“We were very impressed with the degree of expertise in manufacturing and engineering.”
Frank Balas, Sector Specialist, Energy, Industrial IOT and Transportation | Emerald Technology Ventures
In October, 2018, a team of investment specialists from Emerald Technology Ventures toured Nabtesco Corporation’s manufacturing and R&D facilities in Japan.
Having visited Nabtesco in Japan, what kind of start-ups are you most interested in pursuing for Nabtesco Technology Ventures?
Nabtesco is a highly diversified company with a lot of different business units – the range of technology fields it is active in is very broad. So it could be anything from new materials to artificial intelligence. It could be manufacturing methods, or it could be products – for instance actuators. They are interested in a very broad array of technologies, and I would certainly encourage start-ups to talk to Nabtesco to see where there could be a potential fit.
Which fields do you think are the most promising?
When we visited Nabtesco, we saw a lot of interest in coatings. There were also several business units that were interested in vision systems and artificial intelligence. 3D printing is another area that is of great interest – both machines and materials for 3D printing. We saw a lot of opportunities in hydraulic actuators, in terms of both materials and new types of gearing systems or manufacturing methods.
What was your impression of Nabtesco’s technology and staff?
We were very impressed with the degree of expertise in manufacturing and engineering. There are a lot of people who are very knowledgeable, andthey have a great interest in figuring out where Nabtesco can go, how to develop better products, how to manufacture their existing products better – in other words, how Nabtesco can continue to be competitive. We were particularly impressed with the manufacturing technologies they’ve developed in aircraft parts. They have a lot of people who are dedicated to finding new technologies to make Nabtesco more competitive in their existing products, to find new products, and to find technologies that help them manufacture a better, more cost-effective product.
“In industrial technology it’s difficult for a start-up to succeed on its own. It needs the support of a big corporation.”
For start-ups, what is the appeal of a partnership with Nabtesco?
Emerald has been working with start-ups for about 20 years, and one of the things we do is help create relationships between start-ups and large corporations. In industrial technology, it’s extremely difficult for a start-up to succeed on its own – it really needs the support of a big corporation. A company like Nabtesco first of all has great technology expertise, so it can help productionize the technology the start-up has developed. They have huge manufacturing capabilities when it comes to actually building the product. And they also have marketing and sales networks. It’s very difficult for a start-up to make a sale to a company like Boeing, for instance. But working with Nabtesco, there’s a way to get in there.
What kind of opportunities do you think there are in the space industry?
Space has moved like crazy over the last few years – certainly pushed by SpaceX, but also by the ISS – the International Space Station – which allows companies to launch little cube sats. Space is super exciting. You can now launch a satellite for $100,000 – it’s no longer a $100 million endeavour. We see a lot of start-ups coming up with all kinds of different things – everything from the satellites themselves to the communications technology, to services based on space information. So that’s definitely a growth area.
I think Nabtesco has a lot of great technology, a lot of really strong manufacturing. And I think there is a lot of potential to expand the product range.