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Finance

More Japanese companies stepping up overseas R&D

TOKYO -- Major Japanese corporations will boost research and development spending 4% this fiscal year, with those building or expanding R&D facilities abroad reaching about one in five, a Nikkei survey shows.

     Planned R&D investment by 264 companies rose a fifth straight year to an aggregate 11.62 trillion yen ($112 billion). Growth remained strong, though slower than last fiscal year's 5.4%. Toyota Motor, Honda Motor and Nissan Motor remain the top three spenders.

     Toyota plans to sink a record 960 billion yen into R&D. With fuel cell cars due out this fiscal year, the automaker hopes to develop technologies to improve hydrogen tanks and other parts to bring down production costs. Honda is also increasing R&D in fuel cell cars as it aims to commercialize them next year.

     Manufacturers of automobiles and autoparts, which together account for some 30% of overall R&D spending, are also moving to carry out such activities abroad. Nearly half of respondents in this sector, 48.1%, plan to construct or expand overseas R&D facilities this fiscal year or later. More than 20% of materials companies intend to step up overseas R&D. So do more than 20% of companies in the electronics and information technology sector.

     Southeast Asia and the U.S. were the most popular regions where companies will ramp up R&D. The businesses are moving to localize R&D while acquiring skilled personnel.

     Toshiba is expanding sites in Vietnam and India to develop cloud computing technologies, with both countries said to be focusing on cultivating IT engineers. Hitachi is bolstering R&D facilities in Southeast Asia, China, India, and other parts of Asia, mainly for its energy, environment and infrastructure businesses.

     Some companies are forming tie-ups with leading local universities to bolster technological development. Mitsubishi Electric plans to increase staff overseeing partnerships with universities at a regional supervisory unit in China.

     Mitsubishi Heavy Industries began stationing personnel in Singapore last October to promote joint development with local universities and research institutions. In China, it is outsourcing to Tsinghua University technological development for power-generating gas turbines and power equipment, including power semiconductors.

     Fujitsu is developing basic technologies for e-learning with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. NEC, meanwhile, is working with U.S. and European universities to develop technologies related to big data and software-defined networking.

     The online R&D survey was conducted with Nikkei Research, targeting 487 major corporations. Valid responses were received from 310, or 63.7%. The survey presented total R&D spending for the 264 companies for which comparisons with the previous fiscal year were possible.

(Nikkei)

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