Collaborations with Talented External Researchers and Startups
The Seeds of Innovation Building Sony's Future
April 22, 2020
Business Incubation Platform,
Sony Innovation Fund (SIF) was established in 2016 as Sony's corporate venture capital*. We invest in excellent external researchers and startups, support businesses, and work to accelerate the discovery of new businesses and technological innovations by collaborating with Sony Group.
One of the SIF members, Ryota Suzuki, Business Incubation Platform, Sony Corporation, who is mainly in charge of projects in the US and Europe, talks about their aims. “One is to find opportunities that will become the ‘seeds' of future business for Sony. The other is to learn about the innovations that are happening outside our company through the interactions with the world. Our approach is to start by setting out an area to focus on, such as Industrial IoT, Mobility, Music, eSports, Sports Technology, Materials, or Quantum Computing. Based on this aim, teams from Japan, Europe, the US, and Israel find potential targets for investment around the world. After choosing a partner to invest in, we continue to hold regular discussions and support that business from a long-term perspective.” Cooperation with the partners of course improves Sony's technological power, but is also likely to inspire any employees involved in those discussions. “As our business gets larger, our movements as an organization tend to get slower, but we can learn a lot from startups, such as their unique sense of speed or about the sensitivity of antennae,” Suzuki says. He also pointed it out that there are two differences between SIF and other corporate venture capital businesses. “One is the ability to take in a variety of technologies. As the breadth of Sony's businesses is so wide, there is plenty of fertile ground for technological innovations. The other reason is that there are a lot of experts in the company. When selecting a partner from a large number of venture companies, we always consult with employees familiar with the relevant fields about the candidates, the newness of their technologies, and their affinity with the business. I find it very valuable to hear honest opinions from them.”
However, the novelty of the technology is not the only criterion for consideration. “The most important thing is the “people.” Overwhelming energy is essential to bring about innovation, and this can be found by looking at people. It's very exciting for me to meet so many highly motivated, passionate entrepreneurs and to learn from them.”
Suzuki tells us about the future of SIF. “Honestly, I think it's too early to talk about whether or not we've succeeded. Although SIF has produced a number of cases that led to collaboration with Sony, it's just the beginning. I really hope that through carefully raising the sprouts of each opportunity, I can be part of an innovation that will lead to a new Sony Group business.”
*An organization which invests in a start-up or venture company that is related to its own business areas, aiming for synergy with its core enterprise.
To date, SIF has invested in approximately 60 companies. Here we take a look at four cases,
with an explanation of their business areas and a comment from representatives of each.
Aroma Bit recognizes smells that up until now could only be judged by human senses, and are working on the planning, development, manufacturing, and sales of innovative products and services. The small smell sensor that they have developed can now digitize smells. This technology allows people to experience smells from distant places or even on the internet. We are currently considering the development of this technology for use in various fields.
“The world around us is full of smells and fragrances. Our smell sensors should lead to many new products and services, restricted only by the power of imagination. However, there were limits to the products and services that could be realized by us alone, so we hope that through co-creation with Sony Group, which has innovative and creative personnel and infrastructure, we can realize a faster, deeper, and broader world where smells are digitalized.”
(Shunichiro Kuroki, CEO)
METCELA is a bio-venture company that researches and develops regenerative medicines for heart failure. At present, there are no drugs that can significantly restore cardiac function once it has deteriorated, and effective treatments are also limited. However, by administering cells called VCF that METCELA themselves discovered into the heart tissue, it has been found that the growth of cardiac muscle cells can be promoted. With the mission to revolutionize heart failure treatment, they are developing cell tissue products for the globally increasing number of patients suffering from this condition.
“We received an investment from SIF for 'Series A' in August 2018. Currently, we are making final preparations for a clinical trial with regular advice from SIF. We want to learn many things in the future, such as how to develop our business and how to steer R&D to create innovation.”
(Takahiro Iwamiya, Co-Founder / Co-CEO)
Tracklib is the world's first digital store with songs for sampling. One of the most complex issues in the music industry is the difficulty in obtaining samples. Tracklib offers a service that enables producers and artists to gain free access to samples from around the world, as well as legal and affordable music access. They are aiming to bring music licensing to the global market.
“The partnership with SIF shows that they believe in our solution. With Sony's backing, we feel even more con dent that we're on the right path. We look forward to a successful journey together.”
(Pär Almqvist, CEO)
DigiLens is the world's leading waveguide display technology provider. Our proprietary photopolymer materials, design software and processes allow our customers to produce best in class transparent holographic displays for augmented reality applications at consumer level pricing. Through these enabling technologies, our customers can produce displays that merge digital and real world imagery so that experiences can be more productive, immersive and fun.
“Sony is a leader in electronics and entertainment. Through our relationship with Sony, Digilens' hopes are to increase our visibility and influence within Sony's divisions and with select and relevant Sony customers for the use of our display technologies.”
(Chris Pickett, CEO)