Nanophoton, which was founded in February 2003 as a venture from Osaka University, is currently in its 19th fiscal year. As the founder, Satoshi Kawata, Chairman and President (Professor Emeritus of Osaka University), stated in the “From the Chairman’s Office,” the company is aiming for a 30% increase in sales, a 30% increase in the number of units sold, and maintaining a 12% profit margin on sales for the current fiscal year. So, what direction are you planning to take in the long term? Mr. Kawata spoke with us in a frank and open manner. (Email Newsletter editor-in-chief / freelance writer Takeshi Nemoto)
— You have been in business for over 18 years now.
In the past 18 years, the social environment and everyone’s life patterns have changed drastically. iPhone was released in 2007, so in 2003, there was not even an iPhone. Since the social environment has changed so much in the past 18 years, society will and should change even more in the next 18 years. I think we are at a kind of turning point.
—What have been the key changes over the past 18 years?
There are advances in technology, but it’s the way we use technology. After all, the Internet has advanced too much. The distribution of information is too fast. The coronavirus spread fear before it could spread infection.
Nowadays, everyone is using the Internet all the time, but I think this situation is not good. I think that this situation is not good. People will only look up other people’s work instead of thinking about it, and it will make them lose their individuality. It is important to create something from your own mind, but if you keep searching the Internet, you will not be able to create anything. I think it would be great to stay away from the Internet as much as possible and live a Google-free life. I haven’t been able to do that yet.
—What kind of products will Nanophoton make in the future?
Society should and will move to the point of how to protect the environment. We at Nanophoton should also move in the direction of developing products such as devices to analyze microplastics, devices to protect food safety, and devices to detect explosives and poisons, which are elements that destabilize society.
—Certainly, the world is moving in the direction of environmental conservation, such as the shift to electric vehicles.
However, I am against electric cars. It’s not that I want to replace my gasoline car with an electric car, but I’m a proponent of not driving cars as much as possible. We shouldn’t waste energy.
Just as it is more economical for many people to ride in one bus than to drive alone, it is more economical for each person to gather at the office than to work at home with air conditioning and internet access. Just as it is more economical for many people to ride a bus than to drive a car alone, it is more economical for each person to gather at a company than to work at home with air conditioning and internet access. My emphasis on ecology is on energy conservation. My focus is on energy conservation, not on increasing the number of power plants using new energy sources, but rather on reducing them. I don’t necessarily think it’s a good idea to convert gasoline to electricity.
We would like to contribute to this kind of energy saving by becoming an “earth-friendly nanophoton. Nanophoton’s RAMANwalk, a Raman microscope, is more energy efficient than RAMANtouch because it does not use a high-power laser. It is also inexpensive, but it scans the laser beam in an optimal path and produces reasonable images quickly. Nanophoton is trying to make its equipment more and more energy efficient.
—Before this interview, I had the opportunity to observe a management meeting, and you mentioned that you are considering a caravan to move around and conduct demonstration measurements. Is this also Nanophoton’s strategy for the future?
I just want to make it portable. We can put the Raman microscope on a car and go to various places to have demonstration measurements there. We can send the Raman microscope to them. To do this, we need to make it smaller, lighter, cheaper, and easier to use. We want to make a device that is safe to move, and more importantly, that won’t break even if dropped. This will also lead to resource conservation.
To save power, we just need to shorten the measurement time. Then we can shorten the training time to get the device ready for use. In addition, we would make the initial start-up parameter settings almost non-existent. Making it easier for the user to use means that the work time is not as long, which saves energy.
—I hadn’t thought of usability and energy/resource saving as being linked, but it’s true that if it’s hard to use and takes a long time to measure, it uses that much energy.
If we can reduce the time it takes to take a measurement from 3 days to 10 minutes, we will save a lot of energy. Labor costs will also be reduced. The words “energy saving” and “environment” may be cliché, but I think that’s what the next generation is looking for. That’s why I want to make products that do not produce industrial waste, that can be recycled, that do not consume electricity, and that are easy to carry around.
—Are you going to change the way the company operates?
Employees can choose whether they want to be paid on a performance-based or fixed basis. If they choose the performance-based system, they can declare that they want to take on a challenge, and if they accomplish it, their salary will increase. It’s not a pay-for-performance system where you sell a certain number of units and get paid a certain amount. This is why administrative staff are also eligible for performance-based compensation.
The reason we are doing this is because we want to double the average salary. If we don’t raise salaries, we won’t be able to attract talented people. However, we don’t want to raise the salary uniformly, but rather to say that if you work hard, you can enjoy better benefits.
—You are also planning to increase the number of employees.
We will double the number of units sold. On the other hand, we plan to increase the sales volume even more. To make up for this, we will thoroughly outsource. When the company was located in Osaka University, we used to manufacture 100% of our products ourselves, but now we are completely outsourcing.