Research & Development (R&D) / Intellectual Property

Research & Development (R&D)

Approach to Research & Development (R&D) / R&D System

Initiatives for materiality (key challenges)

We have identified “Contribute to carbon neutrality / circular society” and “Contribute to regional society (energy and mobility)” as our materiality (key challenges). We have crafted strategies that consolidate company-wide technologies and actively draw on external technologies with the aim of quickly achieving the creation of new businesses with an eye toward changes in society, diversifying customer needs, and decreasing environmental burden. Technological innovation is indispensable to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement, which is an international framework related to climate change. Our Group will continue generating innovation that will help solve various social issues including climate change, by utilizing the technological capabilities that have been developed over many years of our operations.

R&D system

Our R&D system is composed of Advanced Technology Research Laboratories, which are responsible for corporate R&D, and research laboratories in each department. Each of them carries out specialized development. In addition, we established the Research & Development Committee as a company-wide organization to not only examine the direction of research and development, strategies, and issues throughout the organization, but also to deepen cooperation among laboratories and to strengthen technological capabilities.

Research field Name of laboratory Japan Over
seas
Outline of initiatives
Corporate R&D Advanced
Technology
Research
Laboratories
Environment & Energy Research Laboratory   Development of technologies to reduce GHGs and recycle resources (biofuels, bio-chemicals, and CO2 recycling) and bio-materials
Advanced Organic Materials Research Laboratory   Development of functional materials (organic macromolecule materials)
Advanced Inorganic Materials Research Laboratory   Development of functional materials (inorganic materials)
Analytical Technology Center   Providing advanced analysis and solutions to a wide range of fields throughout the Group (including computational science)
Idemitsu Kosan Joint Research Center for Creation of Next-Generation Materials   Creating next-generation materials, enhancement and expansion of technologies
Production
engineering
Technology & Engineering Center   Technology development in the area of engineering design, construction, operation, quality control & assurance, and asset integrity & reliability of production facilities
Technology-driven contributions to new businesses through the development of production processes
Lubricants Lubricants Research Laboratory   Research and development of lubricants and tribology (lubrication technology)
Idemitsu Lubricants America Corporation R&D Center    Local-based research and development of lubricants
Global development of lubricants products and technologies with the Lubricants Research Laboratory (Japan) as the mother research center
Rapid product development and provision of technical services to meet local needs overseas
Idemitsu Lube (China) Co., Ltd. Research & Development Center  
Idemitsu Lube Asia Pacific Pte. Ltd. R&D Center  
NIPPON GREASE Co., Ltd. Technical Research Laboratory   Research and development of grease, heat treatment oil, metal processing oil, etc.
Advanced
materials &
performance
chemicals
Performance Materials Laboratories   R&D and development of applications for engineering plastics, adhesive base materials, liquid rubber, electronic materials, etc.

Provision of solutions based on catalyst, synthesis, material design, compounds, and practical assessment technologies

Idemitsu Unitech Co., Ltd. R&D Center for Plastic Products   Research and development of molded plastic products
IDEMITSU FINE COMPOSITES CO., LTD.
Composite Materials Research Laboratory
 

Research and development of plastic composite materials that meet market requirements

Electronic
materials
Electronic Materials Development Center   Research and development of OLED materials
Idemitsu Research and Business Development Europe AG  
Bitumen Technology Section   Basic and applied research on asphalt and its applications
Development of high-performance asphalt
Pesticides and functional feed SDS Biotech K.K. Tsukuba Research & Technology Center  

Development of pesticides and feed additives derived from microorganisms and natural products

Development of safe and useful products for the protection of plants and livestock and the prevention of diseases

Lithium
battery materials
Battery Material Development Center   Development of sulfide-based solid-state electrolyte materials, which are key to all-solid lithium-ion secondary batteries (all-solid lithium batteries), and development of manufacturing processes and mass production technology development
Technology & Engineering Development Center   Development of manufacturing technology and design/ construction of mass production facilities for the commercialization of the aforementioned solid-state electrolyte materials
Technology Planning Office   Examining and exploring recycling technologies and next-generation battery materials
Solar power generation Solar Frontier K.K. Kunitomi Office   Exploring solutions for new business development
Research and development for the commercialization of recycling technologies for solar panels, including crystal silicon panels
Coal and the
environment
Coal & Environment Research Laboratory   The only private research specializing in coal
Provision of technical services and development of clean use technologies for coal for a low-carbon society, such as biomass fuels that help reduce GHG emissions as well as carbon recycling and highly efficient combustion technologies
出光興産, DFF Inc.

Investment Performance / External Evaluation of the Technical Capabilities

R&D investment performance

We conduct R&D related to petroleum, functional materials, and resources as well as new business creation. Under our R&D system, our departments pursue R&D activities in close mutual cooperation.

FY2021 R&D investment performance
  • (Unit : Millions of yen)
R&D expenses 26,016
R&D expenses by
business segment
Petroleum 785
Functional Materials 12,370
Power and Renewable Energy 1,236
Resources 316
Others 11,308
External evaluation of Idemitsu Group's technologies

Our technologies are highly appreciated by the international community. As an example, for six consecutive years since 2017 Idemitsu has been ranked 1st in the world in their industry subgroup* for “Opportunities in Clean Tech,” which is one of the items evaluated by MSCI, an ESG evaluation organization. (See the table below.)

We will continue to make the most of our advanced R&D capabilities to contribute to the solution of global issues through collaboration with others.

  • * Within GICS (Global Industry Classification Standard), Idemitsu belongs to the Oil & Gas Refining and Marketing industry subgroup.
MSCI’s sector rankings for “Opportunities in Clean Tech”
Ranking 2020 2021 2022
1 Idemitsu Idemitsu Idemitsu
2 Company A Company A Company A
3 Company B Company F Company F
4 Company C Company G Company G
5 Company D Company H Company H
出光興産, DFF Inc.

Specific Initiatives

Promotion of open innovation

To strengthen the development and expanding business in the advanced materials field and create CNX Centers at complexes, we are promoting open innovation that has actively utilized external collaborations.

  1. We participate in funds operated by venture capital and work with startups in Japan and overseas. In 2019, we made investments in Universal Materials Incubator Co., Ltd., and, in 2020, into a fund managed by Emerald Technology Ventures (headquartered in Switzerland).
  2. In 2020, we established the “Idemitsu Kosan Joint Research Center for Creation of Next-Generation Materials” at the Tokyo Institute of Technology to 1) accelerate the shift to highly functional materials, 2) improve the probability of success in R&D, 3) develop new materials, 4) strengthen and expand our core technologies, and 5) promote human resource development.
Promotion of MI / DX

To accelerate activities related to MI (Materials Informatics*), which had been conducted individually by each laboratory, the Innovation Strategy Department is playing a central role in promoting activities to vitalize and raise the level of MI / DX through the activities across the entire Company.

  1. We began holding in-house MI symposiums and workshops to share case studies and improve literacy, as well as reskilling through MI technical training.
  2. To accelerate the use of data science, which is indispensable for MI / DX, we built and began operating a company-wide cloud environment.
  • * Utilization of AI-based materials development technology
Launch of the advanced materials project

To strengthen development and expand business in the advanced materials area, it is important to continuously create new themes in addition to the early commercialization of themes under consideration. That is why we launched the ‘Advanced Materials Project’ as a project activity for theme exploration. We integrated the wisdom of each division of the Advanced Materials Company to create new businesses in the advanced materials field by repeating idea creation, commercialization planning, and verification in a short period of time through thinking that is not confined by existing business domains. Then, through this project, we seek to expand the circle of innovation to the entire Advanced Materials Company by nurturing co-creation innovative human resources.

Development of innovative semiconductors, which combine low cost and low power consumption, to meet the demand for low power consumption due to the advancement of high-speed telecommunications and digital technology.

In 2006, we began developing polycrystalline oxide*1 semiconductor material IGO (Indium Gallium Oxide). The IGO that we have developed features high mobility on the same level as that of low-temperature polysilicon (LTPS)*2, which could not be achieved with conventional oxide semiconductors. This process is also well-suited for large lines of the eighth generation and later, and it is expected to contribute to the evolution of display performance, the development of the display industry, and the realization of a low-carbon society through the low power consumption of displays.

  • *1 Polycrystalline oxide: A thin film in a polycrystalline state composed of metallic elements and oxygen.
  • *2 Low-temperature polysilicon (LTPS): A polycrystalline silicon formed at low temperature on a glass substrate. Has high electron mobility.
    Figure
  • *3 Poly-OS: Polycrystalline oxide semiconductors
Development of process for lipid production using microbial from inedible biomass feedstock with high sustainability and availability

Lipids and fats are widely used as raw materials for bio diesel oil, and in recent years they have also shown promise as raw materials for bio-jet fuels and bio plastics. Conversely, competition with uses for food and the destruction of tropical rainforests due to palm plantations are considered to be problematic. The utilization of waste cooking oil, which is considered to have a low environmental impact, is gaining momentum, but there are challenges to its availability.

Hence, we are developing a process to produce lipids and fats from the raw material of lignocellulose*4, the most abundant biomass on earth, using the power of microorganisms. We have discovered several unique microbial strains that produce lipids from sugars with high efficiency, and we are developing technologies to further increase production efficiency. We are aiming to provide fuel and chemical raw materials with less environmental impact through the practical application of microbial lipids production.

  • * Lignocellulose: Main component of plant, mainly composed of polysaccharides and an aromatic polymer.
Figure
Developing innovative technologies to promote the shift to solar power as a primary energy source

Under the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) programs “Technological Development for Promoting Solar Power Generation and Making It a Major Power Source” and “Technological Development for Creating New Markets for Solar Power Generation,” we are promoting the development of new technologies to expand the places where solar panels can be installed. In particular, in the development of new technologies to install solar cells in regular electric vehicles, Idemitsu is working with multiple other organizations to develop solar cell modules for installation in vehicles to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Among the solar cell modules being developed, Idemitsu is focusing on CIS bottom cell technologies.

In addition, these projects’ respective themes will be pursued via the application of CIS solar cells (solar cells made using a compound of copper, indium and selenium) from Solar Frontier K.K., an affiliate company of Idemitsu.

Creation of next-generation materials via industry-academia collaboration

On April 1, 2020, our company and the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) co-founded Idemitsu Kosan Collaborative Research Cluster for Advanced Materials on the premises of Tokyo Tech’s Suzukakedai campus. Since the beginning of the 2000s, our company and Tokyo Tech have been engaged in joint research in polymer materials and other fields encompassing a range of technologies and have achieved outstanding results, including the development of new fiber and film materials. The newly established research base is expected to promote large-scale and comprehensive R&D that involves ongoing interorganizational collaboration and transcends the traditional framework of joint research for individual projects. In this way, we will help develop next-generation materials while nurturing human resources.

While our company boasts strengths in functional materials (lubricants, advanced materials & performance chemicals, electronic materials, and others) and a track record in marketing them in wide-ranging fields, Tokyo Tech possesses a breadth of sophisticated academic expertise with regard to substances and materials and is equipped with leading-edge scientific and engineering technologies. Bringing together these resources, our company and Tokyo Tech will take on the ongoing challenge of creating new value.

出光興産, DFF Inc.