In order to expand these areas, NGK SPARK PLUG has put in place a bold new ‘open innovation’ concept which will secure the company’s future business. A team of more than 320 employees based around the world is performing R&D in eight main new business areas. Their main focus centres on providing solutions that improve the quality of life in the world. In addition to the company’s internal development efforts, the Venture Labs manage collaboration with external partners, investment in start-ups and acquisitions.
A history of success
Founded in Nagoya, Japan in 1936, NGK SPARK PLUG has achieved continual growth and success. With its roots in fine ceramics, the company today is active in the automotive, semiconductor, industrial components and medical industries, employing 16,400 people around the globe and achieving sales of €3.7 billion. In preparation for the future, the company is investing its capital in a $100 million Corporate Venture Capital Fund, which will secure the business in areas that focus on sustainability. The fund is run with support from Pegasus Tech Ventures, a global venture capital firm based in Silicon Valley. Pegasus Tech Ventures specialises in accelerating the success of its portfolio companies by connecting them to its network of multinational corporate partners and cutting-edge technology start-ups to create opportunities for business development, distribution, manufacturing and global expansion.
NGK SPARK PLUG has created three ‘Venture Labs’ – innovation hubs designed to prepare the company for the future. They focus on three areas: ‘Smart Health’, ‘Smart Mobility’ and ‘Decentralised Utility’. In ‘Smart Health’, research is being carried out in the fields of health treatment using ultra fine bubble technology, health monitoring using ultrasonic devices, and medical procedure using plasma technology. This is echoed in ‘Smart Mobility’, where research in the fields of connected platforms and hardware technologies are being pursued. In ‘Decentralised Utility’, moreover, the fields of decentralised food and energy production as well as new systems enabling a good air quality, provide another insight into the focus on sustainability which will greatly influence the company’s future activities.
Located in Tokyo, Japan, Silicon Valley, USA and Ratingen, Germany, the company’s Venture Labs facilitate collaborative and creative technical thinking for a variety of stakeholders, including partnerships with outside businesses and start-ups. The goal is to create NGK SPARK PLUG’s future business pillars.
While the future will see the company expand into new and growing business areas, the link to the past will play a key role in lighting the path towards sustainable success. The decades-long expertise gained in the fields of ceramic, sensors, plasma and semiconductor technology will be fully availed of as the company expands beyond its traditional boundaries and explores new industries. Business creation activities including human centred design and R&D carried out within the Venture Labs has already led to some promising developments in the following fields:
Within the NGK SPARK PLUG organisation, new business is being created in the following three fields: Internal Projects, Investments and Mergers & Acquisitions. The company, therefore, is seeking strategic acquisitions as well as investing in external partners. This provides an excellent opportunity to creative thinkers and bold entrepreneurs to accelerate their innovative ideas and develop ground-breaking technologies by working with the NGK SPARK PLUG team.
Intrapreneurship is also being promoted in order to create agile business solutions that lead to stronger partnerships. By collaborating with innovation experts, various sprint programmes have been successfully launched, involving the company’s design thinking and innovation creation teams.
Key to the success of the various programmes within the Venture Labs are their agile decision-making processes, an element that is critical for developing business partnerships and start-up investments. Venture Labs have the ability and authority to make decisions and within them, exists a New Business Development Committee which performs consistent and efficient vetting processes geared towards the timeframes of the participating partners.
For established businesses, start-ups and other stakeholders interested in creating pioneering developments in the areas of health, mobility and decentralised utility, NGK SPARK PLUG’s Venture Labs offer the perfect platform to accelerate business ideas to the next level.