The Nano Technology Conclave 2008 was jointly organized by Nomura Research Institute Here I’d like to highlight some of the key aspects of Nomura that I learned and their motivations to be part of Nano Tech Conclave. Frankly, I heard the name Nomura for the first time only in the context of the Conclave, prior to that I just thought Nomura is a just a Japanese last name. From the internet lookup and from the NRI web site, it is clear that they are part of large and reputed financial services business(ESTD ~ 1925) with the associated research and consulting practices.
I was throughly impressed by Dr Naoki Ikezawa, Chief Industry Specialist, NRI, for the thoughtful assembly of experts for the conference and enthusiastic participation in the conclave from start to end.[Unlike the Indian counterparts who disappeared from the scene mid-course of the conclave. I'm sure they must be having very good reasons for the same yet I'm not impressed!]
The content presented by the Japanese team was relevant and of excellent quality. For instance, at the forenoon session, just after Dr Sivathanu Pillai outlined the need for a national Nano Technology Mission, Dr Naoki Ikezawa outlined how accurate information and forecast to stake holders could prove valuable to steer the mission. He illustrated it with patent heat map of Fullerene( nano material) in Japanese regions over time and how policy makers were able to create enablers around them. This presentation was backed up by a Day 2 Session by Hideki Murayama San of Frontier Carbon Corporation who talked about how they started Fullerene production at industrial scale and brought down the prices from US $7000 per gram to $5 a gram over a decade.
Tetsuya Kaneko san of Nomura further highlighted that nano tech for Japan is a survival strategy. Nano technology as an enabler that will touch all industries rather than exist as standalone industry was explained with an excellent metaphor: salt like tech and rice like tech. Salt is not visible in the food as such, but it has significant impact on the food similarly nano tech will not be visible yet pervade across industries. Unlike rice like tech say like iron and steel or IC chip industry which is very visible and bounded.
The sincerity for partnership with India on nano tech was very evident from the Japanese team facilitated by Nomura/Dr Naoki Ikezawa san. Keneko san was outlining where Japanese nano tech is strong and where there are collaboration opportunities. For instance, bio-nano tech with health care focus is not a strength of Japanese nano-tech industry, whereas nano-tech for sensors, measuring instruments with applications in electronics, computer, automobile industry there is definite leadership.
Each of the partnership/opportunity area mentioned was backed up by a presentation by experts from the specific field. Be it presentation by Masahiro Takemura san of National Institute for Materials Science- Japan, on Japan, Nanotechnology activities, or Denso Corp Nobuaki Kawahara san’s presentation on Automobile and MEMS, or Takashi Tomita san of Sharp Corp on Nanotechnology and Future of Evolution of Photovoltaic, or Hodeyuki Matsuoka san of Hitachi Ltd’s presentation on Research on spintronics at Hitachi, or Hideki Murayama san’s presentation on Fullerene or Tatsuaki Ataka san of Olympus Corp on Micro-nano Technology in Olympus, the underlying openness for partnership was the common thread.
Come to think of it, the initial presentation by Nomura and the subsequent presentations by other Japanese companies were statement complete – as in a patent draft – key concepts referred in the patent are defined somewhere within the patent document. It is just amazing how a handful of people from very large organizations are able to present themselves as cohesive team.
Here is the picture of Dr Naoki Ikezawa San along with Dr Shri Sivathanu Pillai. Photo courtesy The Hindu.
Also in the picture is Neeru Dhall able and deft Japanese-English Interpreter. She runs a consultancy company called Trans-Wel out of Delhi specializing on Research, Coordination, Interpretation and Translation service. Her appropriate informality and general (radiating of ) people empathy was impressive. Neeru, hat-tip for bridging the cultural and language barrier!
Here is my 2 cents on how the Indo-Japanese cooperation and how future conclave could be made more effective(Read what was oddly missing):
1) Layering was missing. In a conclave where wide range of people come together, there were no thumb rule to distinguish between present and the future, research and technology, engineering vs ready to use product.
2) Clearcut entry points for small businesses, and SME pointers were missing. Indeed, if nano-tech has to take off in a big way, the big players like the Japanese companies will have to transform themselves as platform players and actively encourage co-creation by much smaller players. If Amazon could do it effectively for IT infrastructure with Amazon Web Services, why not in other infrastructure intensive domains? Opensource techniques could to be explored to open up non-core patents and non-core infrastructures, thereby reducing entry barriers and increasing spurt in growth.
3) Risk capital opportunities and exits are not outlined. Risk capital and entrepreneurial action are key ingredients for disruption. And without disruption, even nano-tech will be pretty much boring :).
4) Entry for small and micro players through trading and service opportunities are to be outlined to make the ecosystem more vibrant.
Overall, the Indo-Japanese initiative is very promising and the Japanese sincerity is to be matched and cultivated by the Indian industry and other stakeholders. Hats off CII for facilitating the initiative!