In January next year, Nanophoton will move its R&D Center located on the Suita Campus of Osaka University (Suita City, Osaka Prefecture) to Minoo City, Osaka Prefecture, and open a new Osaka Showroom there. All employees working in Osaka, including executives, will move to this new office. It has been 18 years since Nanophoton was born in Osaka University in February 2003. Nanophoton has now taken off from Osaka University and is heading for a new stage. We interviewed the founder and Chairman Satoshi Kawada (Professor Emeritus of Osaka University) about the purpose of the move. (e-mail Newsletter editor-in-chief / freelance writer Takeshi Nemoto)
<Contact information for the new office (Osaka Showroom and R&D Center)
Address: ICC Building 1F, 3-1-7, Semba-Nishi, Minoh, Osaka 562-0036, Japan
Scheduled to open in January 2021.
Nemoto: Nanophoton was founded as the first start-up by a faculty member of Osaka University, based on the research results of Chairman Kawada and others who were professors at Osaka University at the time. At the time of the start, the company was based in the Kawata Laboratory on the Suita Campus of Osaka University. In April 2004, the R&D Center was established in the Center for Advanced Science and Innovation on the same campus as a new base, and in April 2011, the R&D Center was moved to the Photonics Center to continue its activities. Could you tell us the background of why you decided to relocate this time?
Kawata: “From the time of our founding, we were thinking of a business model where we would only do design and design, and leave manufacturing and sales to outside companies, just like Apple. Last year, we were finally able to completely outsource the final assembly. We could have asked an outside distributor to sell our products, but our products are too expensive for them to buy samples from us. So we decided to set up a showroom in an appropriate location for customers to see our products and buy them through our distributors. In the showroom, there are application engineers from our company who will demonstrate the equipment and answer any questions the customers may have. We place a lot of importance on the showroom.
Nemoto: You currently have showrooms in Tokyo and Seoul, and now you are opening one in Osaka. Why couldn’t you use the current location in Osaka University?
Kawata: “The current R&D Center is located in the Research Building of Osaka University. People who come here can see the equipment, so you could say that it practically had a showroom function, but it doesn’t look like a showroom because the equipment is placed one by one in small rooms. If we wanted to hold a seminar, we had to rent another place. It was hard for customers to come to the campus, and I think it was kind of intimidating for them.
Nemoto: Why did you choose Minoh City in the northern part of Osaka Prefecture instead of the central part of Osaka?
Kawata: “The new location is near the new Osaka University Minoh campus, which is scheduled to open in April 2021, and not far from our current location. We do joint research and information exchange with Osaka University for R&D, so we need to be close to the university. Also, although we have moved our manufacturing out of the university, we still manufacture custom orders and prototype machines in-house. After all, connections with various devices and professors at the university are important.
When I was looking for a place that was not too far from Suita Campus and had convenient transportation, I found out that the new campus was scheduled to be relocated to Minoh and that the railroad (Kita-Osaka Kyuko Line and Midosuji Subway Line) would be extended to directly connect to Shin-Osaka Station. I was hesitant because the opening of the railroad was postponed from FY2020 to FY2023, but I found a new location near the first bus stop from the current nearest station (Senri-Chuo Station). The advantage is that we will still be able to have students from Osaka University come to work as interns and part-timers, and our employees will not have to move.
Nemoto: At the same time as the showroom opens, the R&D Center will also be relocated, and all the Osaka employees will move there.
Kawata: Initially, we were planning to open only a showroom and leave the R&D center at Osaka University. At first, we were going to open only a showroom and leave the R&D center in Osaka University, but we were able to rent a place for the R&D center. It was better to have one office instead of two. Now that the manufacturing division is gone, we don’t need as much space.
Nemoto: So it’s important to stay close to the university.
Kawata: When you are at the university, you can get new technology and science information one after another through academic conferences, but when you leave the university, you cannot get the latest technology and information, and you cannot interact with young students. Even for reading papers, subscription fees for academic journals are now so high that it is difficult to subscribe to them at work. Also, since we have a university professor as a technical advisor to hold meetings, it is more convenient to be close to the university.
Nemoto: What kind of showroom or office will it be?
Kawata: The showroom is glassed in and can be seen from outside. Nanophoton’s products are lined up, and demo measurements, business negotiations, and seminars are available. The seats for employees in the office are free address. There is a chairman’s office, a boardroom, a meeting room, and an R&D center. It will be about 30% larger than the current one.
Nemoto: It’s been about 10 years since the current R&D Center was relocated in 2011. I’m sure you have a lot of memories.
Kawata: It is a memorable place. There were various ventures in the building, so I enjoyed having experts give lectures on the theme of ‘how small and medium-sized companies and ventures should handle intellectual property’ and holding tea parties to build human networks. One of the advantages of being here was the human networking. This building is an incubation center, in short, a center for hatching. I gradually built up my network here and also developed products. Now that I’ve built up my skills, I guess it’s time for me to become independent.