Idemitsu Kosan has established the Idemitsu Joint Research Division for Biotech Manufacturing at Kobe University’s Center for Advanced Biotechnology Research. The joint research division will work on the development of smart cells (genetically modified microorganisms and cells) for the production of biofuels, bio-chemicals, and bio-agrochemicals, with the aim of building a bio-manufacturing value chain. Idemitsu Kosan will dispatch one researcher as a specially appointed professor to the joint research division, which will have a total of less than 10 researchers. The establishment period is from October 1, 2023 to March 31, 2025, with the possibility of renewal. Research and development expenses during the period are expected to amount to approximately 130 million yen, which will be borne by Idemitsu Kosan. The research division will begin with the development of genetically modified microorganisms that produce bio-pesticides (insecticides) and oils and fats. The oil and fat is expected to be high-value-added oil and fat for use in the cosmetics field and, in the future, in the energy field. The biopesticides will be based on actinomycetes and oils based on yeast. Once the development of smart cells is complete, Bacchus BioInnovation (Kobe City, President Mikio Tanji), a synthetic biology start-up from Kobe University, will study productivity improvement and scale-up of the technology.
Idemitsu Kosan has set “bio-life solutions” as one of the priority areas of its current high-performance materials business, and has positioned bio-manufacturing as a specific measure in this area. In its medium-term management plan announced in November 2022, the company reorganized its existing business portfolio, consisting of (1) fuel oil, (2) basic chemicals, (3) high-performance materials, (4) resources, and (5) renewable energy, into (1) energy one step ahead, (2) diverse resource-saving and resource recycling solutions, and (3) smart energy. The establishment of the joint research department is the first step in the company’s plan to reorganize its existing business portfolio, which consists of (1) energy one step ahead, (2) various resource conservation and resource recycling solutions, and (3) smart energy. The establishment of the joint research division is positioned as an initiative for social implementation of (2) various resource-saving and resource-recycling solutions.
In May 2023, Idemitsu Kosan announced its investment in Bacchus Bio Innovation. Idemitsu Kosan will work with the company to develop smart cells that can be used to produce biofuels, bio-chemicals, and other products.