Tokyo Boeki, a reliable partner to develop high technologies
Mr. Takigawa, how important is for Tokyo Boeki the Russian market?
Tokyo Boeki has operated in the Soviet Union and Russia for more than 55 years, which speaks for itself. Our first project in the Soviet Union, the delivery of the electronic microscope JEOL, was implemented in 1958, i.e. just two years after the renewal of diplomatic relations between our countries. Since then, Tokyo Boeki has supplied Soviet and Russian research and educational organisations more than 1,000 pieces of scientific equipment. In 1959, we opened an office in Moscow, which was the first representative of companies from non-socialist countries and was officially recognised by the government of the USSR. The cooperation had developed at the highest level, and our partner was the State Committee for Science and Technology of the USSR Council of Ministers. From 1976 to 1991, Tokyo Boeki was supplying production lines to such flagships of the Soviet industry as VAZ and KAMAZ. After the demise of the Soviet Union we have maintained our position in Russia and the CIS. In particular, formal agreements on cooperation with the Russian Academy of Sciences and Lomonosov Moscow State University were entered and are being implemented. Currently, 22 people are working in the Moscow office, and two of our staff members represent Tokyo Boeki in Kiev (Ukraine).
Overall, we estimate the Russian market as one of the most promising; I would even call it the largest niche market in the world. Of course, it has some specific features but we can say that every year the business environment in Russia is getting better and more transparency. Therefore, unlike many other Japanese companies, which have been traditionally oriented towards Asian markets, we are developing our business in Russia considering it a chance to be used as much as possible.
What equipment types and brands are in demand in the Russian market?
We are developing two areas, which account for roughly equal shares in our profit pattern, i.e. scientific equipment and industrial solutions. The scientific equipment is represented by Japanese brands such as JEOL, Nikon, Rigaku, Unisoku, Neoark and others.
In Russia, the electronic microscopes JEOL are best known and well in demand, of course. The devices of this brand are appreciated worldwide for reliability and excellent performance, and it is no coincidence that they are used by leading scientists and research teams. In particular, the JEOL’s share exceeds 50% in the global market of transmission electron microscopes. The range of scanning electron microscopes includes both entry-level devices for simple research and educational purposes and models of the highest class with a maximum resolution of less than 1 nm. Additionally, JEOL is developing sample preparation systems and electron probe microanalysers.
We have been cooperating with the company Nikon and JEOL for more than 50 years. Optical Nikon microscopes are used for research and quality control in the semiconductor industry as well as microelectronics, instrumentation, mechanical engineering and metallurgy. A separate area is the medical and biological research, for which offered is a wide range of devices from compact direct and inverted microscopes to systems that use the methods of stochastic optical reconstruction (STORM) to provide the resolution of 20 nm previously unattainable in optical microscopy.
Since 1951 the company Rigaku has produced devices for X-ray research methods. Currently, the range of equipment includes X-ray diffractometers, structural molecular analysers, X-ray fluorescence spectrometers and X-ray scanners. Rigaku devices can be characterised by reliability, ergonomics and good repeatability of result.
About a year ago we started supplying the Russian market Unisoku scanning probe microscopes. Unlike most of the SPM in the market, these devices are specifically designed for use in ultra-high vacuum, high magnetic fields and very low temperatures that allows you to perform not only the measurement but also transformation of structures at the atomic level.
And finally, a special niche in the market is for the equipment designed to study the magnetic properties of materials based on the quadratic electro-optic effect (Kerr effect) and produced by Neoark, which as long ago as in 1970–1980 became known worldwide as one of the leading laser manufacturers.
I should note that we supply equipment not only by Japanese companies but also, for example, Oxford Instruments systems for microanalysis, set-top boxes for electron microscopy, Gatan sample preparation systems and other devices of both European and American manufacturers.
Can the Tokyo Boeki industrial solutions be of interest to businesses from the nanotechnology sector?
We can speak of spark plasma sintering (SPS) systems produced by the Japanese company Sinter Land. The SPS technology allows to obtain from powders, including nanostructured ones, materials of a given density and porosity at a high particle bonding strength. Sinter Land produces a wide range of systems with varying degrees of automation for research applications and the industry. Some units to suit individual customer requirements can be made.
What are the advantages of cooperation with Tokyo Boeki?
Firstly, we offer our customers not just individual devices and equipment but integrated solutions to solve their problems. For example, JEOL electron microscopes can be equipped with various additional equipment of the leading international manufacturers including Oxford Instruments NanoAnalysis, Bruker, Gatan, Horiba, Renishow and others. The overall package also includes service support, our engineers work closely with the service departments of equipment manufacturers.
Secondly, we offer our customers flexible financing schemes for transactions and assist in raising the borrowed funds for the purchase of equipment, that is our know-how. Mention should be made about such factors as the low rate of the yen, which also gives us advantages over competitors from Europe and North America.
Russian customers appreciate our competence, not coincidentally JEOL electron microscopes are mainly buy from us and not from other distributors.
Have the political situation and related economic sanctions affected the Tokyo Boeki operations in Russia?
The market situation has changed, and it turned out that quite a lot depends on how the sanctions are treated by the governments of various countries. In fact, companies from the countries where sanction compliance control is less rigid gained a competitive advantage. The Russian import substitution policy has become an additional chance for us as the organisation of high-tech industries requires the most modern measuring and processing equipment that we are ready to supply Russian enterprises.
What projects in 2015 were the most important?
Our company was involved in the creation at the Chemistry Department of the Lomonosov Moscow State University of a laboratory equipped with six JEOL desktop scanning electron microscopes JCM-6000 (NEOSCOPE II). This model has broad functionalities, and is equipped with detectors of the secondary and back-scattered electrons, and it also allows the research in a low vacuum. At the same time, it is compact, easy to operate and optimal for use in teaching.
What are the business development plans of Tokyo Boeki in Russia?
Although the last two years have been difficult for the Russian market, we are optimistic about the future. We plan to strengthen the partnership with the Russian customers by helping them with our experiences and knowledge. It may be quite an interesting new area to arrange for the Japanese supplies for research, we are considering such a possibility. I am confident that Tokyo Boeki will make a significant contribution to fostering a new high-tech economy of Russia.
Thanks for the interesting story.
The interview was taken by Dmitry Gudilin