Mitsui Kinzoku

MOF is a Next-Generation Material Contributing to Wide-Ranging Industries 【Part 2】
—Started with an Encounter through Cooperation and Launched Own Development Efforts

Mitsui Kinzoku’s MOF project began with collaboration with Atomis, a start-up that Mitsui Kinzoku invested in by corporate venture capital (CVC). Working in tandem with Atomis, we are diligently engaged in research and development for mass production to grow it into a major business.

When did Mitsui Kinzoku launch the initiative of MOFs?

Before we get to that, let me talk about our corporate venture capital (CVC), which was established in 2017. CVC is a promising way to create new businesses through investing in start-up companies. We try to combine their unique technologies with Mitsui Kinzoku's accumulated knowledge and resource to create significant business opportunities. As a part of this effort, in 2019, Mitsui Kinzoku has invested in and begun to cooperate with Atomis Inc., a start-up originating from Kyoto University. The members of Atomis are world-leading experts in a field of MOF/PCP. Even though we used to be unfamiliar with MOF before the investment, we have thoroughly learned about it to make a decision. In the end, we concluded that it would be worthwhile to work with Atomis. This is the story behind the launching of our MOF project.

Which was the first to contact the other?

We contacted Atomis first since we were exploring start-ups to make innovations with. In the beginning , not limited to MOF, we were looking for collaboration through our powder manufacturing technology, battery, or catalyst divisions.

What led you to develop MOFs then?

Atomis was trying to establish a mass-production technique since it is an essential piece for widespread use of MOFs. Interestingly, the technique was very familiar to our company. We also had been handling large quantities of metal and ceramic powders for a long time, which is why we had a high affinity. So, Atomis happily accepted our business proposal on mass production of MOFs. It was the moment when the thoughts of both companies were perfectly aligned.

Now, we are working together through learning and offering each other. Atomis and Mitsui Kinzoku share the vision that MOFs will hold an important position among other conventional materials like metal and functional powders in the future, leading to significant business growth. We will continue collaborating with Atomis, while aligning the business model.

What are you currently working on to commercialize MOFs?

Our first step to commercialize MOFs is to become a production partner of Atomis. By leveraging our technologies and knowledge, we are developing a mass production system with high productivity and sustainability.
There are other efforts as well. For example, we can improve the product quality by combining synthesis and powder control technologies. We are also focusing on post-synthesis processing to deliver shaped samples for customers who are not very good at handling powders. To this end, we are offering MOFs as pellets, membrane filters, and other forms that are appropriate to be used for each application. It is also necessary to collaborate with other companies to accelerate this initiative. We are not insisting on doing everything ourselves. To expand our business, we’d love to balance cooperation and competition. Our team has a mission to create business opportunities by bringing in external expertise. We are working in accordance with this policy.

So, you will not only do what Atomis requests, but also make your own development efforts with special collaborations.

In the future, we intend to utilize this network to develop MOFs for a variety of applications. For example, employing our main product, copper thin films, we can synthesize MOFs on them to fabricate MOF films. In this manner, we will further spread the use of MOFs throughout the world.

To be continued in 【Part 3】

Interviewee: Kazuo Matsumae, Co-creation Project Group Leader & MOF Project Leader, Market Co-creation Department, Business Creation Sector, Mitsui Mining & Smelting Co., Ltd.

(Date of interview: December 1, 2022)
(The company is hereinafter referred to as "Mitsui Kinzoku.")