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Foreign Companies in Kansai (Ceres Power)

Last update:June 30,2014

【Great Britain】 Ceres Power representative office

Founded: May 2014
Address: Ceres Power ITEC T05, Floor 3, Building Number 4 Kyoto Research Park, Awatacho 93, Chudoji, Shimogyou-ku, Kyoto-City
Line of business: Fuel cell
Website: Ceres PowerExcel file (opens in new window)

Interview


MR.Steven Rogers,
Business Development Executive

Ceres Power is a next-generation fuel cell company that was established in May 2001 to commercialize unique core technology developed by Professor Brian Steele of Imperial College London in the 1990’s.  The head office and manufacturing bases for their core technologies are based in Horsham, Sussex, U.K.  The company has now established a representative office in Kyoto, Japan, as its first overseas base.  We interviewed Mr. Steven Rogers, Business Development Executive.

Main Business

CHP cellOur company has been developing household fuel cell cogeneration systems that enable our customers to generate electricity and utilize heat (i.e. providing hot water and heating) simultaneously.
There are two main types of household fuel cells.  One is a polymer electrolyte fuel cell (PEFC) and the other is a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC).  SOFC uses ceramic as the electrolyte and can achieve a high generating efficiency of over 50%, but conventional SOFC technology requires a high operating temperature of around 900-1000°C making it expensive.  Our company has successfully developed a cell that operates at a low temperature of around 500-600°C using ceria (oxidized cerium) as the electrolyte material.
Conventional SOFC fuel cells require all materials to withstand high operating temperatures, and expensive ceramic has been used throughout. However, since the Ceres Power steel cell can be operated at a relatively low temperature, it has become possible to use inexpensive stainless steel as the support material.  Stainless steel can be made extremely thin, and extremely strong at the same time.  Thin ceramic functional layers are printed on the stainless steel.  A big advantage of the metal-supported fuel cell developed by our company is its low cost.  By lowering the operation temperature, peripheral equipment does not need to be resistant to high temperature, which results in a low cost product.  Our company will bring a new perspective to the household fuel cell market in Japan.

 Reasons for Entering Japanese Market

Several major breakthroughs in our critical core technology, were made more than fourteen years ago with research conducted at Imperial College (i.e. the fuel cell that adopts ceria as the electrolyte and uses steel as the support material) and since then, our company has advanced the development of cell and stack technologies.  Our company is currently looking for partners who can conduct joint development with us using those technologies.
Research and development on fuel cells has been conducted in various countries around the world and we are doing businesses with companies in South Korea and the U.S.  Among those countries, we have chosen Japan not only because of the technological capabilities that Japan can offer, but also because of the advanced market environment.  Japan is the only country where household fuel cells are generally available for consumers to buy.  Outside Japan, even if a general consumer wants to buy a household fuel cell on the market, it is not easy to get one.  The Japanese market is far ahead of others, partly because there are several excellent major household appliance companies in Japan and a number of excellent manufacturing companies, which support the household appliance companies, and partly because the Japanese government has been actively promoting the use of fuel cells as part of their energy policy.  This kind of government commitment cannot be seen in other countries, and their commitment has certainly influenced the market formation in Japan.
There are so many companies in Japan that have abundant expertise and experience in ENE-FARM-related technologies.  In addition, there are many companies in Japan, which have no experience in the field yet, but are eager to enter into the ENE-FARM-related markets by utilizing their specialized areas of expertise.  We are keen to promote joint development with such a company and enter into the Japanese market together.  Further, even though we have been already exchanging data from our base in the U.K. with several Japanese companies, who evaluate our technologies highly, now that we are physically close to the market we can better serve our Japanese clients.  In the past the U.K. had a vibrant manufacturing industry, but many factories have now been moved overseas due to the increase of labor costs.  Our country now needs to compete with other countries using good ideas, namely, technologies, patents etc.  Under these circumstances, we are truly impressed by the outstanding Japanese manufacturing and technological capabilities.

Reasons for Locating Our Base in Kansai

We have customers all over Japan, but geographically Kansai is located at the center of Japan, and particularly, Osaka is very convenient in terms of transport and has the advantage of being rapidly accessible to Eastern Japan, Kyushu and Shikoku.
In addition, we have business relationships with ceramic-related companies as we use ceramic for functional layers.  Ceramic-related companies are concentrated in areas around Kansai and Nagoya, so from this perspective also, Kansai is located in a key area.  Above all, the fact that Osaka Gas is located in Kansai has a significant meaning for us.  Osaka Gas has many excellent engineers and is one of the leading companies in the SOFC system market.
Moreover, from a lifestyle perspective, even though Kyoto is an international city, it is surrounded by beautiful nature, which makes it a comfortable place to accept families from overseas.  The same can be said for other cities in the Kansai area, such as Kobe.

Future Developments

As I am the only member of staff here in Japan at the moment, this is a representative office at this stage, but we are planning to establish a limited company in the near future and start employing people.  For that purpose, we are working towards developing products in collaboration with several Japanese companies.  In addition, we are looking for new partners.  Typically for any joint development project, it takes two to three years to complete a final product starting from prototype development and going through performance and durability tests etc. and field testing.  However, in the future, it will be possible for us to build factories for mass production in Japan or to produce actual cells themselves under a license agreement in Japan.  By making our next-generation fuel cell products, which can be mass-produced at low cost, available to people around the world, we will continuously contribute to a stable energy supply and to the conservation of the global environment.

Contact Information

Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Kansai Bureau
International Investment Promotion Division
Address: 1-5-44 Otemae, Chuo-ku, Osaka, 540-8535
Phone:+81-6-6966-6033
E-Mail:invest-japan-kansai@meti.go.jpMail (mail client will launch)