J-GoodTech as a bridge to technical cooperation with researchers at major companies
LIXIL Corporation (LIXIL), a J-GoodTech registered company, is a comprehensive housing and lifestyle company that promotes human-centric innovation. They provide the most lavish products in the industry and solutions that achieve a more comfortable living environment and lifestyle.
They made use of J-GoodTech’s Needs function in pursuit of forward-looking R&D, and succeeded in finding companies to work with to cooperatively develop new technologies.
We asked LIXIL’s Technology Strategy Promotion Department Technology Research Group Manager Masashi Miura to describe the company’s experience using J-GoodTech.
Research-focused researchers tend to rely on already-known external connections to resolve issues and problems
What sorts of problems did you face before using J-GoodTech?
At LIXIL, we manufacture our products in a process that runs through steps from research through product development and product design. In this process, we often face technical problems during the research and product development phases. In particular, it is generally difficult to conduct initiatives focused on new technology at internal company laboratories alone.
In such situations, we take advantage of a variety of methods for finding the technologies we’re looking for. This includes relying on the connections of our internal purchasing department and external trading firms, attending exhibitions, and directly contacting known companies. However, most researchers who need to search for technology have positions dedicated to their own research. They do not have many opportunities to broadly develop connections outside their specialized field. Moreover, they have no way of coming in contact with SMEs except by chance at exhibitions or through word of mouth. At the same time, we believe it is important to give researchers an environment in which they can focus on their research. One of our issues in that respect was how to provide support in the search for external technology in order to resolve research problems.
With J-GoodTech's "Needs" function, companies can find partners that suit their needs, while also being mindful of how much information they make public
Please tell us about what led you to begin using J-GoodTech.
It was in this context that we visited the J-GoodTech Special Exhibition at the New Value Creation Exhibition 2016. This was hosted by the Organization for Small and Medium Enterprises and Regional Innovation at Tokyo Big Sight in November 2016. We were approached by experts from J-GoodTech who asked us whether we were having any technical or technology-related problems. We consulted with them about technologies we’re currently searching for, and they contacted us several days later to say there might be companies on J-GoodTech with the technology we need. That was when they introduced us to J-GoodTech’s Needs function.
Did you have any concerns when using the Needs function?
J-GoodTech includes niche top companies and other high-quality companies. We were also told that companies registered on J-GoodTech have undergone screening by the Organization for Small and Medium Enterprises and Regional Innovation. This was why we didn’t have any major concerns. However, we were concerned about whether there were companies on J-GoodTech who could satisfy our demands, and if they were out there, whether they would contact us with a proposal.
What was it like to actually use the Needs function?
The needs we had when we approached J-GoodTech could be served by a very small number of companies even in Japan. It probably would have been quite difficult to find such a company using a private matching service. However, we were surprised to find that the experts at J-GoodTech found several companies among their registered members that seemed capable of making a proposal suited to our needs. Moreover, we were able to use the Needs function to screen our company name while providing information about our needs to just the companies found by the experts. We appreciated this ability to communicate our specific needs while still maintaining confidentiality. Also, J-GoodTech’s services are all completely free. We were very thankful that we could take a “we’ll never know until we try” approach in communicating our needs to other companies through J-GoodTech.
After we had communicated our needs, we were also impressed with how J-GoodTech’s experts conscientiously and thoroughly served as an intermediary between us and the companies making proposals. Another major contributor to the success of our business discussions through J-GoodTech was the advice we received to actually visit proposing companies to learn about their level of technical capabilities.
Was there anything you took special care to do in using the Needs function?
In communicating our needs through this function, we felt that we should be sure to be as clear as possible about what we were looking for. When searching for technology, information about our needs will become public. We spoke several times with relevant parties about just how much information to release for this purpose. It is very difficult to draw the line between what information can and can’t be publicized. We gave as much thought as possible to the extent of what we would make public. But we also felt it was important in proceeding toward real negotiations that we be as specific and concrete as possible in sharing our needs. This would make it easier for the SMEs on the other side to make their proposals.
Coordinators support leads to meeting companies with the cutting-edge technology suited to your needs
What are some merits you found to using J-GoodTech?
We felt that there were two major merits to using J-GoodTech.
First, you can use J-GoodTech to find companies like niche top companies and companies with cutting-edge technological capabilities. As I said earlier, the technology we were looking for would likely have been hard to find through other private matching services. However, even when looking for technologies like that, you do get a sense of potential and hope through J-GoodTech that you will find what you’re looking for. Moreover, only companies screened by the Organization for Small and Medium Enterprises and Regional Innovation and companies endorsed by foreign aid organizations are registered with J-GoodTech. This means there is no need to worry about your partner company when you receive proposals through J-GoodTech.
A second merit to using J-GoodTech is that you can take a “never know until you try” approach without fear of failure when communicating your business needs to other companies. The search for technologies that will resolve problems facing a company does entail its own financial and labor costs. That’s why there is a need for this to produce some kind of result, even if only internally to the company. But with J-GoodTech, experts will search on your behalf for companies that have technologies matching your demands, and this search will cost very little. This is extremely attractive in that J-GoodTech can be used at any time, while maintaining high motivation during the search process.
Please comment briefly on how you will use J-GoodTech in the future.
If we encounter technical or technological problems that our company cannot resolve, we hope to use J-GoodTech’s Needs function to actively search for SMEs who have that technology. We will also recommend using J-GoodTech to other departments within our company.
Other Remarks (Editor’s Notes)
LIXIL and most other major partner companies actively pursue innovation as part of their regular operations, and they are interested in SMEs’ technologies and products. The case study here showcased J-GoodTech’s Needs function. This involves J-GoodTech’s experts connecting researchers at partner companies, who have potential interest but few opportunities to encounter SMEs, with SMEs who have excellent technology but difficulty contacting major companies.
At J-GoodTech, we hope to provide even better service in the future. We want to become a bridge that can connect partner companies with technical problems, such as LIXIL, with superior-quality SMEs that have the technology they need.