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Japan: triggering its next burst of innovation

Article - May 1, 2020

Japanese innovation will be at the core of fourth industrial revolution technologies such as robotics and AI, as well as a new era of healthcare defined by regenerative medicine, next-generation pharmaceuticals and health supplements.



With the emergence of technologies such as AI, the Internet of Things and next-gen robotics, the world has entered a new era hailed as the fourth industrial revolution (or ‘Industry 4.0’), while at the same time, major advancements being made in the fields of healthcare and renewable energy will potentially lead to a cleaner world and healthier and longer-living populations.

Simultaneously, Japan is undergoing a period of economic revitalization that is underpinned by technology and innovation. The consumer electronics and automobile industries played a major role in turning Japan into a global economic powerhouse in the 1970s and 80s, before the onset of the so-called “lost decades.” But The Land of the Rising Sun is ready to rise again, leveraging on its technological pedigree to put itself at the forefront of Industry 4.0, renewable energy and healthcare.

Japan has the fastest aging population in the world. And while this population trend brings challenges, it is also seen as an incentive to boost innovation, not only in adopting Industry 4.0 technologies to address the nation’s labor shortage, but also in the field of healthcare, where Japanese companies are leading advancements in areas such as regenerative medicine, next generation pharmaceuticals, elderly patient care, as well as in health supplements.

Japan is the first developed country to deal with the effects of a rapidly aging population and won’t be the last. Hence what the world’s third largest economy learns from this journey, it will be able to teach to others facing similar issues.

Aside from the development of new treatments and medicine for prevalent conditions such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, among others, Japan’s approach to healthcare also strategizes preventative solutions like health supplements.

“The Japanese are becoming extremely knowledgeable and meticulous about health supplements. This is in part because the government created preventative measures towards a healthier lifestyle, and that has been successfully injected into the medical sphere too,” says Takahiko Nonogaki, president of heath supplement manufacturer, API.

“Of course, it opens an immense window of opportunities for us. Optimistically, we have been very successful in capturing the niche market and adapting our best practices in food manufacturing, while also implementing our new ideas for health supplements.”

One of Japan’s leading health supplement original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), API’s fully integrated production system covers every process, from the procurement of high-quality ingredients to the manufacturing of the finished products. “With such a consistent manufacturing management system, we have the trust of major companies who choose API as a manufacturing contractor,” adds Mr. Nonogaki.

Leveraging on its innovation and R&D capabilities in health supplements, API entered the pharmaceutical field in 2004 and today offers contract manufacturing and services in antibiotics, general active pharmaceutical ingredients and next-generation biopharmaceuticals.

Having opened its IKEDA Bio Pharmaceutical Plant in 2013, API aims to build contract drug manufacturing into a major business alongside its health supplements wing. Meanwhile, the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies, such as AI, also form part of API’s future strategy to develop better products as it looks to expand in the international market.

“We are confident that through our quality, formulations and ideas, we will be successful in the overseas market. We already have the know-how and solutions for health supplements, and are approaching new overseas customers,” says Mr. Nonogaki.

“Furthermore, we would like to start having custommade orders. This will require constant communication with the clients, but, like that, we are looking to further capture a new set of customers, and we believe we can be extremely successful.

“Lastly, we would like to start implementing AI, as accumulating data is a crucial factor in manufacturing supplements. It would allow us to have a clear understanding of the products that are being utilized by each client, and that will, therefore, allow us to understand the bestselling product line-up as well as the needs of our customers.”