Open Innovation

Open innovation is about listening to the customer and innovating together

Naoto Yanagihara

Corporate Vice President
General Manager, Research & Development Management Headquarters
Fujifilm Corporation

The goal: collaborative innovation

At Fujifilm, open innovation means collaborative innovation. We carefully select partners with whom to collaborate, and together we meld technologies and ideas to create new value. This approach is completely different from offering to share intellectual property just to get another party interested, or aiming for short-term profit.

We carefully select partners, and together we meld technologies and ideas.

There are two reasons why we decided to pursue collaborative innovation. First, we had a strong desire to help solve issues that affect society, such as health and environmental issues. To do that, we needed to be able to share our intentions with other interested organizations and develop long-term relationships with them in order to innovate together as partners. As a result, we feel we’ve been able to come up with some great innovations that we could not have achieved by ourselves.

We are prioritizing the development of revolutionary new products, services, and businesses in our key business areas of healthcare and highly functional materials. Such products and business models are things that can build new successes for Fujifilm and our partners but also eventually make powerful contributions to society.

Partners learning from each other to enhance the value of technologies

The second reason we decided to pursue collaborative innovation involves our history and DNA as a photographic film manufacturer. With a focus on materials chemistry, our technologies extend to image processing, optics, mechanical and electrical engineering, software, and much more. The majority of our current technologies originated in our photographic film business. With this business model, physical product quality is what drove the market. And we added services into the marketing mix and maintained a kind of self-sufficient system internally.

The samurai become stronger by leaving the dojo and sparring with warriors from other traditions.

With only a few film manufacturers in the world, in order to gain any kind of marginal competitive advantage, each company leveraged its unique technologies as much as possible to maximize quality. We Fujifilm researchers would shut ourselves in our research center near Mt. Fuji, like samurai who never left the dojo, just working on our swordsmanship all day. We were ceaselessly honing our advanced technologies. I am an organic synthesis researcher, and so I know how Fujifilm research really works. All the technologies our researchers have developed are truly world-leading, and they played a vital role in taking our photographic film business to the top of the industry.

Now, in our new digital society, photographic film has mostly been replaced by digital photography, and Fujifilm has launched successful new initiatives in healthcare and highly functional materials and become a much more multifaceted company overall. Opportunities to use our photographic film technologies in new businesses continue to expand. We need to look for any opportunities to leverage these technologies to create new value, and to make that happen, we need to meld our perspective with that of companies in many different fields. So it’s imperative that we match up the seeds of our future success with the undiscovered needs of the larger world out there.

So our second reason for pursuing collaborative innovation comes down to this: when samurai leave the dojo and spar with martial artists from all around the world, they acquire new weapons and strategies. Doing that over and over can create a virtuous cycle. Fujifilm’s warriors can embrace both old and new and grow in the process. That’s what we’re after.

Fujifilm is not a beginner when it comes to collaborative innovation. For example, take our WV (wide-view) Film, which widens the viewing angle of LCDs. Fujifilm currently boasts the largest global market share for this product. We developed WV Film by collaborating with panel manufacturer Sharp and materials manufacturer Daicel. Our goal going forward is to generate successes in every field.

Face-to-face communication

Discussing issues openly can greatly accelerate the process of innovation.

I feel that face-to-face communication is an essential component of every aspect of open innovation. That’s why we’ve built our Open Innovation Hubs in Tokyo, Silicon Valley and the Netherlands. At our Open Innovation Hubs, we and our partners are able to come directly in contact with Fujifilm’s fundamental and core technologies as well as products in which they are applied. And we can freely discuss any new ideas these achievements inspire.

The wide and deep range of our technologies helps Fujifilm nurture the talents of the people who are involved with them. This is particularly true of our people who are involved with technologies related to photography, such as control of light and color. In fact, the Fujifilm team includes many of the most knowledgeable people in the world in these areas. We believe that, when such people are able to discuss issues openly with others who have encountered difficulties and are looking for solutions, we can greatly accelerate the process of innovation. And given the pace at which new developments are typically matched or surpassed by competitors, there’s no point in keeping our technology locked up in the company safe. To take that technology to the next level and turn it into greater value, we have to share it with the right partners and welcome their input. We need to strategically decide with all of our technologies whether to keep them open or closed.

Mutually beneficial partnership

We see open innovation as taking a wide variety of forms. In addition to collaborations between Fujifilm and other companies, other beneficial approaches can include joint ventures and M&A. We also aren’t limiting ourselves to partnerships with corporate entities: open innovation also includes working with government entities and universities. And with Open Innovation Hubs around the world, we can pursue open innovation in a way that matches the special characteristics of each locale. In the US, Europe, Asia, and other regions, the definition and boundaries of open innovation are likely to be different. For example, in Silicon Valley, people value highly original ideas and tend to want to start on projects immediately, whereas in Japan people tend to collateralize intellectual property rights and proceed in a more deliberate manner. Our stance is to work with each partner in a manner suitable to the local business environment.

To pursue open innovation, each of us needs to change as well.

Innovations that truly hold value only arise from mutually beneficial relationships. To develop such relationships requires us to value diversity and practice good communication. Thus, all Fujifilm team members need the knowledge and communication skills that will allow them to respect boundaries wherever they go and make the right proposal at the right time. Ultimately, our Open Innovation Hubs are venues for making proposals. In some cases, we may dispatch representatives to open discussions in new locations through video presentations and exhibitions. By freely and proactively engaging in open innovation, we can evolve, accelerate our decision-making and generate greater success.

Turning business successes into global contributions

Open innovation will completely change Fujifilm’s image.

The Ebola virus outbreak of 2014-15 raised global awareness of the antiviral drug Avigan and Fujifilm’s healthcare business. Even so, our image as a company focused on photographic film remains strong around the world, and many still think of us as the company with the green film packages. The engine that will completely change Fujifilm’s image and open up new worlds for growth is open innovation.

By accelerating the development of our multifaceted business and working to benefit both ourselves and our partners, we are determined to make wide-ranging contributions to global society. The ultimate goal of open innovation is to help solve the problems that affect people worldwide.

The world of Open Innovation Hub

Open Innovation Hub JAPAN visit the site

For “co-creation” of new values with business partners

Fujifilm, originally established as a maker of photographic materials, has developed diverse core technologies, which generate unique features and contribute to cost reduction when used in new products.

The Open Innovation Hub is a facility that allows business partners to have first-hand experience of fundamental and core technologies that underlie excellent materials and products developed by the Fujifilm Group, as well as fresh technologies, materials and products currently under development, so as to offer new business solutions.

The company uses this facility to link the business partners' challenges, ideas and potential needs with its proprietary technologies to create innovative products, technologies and services, thereby initiating a tide of innovation.

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