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Corporate Strategy

Discussion: Part 1―Nikon’s “Challenge” Towards 2030 (Yuka Tanimoto / Managing Web Editor of Forbes Japan and Toshikazu Umatate / Representative Director and President of Nikon)

Discussion: Part 1―Nikon’s “Challenge” Towards 2030 (Yuka Tanimoto / Managing Web Editor of Forbes Japan and Toshikazu Umatate / Representative Director and President of Nikon)

Along with the advancement of technology, we are undergoing changes at a rapid rate in today’s age. In moving towards 2030, technology surrounding skills and machinery are expected to advance exponentially, bringing about a megashift to change the framework of people’s lives, ideologies, and society overall as a result. In such times, we believe that co-creation between humans and machinery will become all the more important.

At Nikon, we have weaved a co-creative relationship between people and machinery over our 100-year history. Looking towards the future, it is our conviction to provide society with a new value founded from co-creation by bridging the gap between humans and machinery. This passion is represented in our Vision 2030 to become “a key technology solutions company in a global society where humans and machines co-create seamlessly.” And to realize this, we have established and published our Medium Term Management Plan for 2025.

Today, we are joined by Yuka Tanimoto, Director and Managing Web Editor of Forbes Japan, who has conducted over 3,000 interviews with VIPs across the globe and possesses deep knowledge of business innovations and reform. She will discuss with Toshikazu Umatate, Representative Director and President of Nikon, on his thoughts and the concept behind the message of becoming “a key technology solutions company in a global society where humans and machines co-create seamlessly.” In Part One, the discussion will focus on the direction of the company and its businesses looking toward 2030.

How is Nikon attempting to change towards 2030?

Tanimoto: Living in today’s age of turbulence, it feels as though we’re in the midst of a great reform that far surpasses the logic of the past. In such times, how do you analyze our current state, and what sense of urgency do you feel looking towards 2030?

Umatate: Our company Nikon is currently at a crossroads.

Formerly, our business consisted mostly of digital cameras and lithography systems used for the manufacturing of equipment like semiconductors and flat-panel displays. But because we had established these as the two pillars of our business, we found ourselves unable to manage the company in alignment with societal shifts, even while it underwent great change. We have made numerous attempts at challenging into new business fields, but they didn’t see the success we had hoped. That is why we’re currently at a phase of reexamining our business activities.

Meanwhile, today’s society is seeing the rapid advancement of IT technologies such as AI and robots, and machines are reaching—or even surpassing—the capabilities of humans. This, combined with the arrival of Industry 5.0, signifies an even greater acceleration towards the shift over to technologies. This is precisely why now is the time to rethink what will become of us and society in the future.

With issues like this in these turbulent times, setting a target three to four years in the future would not serve as a dependent guideline for the company's business operations, which is why I decided to set our targets for 2030, further into the future.

Not only that, but our products take more than just a few years to develop, including five to ten years of technology development followed by production. This was another reason why we needed to look at issues from a long-term perspective.

Tanimoto: I see. So looking towards the state of the world in 2030, you aspire to become “a key technology solutions company in a global society where humans and machines co-create seamlessly.” Can you share your specific vision on what this might look like?

Umatate: In Vision 2030, our message does not include “technology,” but rather the term “machinery.” Over our 100-year history, we have been involved in the fields of optical instruments, microscopes and cameras, and precision equipment. So we thought “machinery” aligned better with Nikon’s image.

Today, artificial inventions such as AI and robots are becoming more human, or rather, preparing to surpass them. However, even if this becomes reality, there will still be a place for humans and work will always be available. I believe people will be able to spend more of their time doing creative work that reflect and express their values, which machines cannot do. This can be realized through harmony among humans and machinery, and I believe we will be able to offer innovative values in line with the needs and issues of the industry and society today.

Moving forward, we will provide value in four areas. The first is Factory, which will offer digital manufacturing. The second is Life & entertainment, such as cameras. The third is Healthcare. And finally, our new challenge will be Energy.

While the energy field can be quite a challenge, we are preparing a new project unlike anything we’ve ever imagined.

I also feel confident that our previous experiences will be useful with regard to the remaining areas.

Until now, there have been many instances in which we’ve took on challenges based on the requests of customers. While we will continue these businesses, we also want to provide solutions that will support our customers’ experiential value and innovation. We aim to expand human potential for a world where people and machinery co-create seamlessly, contributing to the realization of a rich and sustainable society. And we hope to be a central company of that future. This is my vision in our slogan to become “a key technology solutions company in a global society where humans and machines co-create seamlessly.”

Bringing innovation to “manufacturing” with its technology cultivated over the past 100 years

Tanimoto: As calls for DX have increased over the past several years, we’ve seen more companies pushed to incorporate technology to make advancements. All the while, your company already possesses precision technology. Do you still feel as though there’s a missing piece, even with your strengths?

Umatate: Yes, I do. Let’s look at robots, for example. They don’t move quite as fluidly as humans, but with a better understanding of human work and reflecting that in robotic movements, it can become possible for them to take over work currently done by humans.

Our key is in the “eyes” and “hands.”

In terms of “eyes,” Nikon possesses technologies cultivated through cameras, as well as experience in handling equipment that provides support for movements through its eyes. And in terms of “hands,” we’ve accumulated precision technology, which should allow us to create something that moves as dexterously as humans to grasp any object. This is one of the missing pieces that we are challenging into.

We’re also looking to create new innovations in areas that have continuously utilized the same methods for over a century, such as digital manufacturing of working machines. Currently, machine processing requires a variety of working machines and numerous applications by skilled workers. Our vision is to realize a system that will produce the intended object simply by inputting design data into a computer. If this becomes possible, we can create identical products on the opposite side of the world, given the same equipment.

Additionally, with digital manufacturing, it is possible to create each product uniquely, which means we can affordably and frequently manufacture products as needed, in line with the diversification of values. Through these efforts, we hope to reform the world of “manufacturing,” realizing a new vision.

Another significant endeavor is “providing people with enrichment,” which we have worked on for some time. While people have found joy through taking pictures and movies with our cameras, we hope to further move into the digital field. For example, we are trying to realize the idea of providing high-quality photo data to easily construct avatars for people to enjoy in metaverse spaces. We plan to further strengthen our capabilities around this within the field of imaging business.

We are also making efforts within the healthcare business. This originally derived from our manufacturing and sales of microscopes, and currently, we provide products and services that will support drug discovery of the future. In fact, we are offering services in the development and production of cells for regenerative medicine and gene therapy.

We hope to grow these businesses looking toward 2030 and become a company that contributes to people and their ability to lead a long, healthy, and happy life.

From a company selling cameras to a service solution provider

Tanimoto: That is wonderful work—it was very gripping to hear.
On a related note, I think it will become particularly important for many companies, including manufacturing businesses, to change and become a service provider from now on.

From our discussion, I received the impression that Nikon has long been a company that based their work on the wellbeing of people, and that you’ll further expand in that region in the future. On the other hand, as a company most known for their cameras, could you share again your company’s vision for 2030 and beyond? What kind of company do you see yourselves as in the future?

Umatate: While we have long been known for our manufacturing and sales of cameras and machinery, moving forward, I hope we become a company that provides valuable services and solutions that will benefit people. Whether that be tools like cameras, support for drug discovery, or even the creation of interesting video content, I look forward to becoming a company that provides people what they desire, just as they desire it.

Continued to Part 2

*Title and work duties included are those of the interview date