Executive Vice President and Representative
Member of the Board
Chief Technology Officer, Toray Industries, Inc.
Advanced Materials Give Shape to Advanced Industries
Since its very inception, the Toray Group has continuously carried out research and development on advanced materials based on the firm conviction that research and technology development provide the key to building the Toray of tomorrow. Materials have a low profile because they are hidden in the final product, but history attests to the fact that advanced materials have created next-generation industries. For example, the invention of synthetic polymers sparked the creation of numerous industries including today’s synthetic fiber and plastic industries. Similarly, the discovery of semiconductors led to transistors, LSI, and the modern IT industry. Today, a new aircraft industry is developing thanks to the advent of carbon fiber composite materials. In order to provide true solutions to the many societal and economic challenges of our times, there is no other way than the pursuit of technology and material innovation. Without such innovation, there can never be final products that are attractive to the market.
Persistent efforts based on insight into material value
It inevitably takes a certain amount of time to develop and commercialize a material. As an example, Toray began research on carbon fibers in 1961. Commercial production began 10 years later in 1971, and today these fibers are used in numerous aircraft, such as the Boeing 787. Many overseas chemical companies withdrew from development of carbon fibers or scaled down their efforts, but Toray saw their potential value as a material, and worked persistently, creating cash flow and improving their skills through applications in fishing rods and golf shafts, while looking toward aircraft applications in the long-term. This ability to see the value of materials and the strong will to follow through are the strengths of Toray’s R&D, and the backdrop which gives rise to genuine innovation. In addition, our management provides continuous R&D investment, without being affected by the ups and downs of the economic climate, and for many years we have made no major changes in R&D expenditures as a percentage of sales. These points also demonstrate the commitment of Toray’s R&D to distant long-term continuity.
Creating new value by integrating technologies
Another unique feature of Toray’s R&D is the skillful incorporation of different fields and cultures to create new value through integration. Toray has centralized all of its R&D functions into a single organization called the Technology Center. Bringing together specialists from many fields in this undivided R&D organization makes it easier to create new innovations by integrating technologies, and at the same time enables the company to exhibit combined strength by actively exploiting techniques and knowledge from many fields to solve problems in a single business area. To achieve Green Innovation and Life Innovation, Toray’s areas of special focus in recent years, it is particularly important to have an organization which facilitates integration through cross-organization activities, close collaboration and technical interaction. The key factor for innovation is accurately identifying customer needs and the value of technologies so the group’s combined strength can be fully exhibited.
The DNA of Toray researchers and engineers: The Deeper, the Newer
The phrase, “The Deeper, the Newer,” has been passed down as a key phrase at Toray, and is part of the DNA of our researchers and engineers. The concept underlying this is that when you dig deep into something, the result will be new discoveries and inventions. We are always in pursuit of the ultimate limits. This pursuit of R&D cannot be achieved with a complacent attitude; it has to be based on a grand vision of the times and the needs of society. Only then can we create genuine innovation that has value to society and the economy.