Watanabe : So Kao and Fujifilm have succeeded in the research and development of a hair color technology that takes beautiful hair to a new level. With regards to the commercialization of this technology, my understanding is that you’ve joined forces as business partners to develop the large-scale synthesis of this dyestuff?
Iijima : Once we’d completed performance verification and safety evaluation, and we had the three primary colors of red, blue and yellow, we started the process of preparing for commercialization. However, in order for this to happen, we had to be able to carry out the large-scale synthesis of a quality dye. To be honest, only Fujifilm had the ability to quickly realize this, and so we approached them again in autumn 2013. However, commercialization had already been planned for spring 2015, and so in hindsight, we were really putting pressure on Fujifilm! (Laughter)
Watanabe : With the deadline fast approaching, you had to come up with mass-scale synthesis of a high-purity product! And there would also be issues that needed to be solved, such as cost, in order for you to achieve your goal!
How many people were involved in the process from development through to making it into an actual product?
Gosho : 2014 was our most significant year in terms of establishing the business and getting ready for the market, and at its peak, we had a total of 30 people working on the project. During this period we had a team of members in various roles, including synthesis technology, manufacturing technology, legal affairs, intellectual property and accounting, and they all worked together towards achieving the internal agreement necessary to create the new business, as well as developing the contract with Kao. The project was promoted over a short time period in order to be able to supply the dye that met Kao’s required quality standards by the specified date.
Part of the quality control process is to identify the reactive conditions for the by-products which are blended into the final dyestuff. One thing we were constantly aware of was that we wanted to develop a product that our children would be able to use safely, and that was one of the main motivations behind achieving our goal.
Fujita : Because Fujifilm had originally been involved in photographic film production, the performance of a product only becomes apparent when it’s in the customer’s hands. Therefore, regardless of what kind of dye it is, we have extremely strict standards when it comes to the quality control of chemicals and their purity. In this collaboration, the Fujifilm Group’s manufacturing arm was also involved in establishing, simultaneously, the mass-scale synthesis of three colors, and over a short period of time.
Watanabe : Three colors simultaneously! That must have been a huge job!
Are the colors on the board samples of hair that’s been colored with HD³ Dye?
Iijima : Yes. The samples in the top row have been dyed with conventional hair color, while the samples in the bottom row have been dyed with HD³ Dye.
Watanabe : Wow, they’re totally different! The colors are beautiful. And the tone of colors are so diverse!
Iijima : As the HD³ Dye range is comprised of the three primary colors of red, blue and yellow in highly vivid and intense tones, the desired color can be easily achieved by changing the color ratio when mixing the dye. For example, using blue dye to rid the orangey tone that’s generated when dark hair is lightened results in a sustained beautiful blonde color. And so it’s possible to create colors that are both vivid and highly fashionable.
Watanabe : I’ve heard that this HD³ Dye will initially be offered for use in hair salons in the Americas and Europe, the regions where trends start. However, it would be wonderful if the product could be developed for use at home! I often help my mother dye her grey hair, so it would be wonderful if this could be something that was made readily available to people in Japan.
Iijima : We intend to carry on development so that it can be used safely by larger numbers of people in the future.
And, the role of hair color is not just about fashion, that is, enjoying changing your hair color, but it plays an important social role by responding to the needs of people who want to cover gray hairs so that they can look younger, or who want to maintain their very own look. When it comes to dyeing gray hair, as new growth appears at the roots, it’s very noticeable, which means that gray hair needs to be touched up more frequently. As we want to create a product that can be used by everyone without having to be worried about uneven coverage or the color staining the scalp or skin, I believe that developing coloring technology featuring HD³ Dye represents a starting point for further improvement.
Watanabe : So you’re going to continue working with Fujifilm for further development!
And to conclude this interview, can each of you sum up, in your own words, what this joint-development initiative has meant to you?
Ishiwata : Although this is the first time we’ve been involved in hair dye, we had excellent communications with Kao by working as a team that was working towards the same objective. We were able to work towards realizing a product that delivers beautiful color while never compromising on safety so that customers can use the product with reassurance. I think this is why research proceeded extremely smoothly.
I also came to the realization that developing a truly outstanding technology by incorporating others’ perspectives can lead to new discoveries. So I believe that you can’t go wrong if you continue to work towards creating something that represents genuine quality.
Fujita : It was because Kao communicated its passionate desire to create a safe hair color product that people could enjoy, in a way that was understandable, that the many people involved in this project were so enthusiastic. And in the end were able to achieve our goal.
A major aspect was that Kao and Fujifilm were on the same page when exchanging technological theories, and this was a factor behind the new discovery that was made. Talking to the people at Kao often means sharing aspirations. I therefore look forward to new and greater possibilities that aren’t limited to this field, through continued technological collaborations between Fujifilm and Kao.
Iijima : We did achieve one of our goals by successfully applying a new coloring technology to a product. However, we still face many fundamental and essential challenges specific to hair coloring, and so we look forward to the continued support of Fujifilm in addressing and solving these problems over the next 5 or 10 years, so that we can achieve our big dream. When focusing on the research center as part of our recent collaboration, I am convinced that Fujifilm and Kao think in the same way, and that we share similar DNA. Specifically, these are to have an essential understanding of the subject, to be extremely accurate and precise when it comes to controlling the physical properties, and absolute integrity in our research. It is this mindset that results in a high level of creativity. In other words, both companies are incredibly discriminating in its creations.
Although two companies were involved, as Mr. Ishiwata has mentioned, we always felt that we were working as one team. As two Japanese companies working together, I strongly believe, going forward, that we shall continue to create products and services that respond to people’s dreams, and I look forward to continuing to work together.
Gosho : What really impressed me about Kao as a result of this collaboration is how open they were in sharing information with us. Kao’s research center shared their vision with us during the stages leading up to the signing of the contract in autumn 2013. For example, their desire to promote the value of this new hair color technology by first starting with hair salons in Europe and the Americas, and at the same time continue to build on the technology so that the product can be made available to more customers in the world in the future. Kao also explained to us how their Japanese and German research centers would be collaborating with hair salon professionals to come up with the best way to use this hair color, and how to make this innovation available to the world.
That’s why it’s not simply about Fujifilm producing and making HD³ Dye available to the market. This collaboration was made possible because we all thoroughly understood exactly who and how this dye would be used.
In the past we had a “seed mindset”, that is, a desire to make something new and unprecedented. However, as a result of this collaboration with Kao, we thought about how to best address different perspectives and different markets. Looking back, I do believe that it is this needs-driven way of thinking that resulted in this innovation. I hope that we can continue to communicate and collaborate with Kao and develop technologies that will make more products that deliver beauty to more people.
In addition, with the materials and chemicals held by Fujifilm as the key, We hope that our collaboration will include diverse and wider areas so that we can deliver new value-added products to society. And, We hope that we can continue this open innovation-based success by working together, in the same way, with other industries.
Watanabe : Thank you very much everyone!
* Department names, titles and interview details are based on the interview conducted in August 2017.