Kazuhiro Hirakura

Section Manager
Business Planning Sect.
Business Plannning Dept.
Corporate Sales & Marketing Div.

Yaskawa Electric Corporation
- Business Planning Sect. Business Planning Dept. Corporate Sales & Marketing Div.

Trusted Corporation is as an online platform for companies of all sizes, from any industry worldwide to connect and collaborate. We are proud to present Yaskawa Electric Corporation, as a new Trusted Member. Technology and manufacturing has changed dramatically over the years. Since 1915, Yaskawa Electric has contributed to the development of society and the welfare of humankind through their motor manufacturing, automation, and now, their “mechatronics”.

Let us introduce to you Mr. Hirakura from the Business Planning Sect. Business Planning Dept. Corporate Sales & Marketing Div. at Yaskawa Electric Corporations.
(Interview: May 13th, 2019)

Mr. Kazuhiro Hirakura
Section Manager Business Planning Sect. Business Planning Dept.
Corporate Sales & Marketing Div.

1. Tell us a bit about Yaskawa Electric Corporation

Yaskawa Electric Corporation is a technology-oriented company that was founded in 1915, over 100 years ago.

Our mission is to contribute to the society’s development and human welfare. By 2025, we are aiming to set ‘factory automation/optimization’ based with mechatronics and ‘applicational area of mechatronics’ as the core business domains.

Our first vision involves “Factory Automation/Optimization” combines mechatronics and ICT technology to provide new solutions to automation through i³-Mechatronics(i cube mechatronics), which is a word that our company created and trademarked. It combines the word “mechanism” with “electronics”. In addition, we pursue and achieve global No.1share in robotics and motion control segments.Our second vision involves ”Mechatronics Applications”. Our company aims to determine business commercialization by exploring and demonstrating fields in which mechatronics technology can be applied

We focus our efforts on the following areas in particular:

  • Energy Saving: Reducing electricity consumption through energy saving equipment
  • Food & Agri: Promote automation in food production and agriculture market
  • Clean Power: Establish energy creation, application and storage business
  • Humatronics: Promote development of medical and welfare markets

2. What are some of the accomplishments Yaskawa has had when working with startups?

As listed on our company’s public venture investment site and as of 2018, we have provided venture capital to 2 businesses and 8 startups, for a total of over 1.4 billion yen of investments. Of that number, half were foreign enterprises, and includes an IoT company called “LOCIX INC.” from Silicon Valley in the United States, Finland’s energy storage technology enterprises “BroadBit Batteries Oy” and “Teraloop Oy”, and Israel’s 3D printing enterprise “Massivit 3DPrinting Technologies Ltd.” and wearable robot enterprise “ReWalk Robotics Ltd”.

To list some of our achievements we’ve had from collaborating with startups:

  • ReWalk Robotics creates assistive technology that helps people with spinal injuries walk. Through their partnership with us, we were granted exclusive distribution rights in Asia.
  • For several years, CoCoroe has been producing a lineup of products relating to the humatronics area of medical care, welfare and nursing. Through our partnership, we have been working to strengthen their lineup and allow their customers to have access to a wider range of products.

In regards to the startups we have invested in, we have assigned our talented engineers as consultants for these startups, to hold demonstration tests and do R&D with them.

For example, using our company’s strength in technology, we provided consulting services for Teraloop while advancing the proof of concept for energy storage technology. We also combined our company’s mechatronics with the AI voice recognition technology developed by Japan’s Hmcomm Inc., to provide customers with added value. We’re currently holding demonstration tests for this technology.

3. Are there any technological areas that you’re thinking of collaborating in with startups?

We would like to collaborate with startups that have technology that is related to our company’s visions, or startups that have applications that our technology can be applied to.

In mechatronics, this relates to technology that will make it easier to use the hardware that is fundamental to our company. This includes technology that improves the functionality; and data, IoT or AI technology that will increase the added value of our hardware through its incorporation.

In energy saving, we expand scope of energy saving application through high value-added value proposals through combining of high-performance AC drives and high-efficiency motors.

In food & agri, we strengthen solutions to automation in food production processes.

For clean energy, our company has technology that helps us efficiently produce and use energy, but we do not have any technology that allows us to store that energy. Therefore, we are very interested in working with startups who focus on developing energy storage.

Similar to mechatronics, we need data, IoT technology and AI technology that will add value to humatronics and improve the convenience of CoCoroe products. For example, the actualization of hardware products that allow patients (i.e. the users) to have some control over their health through rehabilitation and easy-to-use products that can be modified according to the patient’s state.

4. What types of startups are you open to collaborating with?

There are no restrictions to the types of startups that our company will invest in.

In the past three years, our company had a rule of investing less than 100 million yen per project, so proportionately, the number of investments we were making to early-stage startups was large.

For companies we have already invested in, we are prepared to make two or three subsequent investments, depending on the company’s conditions.

Even in our mid-term management plan that will be implemented from 2019 onwards, we are planning to continue our dealings with these companies, offering IPO support to startups, and starting joint ventures together with these companies. By expanding the scope of our investment and funding activities, we are planning to collaborate with middle and late-stage companies as well.

5. How does Yaskawa typically structure their partnerships with startups?

As a technology company, and a company that also works in marketing, we want to make all types of arrangements possible, when working with startups.

Besides investments, we also offer technology consulting, joint demonstration testing, R&D, and the use of our company’s sales channels and agency when the startup is selling their products or services.

In regards to the structure of the relationship, our company has been investing in startups since the second half of 2016, and we have created a system that focuses on fast decision making. We have made our decision making process faster by appointing the General Manager of the Sales Department as the final decision maker, as they are much closer to the company’s activities than the company President.

In addition, every three months, our company consults with the Venture Investment Committee to discuss investments under 100 million yen per company. Before consulting with the Venture Investment Committee, we have an internal meeting to discuss the industrialization of the enterprises we want to collaborate with. In this meeting, we discuss whether the collaboration project relates to existing technologies or that of the future, and a decision is made on whether our company will provide support.

Our internal committee meeting consists of the planning heads of every department of our company, which includes the motion, inverter, robot, and system engineering departments, and the development laboratory. The development laboratory is the department that determines the necessary technology and societal needs for industrialization in 5 to 10 years. The current members of our business planning department, also consist of global-minded individuals who are bilingual and have experience living or studying abroad.

In the United States, Europe and India, we collect information on on-site startups who share the same mission. We also send our business partners to those locations, to help facilitate the on-boarding of new projects. Through this process, we are aiming to reduce any language or cultural barriers that may occur.

From fiscal 2020,we will launch the Yaskawa Technology Center at our head office. We establish the Center to further strengthen the coordination between our business department and development laboratory; strengthen our current business endeavors; and accelerate the creation of new ones. The linking of this Center to our venture investment organization will help advance our collaboration with startups.

Depending on our circumstances, our company will announce an area we are struggling to industrialize in and open up the opportunity to borrow the strength of startups who are striving to expand.

Trusted Corporation is a B2B platform and search engine that proudly supports cross-border and cross-industry collaboration between companies around the world. If your company is a startup, and you are interested in collaborating with Yaskawa, please get in touch via contact@trusted-inc.com.

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