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Trading houses explore cutting-edge technology

TOKYO - Major trading houses are starting to turn their attention to the most advanced industries, such as nanotechnology and biotechnology, as they abandon unprofitable sectors and seek new sources of profits.

Sumitomo Corp has licensed from NEC Corp basic patents covering carbon nanotubes, enabling the trading company to engage in full-fledged development of related products. It has also reached a marketing alliance with US firm Carbon Nanotechnologies Inc, which plans to begin mass production of single-wall carbon nanotubes in April.

Mitsubishi Corp - one of the first trading companies to focus on nanotechnology - has designated product-oriented R&D efforts as a strategic business segment, placing it under the president's direct control. The firm has teamed up with Mitsubishi Chemical Corp to develop a method for mass-producing fullerenes, a core nanotechnology material. It is also jointly developing fullerene-based cosmetics material with Hiroshima Prefectural University.

Other trading houses, including Mitsui & Co and Itochu Corp, are also forming alliances with research institutions and universities both at home and abroad.

(Asia Pulse/Nikkei)

Mar 6, 2004


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