Teijin: from fibres to first responders
Without its base in Amsterdam, Teijin would have missed some interesting opportunities for business expansion. Teruo Aoyagi, President of Teijin Holdings Europe, is convinced of that.
Since its establishment in 1918 as Japan’s first rayon manufacturer, the Teijin Group has transformed and grown far beyond being only a fibre producer. In November 2018 Teijin acquired 20% of the shares of Elitac BV, a Utrecht-based startup company that develops textiles and clothing integrated with wearable sensor devices. The 2 companies aim to co-develop new solutions for safety, security and disaster mitigation by integrating new technologies into apparel for firefighters, police, emergency personnel and other first responders who frequently work under high stress and in hazardous conditions.
One of these new developments is the Sentaz tactile navigation system, which translates visual and audio instructions from standard navigation systems into gentle vibrations in the driving seats of first-responder vehicles including fire engines, ambulances and police cars. Another promising development is SmartShoulder, taken over from Dutch venture CrossOver. The innovative wearable tool increases safety for service engineers working alone or under dangerous conditions.
From functional food to supporting culture
Teijin has also started new business in the field of functional food ingredients by concluding a Japan-exclusive sales contract with food ingredients manufacturer Sensus BV, headquartered in Rosenthal, for Inulin, a water-soluble dietary fibre with scientifically proven health benefits.
Emphasising the strong ties between the Netherlands, Japan and Teijin, the company is founding sponsor of the Stedeljik Museum Amsterdam, by developing and supplying the aramid and carbon fibre composite material for construction of the iconic façade of the new wing, opened in 2012. Teijin also supported the exhibition Colorful Japan, which launched in September 2019 and showed 226 posters by famous Japanese graphic designers.
When the Teijin Group first opened its Dutch office, it was looking to expand the company’s global market prominence in aramid fibres by taking over the Dutch company Accordis. A former subsidiary of AkzoNobel, Accordis was already a leading producer of these ultra-strong and versatile synthetic fibres, and with Twaron® it possessed a strong international brand name.
Thanks to the 2001 acquisition, Teijin Aramid, with its headquarters in Arnhem, now accounts for half of all global production of aramid fibres. Just as important, however, is the acquisition of a base in continental Europe. Teijin has three hyper-modern production facilities of aramid fiber in the Netherlands (in Emmen, Arnhem and Delfzijl), and has added a distribution and sales centre of polycarbonate resin in Venlo, Limburg.
In the nearly 20 years since its arrival, the company has become a major employer in the Dutch chemical sector as well as one of the largest non-Dutch investors in the industry. Over €1 billion has been spent on rationalising and expanding production facilities.
Eye on Europe
To allow the Tokyo office to keep up with the fast-growing European operations at that time, Teijin chose for a holding company under Dutch law early on. According to Aoyagi, “Even with modern communications, you still need an on-the-spot representative to keep in touch with the market and the increasingly stringent EU regulations, especially with regard to environmental protection.
In addition, issues such as internal and external auditing, tax and legal planning, and marketing and PR are tightly controlled and coordinated under a uniform standard. We also direct the financing of different activities. Of course, we can rely on the expertise and funding sources of our parent company, but we still have a relatively large amount of responsibility. Furthermore, we are not only responsible for the Dutch operations, but also for several other Teijin subsidiaries in Europe. And we are always looking for new opportunities to strengthen our business portfolio and fulfil our vision of becoming a company that supports the society of the future.”
Interesting investment climate
“The Netherlands – and specifically the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area – has a lot of advantages for us. Not only because the focus of our business is concentrated here, but also because of its attractive investment climate. Tax conditions for companies are favourable, and there are tax treaties with all our major trading partners. In addition, there are daily direct flights from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol to Tokyo and Osaka, and you can get to practically any European destination and back in a single day. Another advantage is the network of business service providers, which are used to working for foreign clients, and which have a good knowledge of Dutch and European laws and regulations.”
As a resident of Amstelveen, Aoyagi feels at home though he is living in a foreign country. There’s a large Japanese community in the area, with lots of shops, restaurants and activities, which made it easier for him to settle in quickly after moving abroad. The Japan Desk of the Amstelland Hospital in Amstelveen, which offers guidance in Japanese language, and the annual Japan Festival in Amstelveen are very important anchors to the Japanese residents in the Amsterdam area.
In addition to these abundant social opportunities, the company has also benefitted from lots of unforeseen professional ones. “We put the global environment, human safety and health as our top priorities when conducting business. In terms of developing sustainable and eco-friendly solutions for products and processes, the Netherlands is very inspiring for us.”