Section 8. Integrating IT and Exploring New Energy Sources

Item 2. Responding to the Energy Problem

Initiatives in biotechnology

In the latter half of the 1990s, work began on biotechnology-related research and development as a strategy to deal with the depletion of petroleum resources and global warming. In 1996, TMC President Hiroshi Okuda sent out the call to take preparatory measures against the demographic, food-supply and environmental problems of the 21st century. In response, having carried out a commercial feasibility study, TMC established the Biotechnology and Afforestation Business Department in the Business Development Division in January 1998. In January 2001, the department became the independent Biotechnology & Afforestation Business Division and began research into biodegradable bioplastics (polylactic acid). In 2002, TMC acquired from Shimadzu Corporation patents and expertise relating to the manufacture of polylactic acid, and in 2004 a pilot plant for yearly production of 1,000 tons was completed at TMC's Hirose Plant.

In May 2003, bioplastics were used for the first time in the world in automotive parts: the spare tire cover and floormat of the new Raum model. Technological verification efforts in the three years up to 2007 led to the conclusion that the time was not yet ripe to make bioplastics a business unto itself, but it was decided to expand the use of bioplastics in parts. Not limited to bioplastics, Toyota's biotechnology and afforestation business is also moving forward in the fields of potted flowers and tree-planting.

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