Toray Industries will have an employee on campus with the hope of expanding.

The University of Minnesota signed an agreement with a Japanese company in hopes of creating a lasting partnership on medical devices.

Toray Industries, Inc. has more than 40,000 employees worldwide and sales of nearly $ 15 billion, but only one of its employees will come to campus and work in a 153 square foot office.

The move keeps the state and the university on the international radar as a major medical device hub for future business investment.

Sarah Walbert, Toray-state liaison, said it would have been a blow to Minnesota’s medical device industry if Toray had chosen to go to the east or west coasts like other Japanese companies. have done so in the past.

“Minnesota has been a flyby state when it comes to the Japanese,” Walbert said. “Now maybe all of our hard work is starting to pay off.”

The Tokyo-based materials conglomerate uses innovative technology to produce low-cost materials ranging from synthetic suede and pharmaceuticals to airplanes.

Visiting Toray scientist Hiroshi Ohno is expected to arrive in December.

Arthur Erdman, director of the University’s Medical Device Center, said he hoped Ohno’s visit would turn into a lasting partnership.

The US Department of Commerce identifies the industrial theme of central Japan as monozukuri, or “doing things,” with notable companies like Honda and Mitsubishi. But when it comes to composite materials, Toray is the big player.

Erdman said interactions between the university and Japan were not new since the MDC opened in 2008. Since then, Erdman said, 25 different Japanese companies and government entities have visited the center.

Toray Industries gave the University’s College of Science and Engineering a gift between $ 50,000 and $ 100,000 in November 2012. That same month, Toray suggested the idea to a visiting scientist after seeing the MDC in February, Erdman said.

University vice president for research Brian Herman has said he expects Toray to bring a unique element to the university’s industry partnerships.

“They bring a different kind of skill,” he said.

Herman said Toray’s science-based approach to materials production could make medical devices perform better
effectively.

Combining faculty research with business expertise can bring scientific breakthroughs to market faster than the publication of scientific research, Herman said.

Minnesota has a distinct competitive advantage in the world of medical technology because of the cooperation between its leaders in academia, government and private industry, said Walbert, who is also a medical device and bioscience specialist for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

“We are the global center for medical devices,” she said.

Herman said the university was in negotiations to replicate this type of partnership with other companies.

Ohno will remain indefinitely in his office, located behind the MDC’s back entrance. He will be able to network with university researchers and industrial partners such as Medtronic and Boston Scientific.

“We play matchmaker,” Erdman said. “He’s not part of us, but he’s a potential collaborator.

With Ohno as a Global Associate in the university’s backyard, there is potential for further investment and Toray’s expansion into the state.

“It’s clear that the trajectory is set for much bigger things to come,” Erdman said. “It’s going to be an interesting possibility for everyone. “


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