The business, which encompasses development, production, sales and maintenance, will be transferred to Hitachi to form a new organization in April, according to an announcement Thursday.
Mitsubishi Electric controls slightly more than 50% of the domestic market for particle therapy systems, while Hitachi holds a nearly 20% share. These machines cost around 10 billion yen ($88.7 million) apiece, a price that limits the number of Japanese hospitals that can afford them. With domestic demand mostly filled, the industry likely faces gradual declines. The duo's shared sense of crisis led to the deal.
Hitachi is renowned for technological expertise in a proton beam, which -- unlike conventional radiation therapy -- targets only a malignant tumor. With the latest deal, Hitachi's global market share will jump to 25%, strengthening its position to challenge worldwide leader Ion Beam Applications of Belgium, which enjoys a share of just over 40%.
Only around 70 facilities worldwide offer particle cancer therapy. Treatment is costly, but the market appears headed for heavy growth in the coming years, including in Asia, where the ranks of wealthy people are growing.
Hitachi's initial overseas push will involve cutting-edge equipment that opens the door for other medical devices, such as computed tomography scanners. The company also wants to promote services that help hospitals boost operational efficiency by tapping sensor, image analysis, artificial intelligence and other technologies.
Some forecasts suggest the global medical equipment market will expand at least 40% between 2015 and 2021, reaching more than 50 trillion yen.