate and breathing rate. Such data could be used for a wide range of applications, such as health care services and helping to prevent drowsy driving. We are also working to make the seat lighter and more comfortable by incorporating Mitsui Chemicals materials, including urethane and carbon-fiber composite materials.

ARRK/Mitsui Chemicals Seat Project

ARRK/Mitsui Chemicals Seat Project

Initiatives Aimed at Open Innovation

Case Study Personal Exchanges with euglena

Initiatives Aimed at Open Innovation

As part of our collaboration with ventures, we are engaging in personnel exchanges with euglena Co., Ltd. involving the mutual dispatch of employees. This provides our employees with opportunities to learn about entrepreneur spirit and venture management while euglena personnel gain access to the R&D know-how of a major company and use Mitsui Chemicals’ facilities to help promote research and development. Furthermore, as a joint initiative between the two companies, we are promoting the development of new process technologies that help reduce environmental impact.

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