Interview with Dr. Shin Fujitani:
Research Manager, Sanyo Electric.Co.Ltd., Soft Energy Company,R&D Division, Energy R&D Center
By Bernadette Bensaude- Vincent
Bernadette Bensaude- Vincent (BBV) In which discipline did you take your degree? your Ph D ?
Dr.Fujitani (DF) I took a doctorate in metallurgy.
BBV : How and when did you come into industrial research?
DF: I joined Sanyo in 1982 just after I finished graduate school.
BBV : Which field is your specialty?
DF: Metallurgy, electrochemistry and battery.
BBV: Did you specialize in one field or did you change your research subject?
DF: Before I joined the company, I had majored in metallurgy. Since I joined here, I have been engaged in battery R&D based on metallurgy and electrochemistry.
BBV: Did you conduct your research in contact with university or national laboratories?
DF: I have worked on governmental contract under a collaboration with a national laboratory for about 10 years.
BBV: How do you plan your research? What is a long term research project for you?
DF: Short term projects are planed in accordance with demands from existing markets. Long term ones are planed to help the short term projects going successfully. These may be a general idea, which my current R&D field, battery technology, has followed in the company.
BBV: We learn a lot from success but failures are even more illuminating for historians. Would you tell us about a case of failure in your career or in your field?
DF: Among many failures, the most significant in my view is the 10 year project that I mentioned above, conducted in collaboration with a nationaly laboratory. I certainly obtained new chemical views and new materials but they found no applications. R&D in a targeted area did not work well and finally this project did not result in important industrial contributions.
BBV: Could you give me a few details about the organization of your laboratory: how many people are working here? Is there a clear division of labour?, of research themes? What are the disciplinary affiliations of the people in your laboratory ?
DF: I am afraid that I cannot tell you how many people are working here because of confidentiality. People are divided according to the specific theme they are working on, so that their responsibilities are clearly defined.
The researchers in my lab. have different disciplinary backgrounds, in electrochemistry, in chemical engineering and in a variety of materials sciences, organic for some of them and inorganic for others.
BBV: Where do the financial resources come from? Do you have internal reporting? Regular meetings?
DF: The financial resources are all covered by the company. Therefore, I am obliged to report results on my R&D activities sometimes in the regular meeting weekly, monthly and annually.
BBV: Do you have financial constraints in purchasing instruments?
DF: I am afraid that the notion of financial constraints is a little vague for me. The budget of R&D is determined for each purpose, e.g.; for purchasing consumable supplies and materials, for investing plant and machinery, for the expenses of business trips , etc., and the total amount is determined in consideration of cost performance and risks of the R&D to the business, and the business conditions as well.
BBV: Publishing or patenting? What is the priority?
DF: Patenting is the priority. Ne number of patents largely exceed the number of publications in journals as well as of oral presentations in conferences.
BBV: Do you attend international conferences? Which ones? In which countries?
DF. Yes we attend conferences averywhere as long they cover interesting topics in my field. Personally, I have attended conference in the USA and Canada as well as in some European countries.
BBV: Do you have international collaborations? In which countries?
DF: Some R&D collaborations in EU and US are now underway.
BBV: Did you notice different cultural research styles ?
DF: Yes, I did. Research abroad starts at a much more fundamental level than our researches in Japan, Their value and their results are consequently often more praised and amired than our Japanese contributions.
BBV: Do you think that the materials generic perspective, as it is based on a system approach between structure, properties, performances and process, is useful for your research?
DF: Yes, I think it is extremly useful as long as it helps defining in some way the poteltialities andand limitations of the materials functions for specific application devices, e.g. ; for battery performance in my case.
BBV: What is the place of Materials research in your country? In terms of economic importance and social prestige or public image?
DF: The centers where Materials researches are performed are scattered all over Japan, including universities, firms and public institutions. There are two major poles of national laboratories : one is in Tsukuba, Ibaraki prefecture 1hr away by train from central Tokyo and the other one is found in Ikeda, Osaka prefecture.
BBV: Where would you locate the leading centers in your field?
My lab. is now located in Kobe, Hyogo prefecture. I think it is a good candidate for ranking among the the leading centers in the field of batteries. Its importance may partly be due to the fact that Kobe is one of the most attractive big cities in Japan for educated people.
This page was last updated on 5 February 2003 by Arne Hessenbruch