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R&D Initiatives for Creating the Future

Promoting Open Innovation that Aims to Resolve Societal Challenges

    Norihiro Suzuki
    Vice President and Executive Officer, CTO, and General Manager of the Research & Development Group, Hitachi, Ltd.

    Reflecting on the past year, there has been a sudden acceleration in “digital transformation” that utilizes digital technologies and artificial intelligence (AI). This transformation began around businesses involving electronic commerce in the distribution, retail, and manufacturing sectors, and is now occurring in various areas such as urban planning, mobility, healthcare, and agriculture. On a different level, in September 2015, the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals as the core of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and tackling issues on a global scale is becoming the backbone of business in corporate activities. Further, in Japan, the Council for Science, Technology, and Innovation formulated “Society 5.0” which was approved by Cabinet decision in January 2016. Its purpose is to pioneer the realization of a high quality of life (QoL), human-centric, prosperous “super smart society” that achieves both economic development and the resolution of societal challenges.

    Hitachi is developing Social Innovation Business that provides advanced societal infrastructure systems utilizing information technology (IT). Further, by enhancing this Social Innovation Business with digital technologies, Hitachi aims to become an “innovation partner for the Internet of Things (IoT) era.” In order to realize this, Hitachi is creating new value by sharing issues and vision through collaborative creation with customers and partners, designing business models, and realizing them through verification and simulation. Achieving this will also require an open and secure platform that connects the systems of many stakeholders. Accordingly, Hitachi launched its IoT platform Lumada in 2016 and has begun providing services. Currently, Hitachi is working to expand use cases through collaborative creation with customers.

    Against this backdrop, the Research & Development Group realigned its organization in FY2015 and transitioned to a structure with the Global Center for Social Innovation (CSI) to promote collaborative creation with customers, the Center for Technology Innovation to promote technological innovation, and the Center for Exploratory Research to undertake R&D for solving future societal issues. From FY2016, Hitachi's business side also shifted to a three-tier structure of front, platform, and product. Research & Development Group activities aligned with the business side, and are addressing the challenges faced by customers in each region through collaborative creation and technological development. Further, to drive business, the Research & Development Group is promoting the “creation of Social Innovation Business” and “establishment of world No. 1 technology platforms” and is accelerating “the realization of visions for the future.”

    For the “creation of Social Innovation Business,” Hitachi is making full use of “NEXPERIENCE,” which systemizes collaborative creation methodologies to generate use cases for the IoT platform Lumada. A new office was opened in London following such centers in Tokyo and Silicon Valley to further provide facilities equipped with co-creation spaces in order to accelerate global deployment. In April 2017, the Insights Laboratory was established to globally integrate the co-creation activities of CSI and, together with the Hitachi Insight Group organized in May 2016, will be accelerating the global deployment of Lumada. The development of solution cores, especially those that use AI and analytics as a common platform, and the showcasing of Lumada use cases, will be promoted by a team of 200 overseas staff.

    Collaborative creation requires the “establishment of world No. 1 technological platforms.” Thus, technology platforms in nine fields—energy, mechanical engineering, materials, controls, systems engineering, production engineering, digital technology, electronics, and healthcare—have been reinforced, and are contributing to each of the three business tiers, front –platforms–products, respectively. Also, in 2016, Hitachi conducted field tests at customer sites with its humanoid robot EMIEW3 with a view towards the practical application of robot services. In the field of AI, following the commercialization of the Hitachi AI Technology/Business Improvement Service in 2015 using Hitachi's original AI technology to help resolve corporate management issues, new initiatives such as technology developed to automatically provide advice to raise worker happiness, and verification trials with about 600 sales and marketing staff within the Hitachi Group, are taking place. In the future, Hitachi will introduce new digital technologies and develop disruptive innovation technologies that integrate each technology platform.

    To accelerate “the realization of visions for the future,” Hitachi is working to realize Society 5.0 through information sciences, life sciences, and physical sciences, pursuing research in areas such as regenerative medicine, ultra-high-resolution electron microscopy, and the Ising computer. As a mechanism for industry–academia collaboration towards realizing Society 5.0, Hitachi established the “Hitachi The University of Tokyo Laboratory,” “Hitachi Kyoto University Laboratory,” and “Hitachi Hokkaido University Laboratory” in FY2016, and through discussions with university researchers from a wide range of fields at those universities, is working together from the beginning to define research topics. Through such initiatives, policy proposals and visions will be presented, and new business will be created through collaborative and integrated research. To realize the practical application of regenerative medicine, the Hitachi Kobe Laboratory was established in the KOBE Biomedical Innovation Cluster in FY2017 as an R&D base for regenerative medicine. Accelerating open innovation in this way will contribute to the realization of Society 5.0.

    In closing, Hitachi's R&D division has reached 100 years since it was originally established as the Research Team in the Testing Section of Hitachi Seisakusho at the Hitachi Mine of the Kuhara Mining Company. In this age of increasing uncertainty, it is more important now than ever to capture turning points in the world, and to create innovations that address them. As Japan will be the first among nations to face those challenges, creating new solutions to resolve them will serve as a global strength. This is an area where Hitachi, which has both information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT), can exercise its advantage and address such challenges. The Research & Development Group will endeavor to create a solid foundation on which to move forward for the next 25, 50, and 100 years. I hope that this issue will provide our readers with a better understanding of the R&D activities at the frontline of the new challenges undertaken by Hitachi.

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