Power of Japanese probiotic: JFR ready to start construction in Alabuga if gets money support

Due to the pandemic, the international biotechnology company JFR Co. Ltd, specialising in the production of probiotics, “lost” a partner, but it was promised to get help along with federal Rusnano

Probiotics created on the basis of beneficial bacteria are a new direction of biotechnologies for human health in Russia, and we need to help them," Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov explained the republic's interest in supporting the biotechnological project of Japanese JFR Co. Ltd . At a meeting of the board of directors of Tatneftekhiminvest holding, the head of the Japanese company Hiroshi Miyazaki confirmed his readiness to build a plant for the production of beneficial bacteria in Alabuga SEZ worth $20 million, while Rusnano can help him attract the necessary amount. But the Japanese industrial automation giant Yokogawa has launched “contactless” technologies in big chemistry at Kazanorgsintez and Nizhnekamskneftekhim and is preparing to test them at TANECO.

Japanese Guest Day

Great interest in high-tech Japanese technologies was shown at the regular meeting of the board of directors of Tatneftekhiminvest-holding, which was traditionally held by President of the Republic of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov, on 27 November. The breadth of coverage turned out to be limitless: from immune ecobiotics for a healthy lifestyle and longevity to industrial automation, which has entered the era of “contactless” technologies. Contrary to expectations, the full board of directors, including recovered republican Minister of Economy Midkhat Shagikhametov and Minister of Industry Albert Karimov, came to the hearing of a kind of “Japan day”.

Albert Shigabutdinov, adviser to TAIF CEO, and Nail Maganov, the first head of Tatneft, from Almetyevsk, participated in the video conference from their offices. It is interesting that guests from the medical field were also invited to the meeting. For example, Deputy Minister of Healthcare of Tatarstan Farida Yarkayeva and head of the regional department of Rospotrebnadzor Marina Patyashina came to assess the benefits of the future probiotic project, however, both only listened but did not speak.

The main speaker was a guest from Japan. CEO of the international biotechnology company JFR Co. Ltd Hiroshi Miyazaki decided to fly across the ocean to arrive in Kazan, despite the height of the pandemic. Here he again presented the project for the construction of the probiotic plant, which he announced exactly a year ago together with the Japanese partner, Syngen Biotech. It would seem that then all the things were sorted out in the project, a production site was determined on the territory of SEZ Alabuga for the construction of the plant worth $20 million. But the plans were thwarted by the coronavirus epidemic. For a year, the Japanese postponed trips to Tatarstan until better times, until the head of JFR Co. Ltd broke the pause. .

In fact, on 27 November, the head of the Japanese company, Hiroshi Miyazaki, confirmed his readiness to build the plant in Tatarstan in the same parameters, but the financial support turned out to be incomplete.

Will JFR probiotics be “powered” in Rusnano?

Miyazaki presented a schedule for the construction of the probiotic plant using Japanese technology. According to him, the project is designed for three years: from 2020 to the end of 2023. The first phase — design — is designed until October 2021, after which a year is allocated for the purchase of equipment and the training of personnel, and only then a year — for construction and equipping. Given the high level of Japanese technology, no more than 30 people will be required. The estimated launch date is autumn 2023.

The final product is a wide range of probiotics for humans and animals. Raw materials — yeast extract, phosphate, glucose, minerals, milk.

The head of the Japanese company, Hiroshi Miyazaki, explained the choice in favour of Tatarstan by that the localisation of production in Taiwan, China or Korea would have a higher cost than in Russia. “We will be able to create a competitive product in Tatarstan," he said.

“One of our technology partners was ready to fly to Tatarstan in April, but that visit was postponed," he complained, without specifying the problem of further partnership. He went on to describe the attractiveness of the probiotic market. According to him, the global market capacity is estimated at almost $17,5 billion by 2026. By this time, the company's expected revenue will be $5,3 million and will grow to $60 million by 2036, he predicted in the conclusion of the report.

From the brief remark, it was clear that the Japanese company was looking for a new partner to implement the project. Minnikhanov asked Timur Shagivaleyev, the director general of Alabuga SEZ, how things are going with this project. He replied that the project is patronised by head of the Investment Development Agency Talia Minullina, and the zone's management company is ready to provide all technical capabilities. “There will be no problems from our side: as soon as the project starts moving, we are ready to provide space and technical conditions," he assured.

The head of Investment Development Agency, Talia Minullina, explained that the Japanese company does not yet have enough funds for the “financial model of the plan”. “If someone wants to join the cooperation, a presentation is being held here today. If one of the oil companies is interested in this, it could be a joint production," she invited.

The director general of the holding, Rafinat Yarullin, added that it is necessary to determine the investor for the project. “I spoke with Svinarenko (deputy head of Rusnano — editor's note), we will have a meeting in the near future. Because we have funds there, we will see how the issue is resolved," Rafinat Yarullin expressed hope. Minnikhanov concluded the conversation by noting that probiotics created on the basis of beneficial bacteria are a new direction of biotechnologies for human health in Russia, and it needs support.

Smart solutions from Yokogawa

But the Japanese industrial automation giant Yokogawa has launched “contactless” technologies in big chemistry at Kazanorgsintez and Nizhnekamskneftekhim and is preparing to test them at TANECO. Alexander Rezanov, the director general of Yokogawa Electric CIS, spoke about new developments in the field of industrial automation.

“We are implementing a pilot project at the gas separation of Kazanorgsintez, are working on the introduction at the Ethylene Plant of Nizhnekamskneftekhim, and a lot of work has been done with TANECO as part of the construction of new production facilities," he said, adding that the technologies were tested at the catalytic cracking unit of the Moscow Refinery.

According to him, industrial autonomy means the capacity of the system to make the right decisions independently, adapting to changing external market conditions and the state of the equipment. “These technologies are particularly relevant during the pandemic. They give the opportunity to work from home or from the office, but without contact with people, without the risk of getting sick and losing the capacity to work," he explained.

“Our companies successfully cooperate with Yokogawa," said Rustam Minnikhanov. “The issue of autonomy and reliability of production comes to the fore. We need modern developments in the field of automation, and we are ready to implement them.”

“If you need paper, get a diploma”

The subsequent discussion would probably frighten progressive Japanese who do not know Russian realities. The acting rector of the Kazan National Research Technological University (KNRTU), Yury Kazakov, told how to prepare specialists for industrial safety and proposed to create a special centre. “Education is conducted in the following way: “You need paper — get a diploma”, “training for tests”, which is similar to “trading diplomas”," he said. According to him, the trainees do not see the actual production, do not know how outdated the production is, which is a real security threat.

Kazakov proposed to include in the training consortium the Kazan National Research Technological University (KNRTU), Kazan University of Architecture and Engineering (KGASU), and Kazan State Power Engineering University (KGEU), which should provide not only knowledge in this field but also special work permits while still studying at the university.

Minnikhanov agreed that this niche is occupied by various companies. “It is wrong to cooperate with “shady companies” that “sell diplomas” in the field of industrial security," the president said during the meeting and advised to make sure that students receive work permits during their studies.

Alexander Babynin, the director general of Orgneftekhim-holding, spoke about digital technologies in oil refining, thus earning praise from the head of Tatneft. “Earlier, we used to use scraps of paper for construction and design, but now it's in the past. We will continue to cooperate with Orgneftekhim at TANECO, but they need a larger market for greater profitability," Maganov said. Rustam Minnikhanov recommended promoting the company in the Russian markets, including low- and medium-tonnage chemicals.

By Luiza Ignatyeva

Подписывайтесь на телеграм-канал, группу «ВКонтакте» и страницу в «Одноклассниках» «Реального времени». Ежедневные видео на Rutube, «Дзене» и Youtube.