Hitachi President Kojima: “Innovation Requires a Strong Will and Three Pieces of Knowledge.”

Dec. 20, 2023 Mina Shimizu
Keiji Kojima, President & CEO of Hitachi, Ltd., giving the keynote speech at the Hitachi Social Innovation Forum (photo: Daisuke Saito)

The Hitachi Social Innovation Forum (HSIF) 2023 JAPAN, the Hitachi Group's largest event for presenting Hitachi Group business strategies, was held at Tokyo Big Sight. More than 60 programs were presented, including exhibits of the latest technologies and lectures with opinions from experts on the social innovation projects that Hitachi is tackling.

On the first day, Keiji Kojima, President & CEO of Hitachi, Ltd., delivered the keynote speech in which he stated: “We will achieve sustainable economic growth and contribute to the creation of a better society through our own innovation and by supporting innovation by our customers.”

Hitachi’s vision for the future of innovation

President Kojima opened his keynote speech by emphasizing that “the power of innovation is the key” to overcoming the feeling of disappointment and stagnation caused by Japan's rapidly declining birthrate and population.

President and CEO Kojima (photo: Daisuke Saito)

Hitachi Social Innovation is POWERING GOOD. That is a strong will to materialize the good things that people from all over the world want: a healthy global environment where people can live peacefully, economic growth that enables people to lead better lives, and daily happiness. Hitachi has contributed to the realization of these goals by accelerating its Social Innovation Business.

Will and three pieces of knowledge

President Kojima described the requirements for creating innovation, using the Wright Brothers' path to the world’s first successful manned motor-operated flight as an example.

“The innovation of the world’s first manned motor-operated flight began with the strong will of two people who wanted to fly. Using the knowledge of their predecessors as obtained from a vast amount of information in literature, they took action to acquire new knowledge and repeatedly performed scientific experiments to deepen their knowledge, which enabled them to successfully fly.”

The Wright Brothers’ road to innovation

In other words, innovation begins with the will of people and is created by combining the three pieces of knowledge gained from information, action, and science.

Composition from which innovation is born

With the advent of the airplane, people can now travel around the world much more easily than before. Hence, people's new encounters and experiences have expanded, and a new will has been born, leading to the next innovation.

Like the Wright Brothers, Hitachi has a strong will for powering good. To materialize this will, Hitachi has been focusing on information, action, and science, and now on generative AI, biotechnology, and quantum computers, as next-generation key technologies that will strengthen the first three.

New age of AI: Really here

Generative AI has become an indispensable technology when discussing innovation. According to President Kojima, “The essence of generative AI is that it models the 'language-based intelligence' of humankind.”

Generative AI is based on a neural network called “large language model” (LLM), which has been trained with a massive amount of knowledge. It converts a huge number of words into multidimensional vectors and repeatedly predicts word connections, which enables the system to rapidly learn word relationships or context at high speed.

Mechanism of generative AI

In conventional machine learning, performance has tended to decline with modest increases in the size of the language model. On the other hand, with the advent of generative AI, it was shown that accuracy increases dramatically when the size of the language model exceeds a certain number of parameters, such as 100s of billions. Rapidly reaching a practical level led to the current AI boom.

President Kojima appraised the emergence of generative AI as “a breakthrough with such a huge impact that it will divide the history of IT into ‘before generative AI’ and ‘after generative AI’.” He also indicated that Hitachi intends to utilize this technology as a powerful assistant for information, action, and science.

President Kojima also mentioned materials informatics (MI) technology as an innovation and co-creation projects to be advanced together with customers.

Continuous spirit of innovation since foundation

Toward the end of his keynote speech, President Kojima mentioned an episode from the life of Namihei Odaira, the founder of Hitachi, to point out that, “It has been the spirit since the company's founding to engage in innovation in order to achieve sustainable growth.”

After Hitachi was founded in 1910, Odaira first produced the five-horsepower induction motor. At that time, most industrial machinery in Japan was imported from overseas.

“Odaira had a strong will to develop machinery with Japanese technologies for the country’s growth. This will was the driving force behind the five-horsepower induction motor and the actions that produced the various innovations that followed.”

Five-horsepower motor and Namihei Odaira

Odaira established an organization called the “R&D Unit” to explore science in order to improve quality. In 1918, he launched the Hitachi Review, Japan’s first industrial technology magazine published by a company, to disseminate the results of Hitachi's research as information for the benefit of society.

The will, information, action, and science that support Hitachi's innovation were shaped during the company's founding period and have been passed down as DNA to this day.

President Kojima cherishes the will that has guided the company since its founding and calls upon employees of the company to do the same.

“We must not forget that the human will to improve society is the driving force behind innovation. Let’s work together to create a new future.”

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