AIST Stories No2
30From AIST to the Innovative WorldRoyalties (JPY100m) Fiscal year3.532.521.510.50196419661968197019721974197619781980JapanOverseasTotalPatent royalty income from glucose isomerase technologyThe product fructose-glucose liquid sugarThe Institute for Fermentation obtained the patent that formed the basis of the glucose isomerase manufacturing process in 1965. Subsequently, it obtained a total of four patents through 1970 and the basic industrial-scale manufacturing process was established. The reaction of industry to this development was swift, in particular from American companies. At the time, the United States and Cuba were at odds and tensions heightened to the point whereby the two countries almost went to war. The United States blockaded Cuba around this Cuban Missile Crisis. Accompanying this, the United States was unable to import sugar and with international sugar prices skyrocketing, the United States was in search of a substitute for sugar.Leading US food manufacturer Standard Brands Incorporated (merged with Nabisco in 1981) was the first to show interest and in 1966, it signed a contract with AIST (known as Agency of Industrial Science and Technology at the time). This contract was the first patent export achieved by the then Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). Then in 1968, fellow US company and leading corn starch manufacturer A.E. Staley (currently Staley Continental) acquired a sub-license from Standard Brands. Production of isomerized sugar was started. Offshore development was not limited to the United States. Contracts were also inked with Indian glucose manufacturer Sayaji Industries in 1970, Germany’s Kali-Chemie in 1972, and Finland’s Finnsugar in 1985. Isomerized sugar production based on glucose isomerase spread throughout the world with great momentum. A particularly large impetus was provided by a major soft drink manufacturer that started using isomerized sugar in 1980, with another leading manufacturer following suit in 1984. Use of isomerized sugar grew by leaps and bounds on account of these two companies. Subsequently, technological guidance was provided to China and AIST actively promoted proliferation of the technology on a global basis.Glucose isomerase spreads throughout the worldWhile development partner Sanmatsu Kogyo was the only company in Japan to produce isomerized sugar in the 1960s, once word spread of the successes in the United States, various enzyme manufacturers started to utilize glucose isomerase. Nagase & Co. (contract executed in 1971) and Godo Shusei (contract executed in 1977) were among the 15 or 16 companies that were producing isomerized sugar in the second half of the 1970s. With patent utilization spreading in Japan in addition to overseas developments, a total of JPY1.4 billion in patent revenue was generated, peaking around 1975. This was the highest patent revenue ever for AIST.Nowadays, with the spread of health consciousness, sweeteners containing fewer carbohydrates are one after the other emerging, and one can no longer claim that glucose isomerase plays the leading role in the natural sweetener market.▲Approximately 10 years after acquiring patents, patent revenue from overseas grew dramatically. Further, entering the 1980s, major beverage manufacturers adopted isomerized sugar and revenue once again grew significantly.