• I understood that Ajinomoto Co., Inc. (hereinafter referred to as “the company”) has numerous patents, but even then, why are the sales low?

    We hold many patents not only in food products but also in the bioscience and fine chemical fields. If we narrow it down to just pure food-related patents, keeping aside pharmaceutical- and bio-related ones, the number comes down and we will be at a level similar to our rival firms in the industry. Now, we are in a major transition period of shifting from commodity to specialty. For example, earlier, as the bulk rate was high, finding an effective fermentation bacteria would have been enough to build business competitive edge. However, following business structure changes, how to make things with added value by leveraging the patents is more important. Given such changes, it can be said that patents are more in numbers.

  • If you were to pick one technology that would lead to economic value in the next five years, what would it be?

    The base for growth will be supported by the technology for food deliciousness. This could be used not only in Japan but also globally in parallel and we can realize the most optimum taste for a region, regardless of country or race. The field where we can expect dramatic growth is the technology related to production of pharmaceuticals. For example, development of next generation drugs (biopharmaceuticals), which can appropriately deliver an antibody attached with the drug to a desired location, is advancing, and we recognize that such competitive technologies are being developed.

  • I would like to ask about the company’s overall way of thinking regarding R&D. In the flow from commodity to specialty, I feel that the company has made great changes in the way it is done and KPI management. Could you explain a bit more in detail about that?

    Till now, there were many independent research by researchers and the themes were decided primarily by the researchers. It is same in the case of fermentation technology also, but we had competitive ability then, so it was alright. However, various materials and businesses became commoditized and the competition intensified, and we had to change our thinking that identifying the customer needs is the most important thing. The collapse of Lehman Brothers was also a turning point, and we have significantly changed the way we manage R&D budget from around FY2011. We have changed it to one where we have stopped independent research and instead began concentrating R&D cost on those that match the requirements of the business division to raise the success ratio. We have made it into one where research is carried out reflecting customer needs and has as many exit points as possible. CIC also, in line with that thinking, has the main goal of grasping customer needs. It is important that researchers themselves go out and grasp the requirements, but it is also important to have base like CIC that can mobilize the company’s technology to identify the unmet needs of customers.

  • Do you mean to give priority to solving customer issues over the company’s B-to-C business?

    No. First of all, the basic thing is to increase the attractiveness by using our own technologies in our own products. We initially used the low-salt technology in our products. In addition, we will sell the materials and deploy them at other companies.

    As for the B-to-C business, Ajinomoto Frozen Foods Co., Inc., AGF, Knorr Foods Co., Ltd. and Ajinomoto Co., Inc. have been separate companies until now and each of them has their own R&D functions. We are trying to combine the R&D functions of these companies into one at the Kawasaki district by FY2020. We believe Ajinomoto Group’s technologies can be leveraged further to respond to consumer needs. The recent popular product, THE★CHA-HAN, also was created this way. In the past we spun off each business for each company to enhance their strengths in their respective fields. As a result, the companies achieved their current positions in the respective markets, but the real strength of the Ajinomoto Group lies in leveraging food technologies that came out of bioscience and fine chemical technologies as well as using bioscience and fine chemical technologies as such in food technologies. We believe it is difficult to demonstrate this strength under the current structure of independent R&D bases and that is why we are trying to step forward. You can assume that the time we take to generate results in the food products business is shorter than that for Healthcare and Life Support. Moreover, food products contribute to accumulation of knowhow, which is hard to be quantified, in addition to technologies to be patented, and we want to generate economic impact from the strengths in total.