Our Newton Aycliffe, UK site has recently said goodbye to a valuable team member returning to his native Japan.

Akira ‘Harry’ Sato, Senior Scientist at our parent company, Mitsubishi Chemical’s Research & Development Centre in Aichi, Japan, spent five months at Newton Aycliffe to promote closer collaboration between Lucite International (LI) and Mitsubishi Chemical (MCC).

We spoke to Harry about his time at Newton Aycliffe, the working environment and his perspective on the cultural differences between Japan and the UK.

Pictured: Harry in the laboratory in Aichi, Japan.

What is the background of your role in Japan?

“Working in the New Materials Group of the High Performance Chemicals Laboratory in Aichi, Japan, I work on the development and marketing of acrylic resins for specialist applications. At Newton Aycliffe, I’ve been able to learn technical information about different types of acrylic resin technology developed for similar applications in Europe.”

Tell us about your typical working day at Newton Aycliffe…

“This involved promoting joint marketing activities and evaluating the application properties of the company’s Colacryl® and Acrycon® acrylic resin grade ranges, and having discussions based on test results.

“Knowledge of testing methods wasn’t as strong in Japan, so many members of the team at Newton Aycliffe helped me.”

Tell us something you’ve learned about British culture…

“I feel that sports are an essential part of British culture and it seems like some games such as football, cricket, rugby, golf or tennis are held somewhere in the UK every day! In April, one of my colleagues at Newton Aycliffe took me to watch a football match at Newcastle United’s stadium. Of course, this was my first time seeing a Premier League football match. After that, I became a fan of the team and I’m now very interested in the match results even since my return to Japan.”

Pictured: a visit to St. James’ Park, home of Newcastle United, this time for the rugby!

What are the main differences you’ve observed between living in Japan and living in the UK?

“There are many differences between the UK and Japan. For example, the food, the weather, the animals and the views. Among these, the time is very noticeable. In Japan, many shops open late including Sunday and there are many 24-hour shops.

“In the UK, many cafés closed at about 18:00 on weekdays and closed at around 16:00 on Sundays, some not opening at all. After I arrived, I soon noticed that it was difficult to find shops open on Sundays and holidays and this made me very confused.

“Now, I think this UK style is very reasonable because it distinguishes clearly between working time and resting time. On the other hand, I hoped many times that the UK’s train timetables would become more accurate!”

Pictured: Harry (far left) enjoying one of his favourite British dishes, fish and chips, with some of the Newton Aycliffe team.

What are the main things you’ve gained from the secondment and the benefits this will have for your work in Japan?

“I was able to benefit from daily face-to-face communication with all of the Newton Aycliffe team for a long time. This made it possible to discuss topics at a much wider and deeper level. Thanks to this, it becomes easier for the UK and Japan to connect in future which can lead to many synergies through this human network.”

 

During his time in the UK, Harry worked closely with Dr Mike Chisholm, Business Research Associate. Mike gave us his thoughts on the secondment…

How has this secondment been successful from Newton Aycliffe’s perspective?

“From a business perspective, the aim of Harry’s secondment was to deliver a detailed understanding of poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) bead resins made in the UK and Japan so that joint marketing activities could be more effectively targeted. This was successfully achieved and the information is already being deployed for customer visits in China and Japan.”

“It also helped facilitate the global acrylic resins ‘One Team’ R&D interaction. The team chose Newton Aycliffe as the venue of their latest meeting and this gave R&D staff at Newton Aycliffe the opportunity to attend and interact – something not normally possible.”

“Other successes of the secondment relate to the daily cultural exchange that was possible. The Newton Aycliffe site regularly hosts MCC visitors from Japan, but these visits are limited in time and only give a small number of people the chance to interact. Harry’s five-month secondment provided an opportunity for numerous discussions and interactions with a much wider cross-section of people. Interesting information was exchanged on a wide range of subjects, such as science, sport and culture.

What are the main benefits both Japan and the UK have gained from this?

“Both parties expect to deliver increased bead polymer sales as a result of the improved technical understanding. Additionally, the R&D teams have an improved understanding of the application performance and global manufacture of PMMA bead resins.”

Tell us more about the ‘One Team’ continuing collaboration…

“The ‘One Team’ R&D interaction is a collaborative activity between MCC’s acrylic bead resins businesses in the UK, USA and Japan. It was established about five years ago to facilitate the sharing of technical knowledge, ideas for new products and to support problem-solving.

“Harry’s secondment has helped deepen the relationship between the R&D teams in the UK and Japan. As a result, we expect to see the amount of technical knowledge sharing increase, thereby enhancing the synergy between the two organisations.”