The R&D Front Line vol.3 Mitsunori Kuroda

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Pursuing free-thinking research through Research Group Activities Developing innovative products through research that is interesting and fun

As an R&D-focused company, MORESCO actively encourages research group activities in which employees select a theme independently and research it with their colleagues separately from their regular R&D work. MORESCO employee Mitsunori Kuroda has conducted unique research into the development of new products using lubricant byproducts. His work won him a merit award at MORESCO's research group activity presentation contest. Mitsunori finds his research efforts toward product commercialization interesting and fun. We asked him about what he gets out of his work and where he hopes to take his research in the future.

Mitsunori Kuroda

Research theme I started a research group to create new products 
that will put waste materials to good use

I was in charge of manufacturing a particular lubricant, which produced byproducts in large quantities, and I thought, "What a waste. I wonder if there's something we can use it for?" I remembered that sports shops sell wax for improving ski and snowboard performance, and thought that we might be able to use the byproducts to make better wax products. A lot of the products we make at MORESCO are used in places where they're not immediately obvious to the consumer, so I thought it would be great if we were able to make a product that consumers would be familiar with.
After consulting my supervisor and submitting an application to start up a research group, I put together a team by inviting others who I had been thinking it would be good to work with from my department, the development department, the research planning department, and other departments. When it came to deciding the theme of our research, I wanted to do something that was interesting and that no one else had done before. To get things rolling, everyone in the team put forward a whole range of ideas about possible applications for the byproducts. We examined each of the seventeen ideas that we came up with to check whether there were existing patents, whether the idea was viable, and so on, and narrowed our choices down to four ideas. We then split up into four teams and began our research. I joined in with two teams, and looked after planning and scheduling for the whole project.

Challenges involved in research Sharing our progress with each other helped us achieve our final aims

As we had to give priority to our regular work while carrying out our research, everyone had to manage their own schedules to make time for research group activities. To raise awareness of our research goals amongst the team, we arranged to everyone attend a progress report meeting once a fortnight. When work got busy I wasn't always able to carry out experiments for the research group activities myself, which caused problems, but having everyone from the group attend meetings allowed us to share information and check the direction in which we were headed so that we could adjust the schedule. I think that doing the research group activities really helped me to plan effectively in my regular research.

Pleasure of research with a range of specialized knowledge create new things with a free-thinking approach

What is really fun about the research group activities is that if we have an idea we want to investigate we are able to implement it straight away. We have a good deal of freedom when it comes to deciding the theme of our research, and are allowed to look into practically anything. With the ability to cooperate with people from outside the company and use outside facilities to do new things, we are able to do far-ranging research. I think a free-thinking approach to research is part of the corporate culture at MORESCO.
One of the best things about the research groups is having the opportunity to work in the same team as people with a range of specialized knowledge who are active in a variety of fields. My specialty is compounding technologies, so for me, people who specialize in synthesizing technologies have really fresh ideas, which constantly provides new realizations. At meetings you would often hear people say "We can do that? That's amazing!" or "I see what you mean." Likewise, if you hit a wall in the course of your regular work, you can now go and ask the opinion of people who you've gotten to know through the research group. I've heard some people say that it's now possible to have inter-departmental cooperation because the distance between the manufacturing and development departments has shrunk.

Readiness Carrying on with our research is fun because we’re interested in the theme

The fact that we decided on our research theme independently as a team, rather than having it decided for us, allowed us to keep our motivation levels up. As the team leader one thing I took care to ensure was to create an environment that encouraged team members to be interested in their research theme. If you talk about why you are interested in the research, your team will share your curiosity in what the results of your experiments will be. Everyone in the group essentially focused on having fun as they worked even though there was pressure to produce results.
I also worked on creating a productive atmosphere at our twice monthly meetings, speaking as openly as possible to create an atmosphere where everyone felt comfortable sharing their opinions. It was hard work following up teams that were behind in their research and teams that didn't produce results, but I felt very rewarded when they successfully finished their research.

Future Prospects I’d like more and more people to know the name MORESCO

At the research group activity presentations, we presented our results in front of everyone including the president and the board. Our project received a merit award for the novelty of our theme, the strong impact of our presentation, and the anticipated value of our research in the development of new products. We used the prize money to all go out for a meal at a nice restaurant together.
Our final goal is to use these byproducts to produce a new product. First, I'd like to continue with our research and put together an invention and device report, so that we can submit it to the R&D committee. Hairdressing products containing the byproducts have produced promising results in sensory evaluations for making hair easily manageable and smooth, so I would like to gather a more extensive range of data and promote them further. Of the four teams that started this year, three will continue with their existing projects, while the remaining one will change the theme of its research, and continue research toward commercialization.
I think it would be great if someday we are able to release a new product in a field that the company is currently not involved in. I'd love to be able to go into a store and see hair dressing products with components we developed lining the shelves, or see Olympic athletes using our products to maintain their snowboards. Until now we've produced a lot of products that the average person isn't familiar with, so I'd be happy if we are able release the results of our research to the outside world to let everyone see what we do and take an interest in us as a company.

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vol.3 Synthetic Lubricants Division Fine Chemical Production Department Mitsunori Kuroda

Pursuing free-thinking research through Research Group Activities Developing innovative products through research that is interesting and fun
Research theme
Challenges involved in research
Pleasure of research
Readiness
Future Prospects