Research & Development / Intellectual Property
SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group recognizes that maintaining a prominence in technology is the bedrock for creating value. This is particularly the case in the residential and social infrastructure creation as well as chemical solutions fields, where the Group’s technology platform provides the underlying strength of its competitive advantage. In order to further advance this prominence in technology, the Group is committed to consistently strengthening its human resources and organizational structure in the research & development, manufacturing and intellectual property (IP) fields.
Research & Development
SEKISUI CHEMICAL’s Approach to Research & Development
In the SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group’s long-term vision “Vision 2030”, the vision statement is “Innovation for the Earth.” In the four domains of residential (housing), advanced lifeline (social infrastructure), innovative mobility (electrics/mobility), and life science (health and medical), as well as next-generation frontiers, we will continue to aim innovation with prominent core technology at its origin to generate new fields, support the foundations of life, and pursue the creation of “peace of mind for the future.”
The Origins of SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group’s Innovation: 28 Technological Platforms
Six essential technology groups related to the “Residential and Social Infrastructure Creation” and “Chemical Solutions” business fields as well as 28 more specific technological platforms (TPF) form the foundations of our value creation.
We are refining each of these technologies while combining multiple TPFs to create the prominent products and services described below in order to develop new markets and fields.
Research & Development System
SEKISUI CHEMICAL operates four primary research and development centers within the Housing Company, the Urban Infrastructure and Environmental Products Company, the High Performance Plastics Company, and our corporate headquarters. In addition, SEKISUI MEDICAL CO., LTD., and other key affiliated companies maintain their own research facilities and R&D divisions.
Directly linked to the enhancement of existing businesses and the pioneering of new frontiers, the R&D conducted at the divisional Companies focuses on product development and production engineering themes that will lead to profit in the near future. On the other hand, as an independent research unit, the center within corporate headquarters is conducting research into themes that present extremely high technical hurdles to be addressed over the medium and long term, large-scale themes of the kind that will become links for interdivisional Company collaboration, and new business domain themes that the Group has yet to challenge.
Creation, construction reinforcement of the Group-wide fusion themes for opening up new frontiers
The Group is aiming to create new values by fusing internal and external technology, opportunities and resources with "fusion" as a keyword in our business strategy.
We will encourage internal and external fusion, thereby further promoting the creation of innovation that can contribute to social problem solving and growth the SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group.
Examples of development themes based on “Fusion”
- ・Town and community development
- ・Town energy management
- ・Thermoplastic CFRP
- ・Film-type solar cells for outdoor use
- ・Circular economy Initiatives
- ・Aircraft ,mobility
- ・Cell culture solutions
- ・AI/IoT domain, etc.
Frontlines Taking on Manufacturing Development Innovation
The Group is working to promote R&D that helps to create new products.At the same time, the Group is placing equal emphasis on strengthening its manufacturing capabilities in a bid to reinforce the competitive advantage of its existing products. In the “Drive2022” Medium-term Management Plan, “realization of an on-site environment where the fusion of on-site ability and digital technology enables all workers to work vigorously to contribute with peace of mind” is listed as a policy related to manufacturing capabilities, with the goals of zero major incidents and doubled productivity. In this Medium-term Management Plan, we are working on three initiatives: internal control, production technology, and ICT. For internal control, we are strengthening our ability to prevent quality tampering through digital conversion of the quality inspection process and also building and deploying a predictive risk management system. For production technology, we are automating processes, using digital technology for formalization, and carry out personnel training to promote on-site ICT and IoT. For ICT, we are promoting the development of a global standard model through the unification of data infrastructure and intra-factory data linkage infrastructure.
Fundamental Policy on Intellectual Property
The intellectual property cultivated from our R&D activities is an important management resource that underpins SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group’s growth and revenue and contributes to optimizing corporate value. An intellectual property strategy is vital to maximizing the Group’s technological prominence. In the Principles on Intellectual Property formulated in March 2005, the Group clearly stated that the objectives of our intellectual property management are to contribute to our business growth and to increase our corporate value by encouraging the creation, protection, and utilization of intellectual property, which is to be achieved by respecting our own intellectual property and that of others and by clearly laying out our approach toward intellectual property management. This management mandate is further reinforced by our fundamental policy of ensuring business competitiveness by acquiring highly beneficial patents.
Protection and Respect
Protecting Our Intellectual Property
SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group endeavors to secure strategic intellectual property that supports its business activities, as well as to maintain and manage any acquired intellectual property.
Respecting the Intellectual Property Rights of Others
We conduct periodic investigations to avoid infringing upon the Intellectual Property rights of others, and take appropriate measures to avoid and prevent others from infringing upon the Intellectual Property rights of SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group.
In order that each individual developer can implement these measures, we have prepared several educational programs tailored to the level of each developer, from the acquisition of basic knowledge to strategy building, and conduct Group-wide educational activities relating to Intellectual Property.
Reasonable Evaluations with Regard to Inventions
In addition to paying monetary incentives for inventions made by employees, the Invention Grand Prize has been established as one part of our efforts to ensure researchers and engineers receive the evaluations and recognition they deserve. The Invention Grand Prize pays out monetary incentives to inventors employed by the Company as compensation for those of their achievements that have made a particularly large contribution to profits. In fiscal 2019, a first-class certification was granted for a patent on heat insulation interlayer films.
Intellectual Property Management System and Major Activities
Toward Securing Intellectual Property
SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group places considerable emphasis on strategic intellectual property activities in order to maximize its technological prominence and contribute to business growth. Among a host of activities, the Group identifies business strategies based on an analysis of the competitive environment. To this end, the Group assesses the Iintellectual property landscape, which includes a review of intellectual property , market and peer data. The Group also engages in intellectual property portfolio management.
SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group has set up independent intellectual property divisions at its Corporate headquarters and at each divisional company. This takes into account the Group’s divisional company structure and enables the Group to promptly engage in activities that are attuned to the business environment of each divisional company.
＜Each Divisional Company＞
The intellectual property divisions, the business divisions, and the R&D divisions at each divisional company maintain constant cooperation and are engaging in activities that facilitate the building of an IP network almost to the complete exclusion of competitors putting in place a forum to deliberate on IP activities with management.
＜The Group’s Corporate Headquarters＞
The Intellectual Property Division at the Group’s Corporate Headquarters is responsible for the planning and drafting of basic intellectual property strategies that are common to the entire Group, the protection of trademarks, intellectual property education and training as well as intellectual property management. Taking into consideration its corporate R&D mission of creating new businesses, SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group draws on an analysis of the IP landscape at an early stage to engage in strategic intellectual property activities that allow it to overwhelmingly succeed while continuously dominating the market.
SEKISUI CHEMICAL's first patent application was for a "film-forming paste manufacturing method" (a strong film for dirigibles and balloons) in 1948, the year after our founding, which was registered in 1950 to become our first patent. Initially, the submission and management of patents, etc., was implemented alongside other duties by the Technical Department, but as the number of applications soon came to exceed 100 a year, a patents section was established within the Technical Dept. in 1954, and they came to exclusively oversee our industrial rights.
Currently, within SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group, the intellectual property departments both corporate and for each company are our core, and we are promoting a consistent intellectual property strategy from the roll out of basic policies company-wide to the acquisition, management, and rights usage of patents. The intellectual property and R&D departments within each company periodically hold "development intellectual property strategy conferences", wherein the company's unique intellectual property strategies are discussed, and directions determined. At the same time, the corporate Intellectual Property Department supports each company's involvement from the viewpoint of a company-wide business strategy called "intellectual property portfolio optimization". Further, we are also actively forging links with outside specialists such as patent offices and law firms, etc., to suitably promote the acquisition, management, and rights usage of our intellectual property. In particular, as well as focusing on expanding business roll out globally and actively pursuing links with experts not only within Japan but also overseas, we are employing and training non-Japanese intellectual property personnel as staff to promote intellectual property activities locally.
Trademarks and Brands
The SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group has carved out the SEKISUI brand over its long history, and is expanding business activities not only within Japan but also overseas, aiming to thrive as a global business.
We designated the SEKISUI logo as our Group-wide symbol in 2009, and have since rolled it out uniformly both within Japan and overseas. Obtaining the rights to “SEKISUI” as our trademark in each of the regions we operate in, we are also promoting activities to protect and improve the value of our brand.
In addition, a variety of other logo marks representing business and product lineups such as “SEKISUI HEIM” and “S-LEC™” and “ESLONⓇ” are systematically used when rolling out businesses and launching products as a symbol of SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group’s technology and performance, so that customers can have peace of mind when choosing Group products.
We will continue to protect and improve the value of the SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group’s brand globally through branding strategies using the Group’s logo.
Initiatives for Managing and Protecting the SEKISUI Brand
We have established our Visual Expression Standards (Brand Book) in order to improve the value of the SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group’s brand and ensure that our employees use the SEKISUI brand correctly. We focus on training our employees on the SEKISUI brand so that they understand the brand and observe the established rules.
We are also reinforcing our monitoring and responses to infringements of our trademark rights, such as counterfeit products that damage our brand. In particular, we are continuing with our active countermeasures centered on Asia. Moving ahead, we will continue to respond firmly to counterfeit products.
Examples of Initiatives and Achievements
- The Minase Innovation Center is the base where you can get hints of solutions to your problems while enjoying our core techonologies and unique products.
- Our Innovations Inspired by Nature Research Support Program is one of our nature conservation and social contribution activities. It has the potential to give rise to cutting-edge technologies using the principles of nature. Recently, we have been working on tying the results of this research to our Group’s businesses.
- Having brought in many cutting-edge technologies in the past and refined them into distinctive SEKISUI CHEMICAL technologies, we are working to create cutting-edge technologies not just through in-house development, but also through collaboration between industry, government, and academia. For example, the pipe rehabilitation SPR method, which was awarded the Okochi Memorial Prize for uniquely excellent research results in production engineering, was developed jointly by us, a Japanese sewage service company, and a Japanese construction company. In recent years, we have been pushing forward with our business strategy and adding technological capabilities necessary for achieving our targets through global mergers and acquisitions, as well as alliances with other companies.
- SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group has been promoting the creation of innovative environmental products using our high-performance film technologies developed over the years. In particular, our efforts have focused on energy materials and devices. Since 2012, we have worked on innovative and challenging developments under the support of the Advanced Technology Research Project for the Application and Commercial Use of Lithium-Ion Batteries driven by Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).
- Working together with agencies such as the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, we conducted the world's first successful trial production of film dye-sensitized solar cells in a room temperature process using the aerosol deposition method (a high-speed ambient temperature coating process for ceramic materials; hereinafter called the “AD method”), without the previously required high-temperature firing. The project required expert use of AIST’s AD method technology and SEKISUI CHEMICAL’s own fine particle control technology, porous membrane structure control technology, and film surface control technology. It achieved high adhesion between the photoelectric conversion layers and film, along with excellent electron transport performance, to obtain the world's highest conversion efficiency of 8.0% for dye-sensitized solar cells on organic film. This allows dye-sensitized solar cells to be made using various film substrates. A wide variety of applications can be expected.
- PUXFLAME, a non-combustible polyurethane foam, was developed using the flame-retarding compound technology of our fire-resistant materials business. Normal rigid urethane foam burns very quickly when heated, but PUXFLAME blocks the bonding of oxygen and flammable gas using a special carbonized layer that is created when heated, instantly suppressing the spread of fire.
- In order for even plastics with high viscosity to be easily embedded with carbon fibers, we developed our own unique technology (fiber unraveling technology) to separate individual strands from bundled carbon fibers. In addition, by further developing our extrusion molding technology nurtured through pipes and films, we developed a composite continuous extrusion molding technology for long carbon fibers and thermoplastics. Besides being able to mold long and large sizes, we also improved productivity. Furthermore, it became possible to both increase strength and reduce weight at the same time through developing an atypical molding technology capable of continuously and simultaneously molding a special rib structure.
- At Smart Heim City Research Academy in Tsukuba City, Ibaraki Prefecture, we are conducting an evaluation test for a virtual power plant linking home storage batteries with the cooperation of the residents and TEPCO Power Grid, Incorporated.
- SEKISUI CHEMICAL CO., LTD. and LanzaTech Inc. have developed the world’s first successful production technology that gasifies combustible waste accumulated at waste disposal facilities without any sorting, and converts this gas into ethanol using a microbial catalyst. Ethanol, which can be turned into the ethylene used to make plastic, can not only be used as an alternative to fossil fuels through waste recycling, but also as a means of contributing to reducing CO2 emissions.