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Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Japanese Electronics Manufacturers Detail Future R&D Plans

Top technology executives from Hitachi, Ltd., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. and Sony Corp. provided insight into their future R&D plans at the "NE Technology Summit 2005" event held in Tokyo on July 12, 2005.

Leading off, Katsuaki Tsurushima, Sony's Corporate Executive Vice President of R&D, noted that according to IMD, a Swiss business school, the United States has remained at the top of the list of most competitive geographic areas for 12 years, but Japan has fallen to number 21, just below Zhejiang in China. However, he mentioned that US and European R&D spending trends point to a shift in focus to health and bio-technology related technologies, implying that this shift represented an opportunity for Japan to surge ahead in the area of electronics and IT technologies.

Mr. Tsurushima pointed to a shift from current silicon based technology period to a new one based on carbon as a key trend for the future of the electronics industry. New materials, such as carbon nanotubes and organic based electronics, combined with new manufacturing techniques such as roll-to-roll, imprinting, and self-assembly "bottom up" technologies will lead to a new class of flexible electronics materials for electronics manufacturers to work with. As an example of what could be accomplished using these new technologies, Mr. Tsurushima presented the concept of an "air phone;" a phone that can be kept in a compact, rolled-up state until the owner decides to inflate it to make a call.

Matshushita's Executive Officer in charge of Digital Network and Software Technology in Corporate R&D Kazuhiro Tsuga pointed out that Matsushita will be focusing on the three elements of "technology value," "time value" and "business value" when evaluating R&D technologies. Aiming to create "black box" products that can't be easily dissected and imitated, Matsushita plans to focus on system LSI's, next generation PDP (plasma display panel), next generation optical discs, and co-generation fuel cell systems. Mr. Tsuga also emphasized Matsushita's "UniPhier" combined embedded device development environment as a way for the company to increase its software development efficiency and shorten product development time.

Mr. Tsuga laid out a product vision for 10 years from now, including such products as a 3D television projector, 4G mobile communications terminals that can communicate with "super" high definition displays in the home and next generation car navigation systems that provide instructions to drivers through "heads-up" displays projected onto the windshield. In particular, Mr. Tsuga emphasized a waterproof display and speaker system for Japanese bathrooms that could display entertainment content as well as act as a mechanism for consumers to provide health information to help them consult with online health advisors while taking a bath.

Michiharu Nakamura, Hitachi's Executive Vice President and Executive Officer, Head of R&D, emphasized the strength of the 4000 researchers working for Hitachi and its related companies, noting they are currently working on around 20 different R&D areas that can produce results in 10 to 20 years. Mr. Nakamura stressed Hitachi's automobile related technologies, bringing up the examples of automobile driving control systems and automotive lithium ion rechargeable batteries. Regarding the latter, Mr. Nakamura noted that these batteries are not only indispensable for the future of hybrid cars, but also have uses for other products such as trains and motorcycles.

Source: Nikkei Electronics

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