Idemitsu Kosan is one of Japan's leading oil companies, with a history spanning more than a century. The company is engaged in business segments such as the oil and chemical business, resource development, electricity and renewable energy, and high-performance materials. The latter has been a leading force in the development of OLED technology, blue light-emitting materials used in next-generation displays for smartphones and large-screen televisions, since 1985. In recent years, Idemitsu Kosan has been focussed on expanding this business globally, with manufacturing bases in South Korea and China – and a development base in Switzerland.
Idemitsu Research and Business Development Europe AG (IRBDE) was established in 2017 and is the result of a joint development initiative between Idemitsu Kosan and BASF. The collaboration started in 2012 with the aim of promoting the development of new materials by bringing together Idemitsu Kosan's OLED technology and BASF's technical and research capabilities. After BASF's withdrawal from the OLED business, IRBDE took over the research personnel and facilities for continuous material developments. ”It is a great advantage for us to be able to secure excellent researchers from BASF and to hire new global personnel,” says Masatoshi Aketagawa, Director Electronic Materials Development Center at Idemitsu Kosan. Currently, IRBDE has about 30 employees from 11 countries, including Switzerland, Germany, France, Japan, and Taiwan.
I believe that there are many opportunities to gain a foothold in Switzerland for business diversification through inter-company collaborations, especially in the science background, and through industry-government-academia projects.
In addition to the continued business, Idemitsu Kosan is seeing the presence of IRBDE being in the heart of Europe as an opportunity to expand new open innovation initiatives with start-ups, universities and research institutions. Idemitsu has also invested in the venture capital firm Emerald Technology Ventures in 2020, hoping to utilize the network to strengthen ties with the European research community. One focus area is the development of solid-state lithium-ion batteries. “Europe is taking the lead in various movements regarding electric vehicles, and of course there are many car companies and related material and parts manufacturers that are creating famous technological trends. We would like to form various alliances with such companies in Europe, including open innovation teams,” explains Masatoshi Aketagawa. This lithium-ion battery is slated to prolong battery life, speed up recharging, and increase safety in the event of an accident. Idemitsu is developing solid electrolytes, a key material for all solid-state lithium-ion batteries, and last year hired new personnel for advancing a new generation of battery business.
For Masatoshi Aketagawa, IRBDE in Switzerland is the ideal place to further these efforts and expand the company’s business. “I believe that there are many opportunities to gain a foothold in Switzerland for business diversification through inter-company collaborations, especially in the science background, and through industry-government-academia projects,” he says. In addition, the stable working environment in Switzerland allows the company to attract highly qualified talent from all over the world. Thus, the Swiss subsidiary today plays a particularly effective role in securing diverse and specialized personnel, providing information from a global perspective, and developing human resources – in Europe and beyond.
Idemitsu OLED Materials Europe AG changed its company name to Idemitsu Research and Business Development Europe AG as of April 1, 2022.