A revolutionary discovery of high-temperature superconductivity was a result of a fortunate turn of events. However, after a boom and race involving the best scientific teams focused on the discovery, a period of disappointment followed. This resulted from the realization of the complex challenges and barriers in its practical application. After many meticulous efforts to overcome these problems by several companies, Faraday Factor Japan LLC (FFJ) came into play. The startup was founded by Sergey Lee in 2011 and over time, it transformed into a leader in the field.
In the present day, there are nearly five to six companies across the world capable of producing and selling second-generation high-temperature superconducting (2G HTS) tapes in significant quantities. Faraday Factory Japan LLC is the recognized leader in the production as well as sales of the tape, which is due to several reasons. For starters, the properties of the company’s tapes, particularly in strong magnetic fields, surpass what other companies offer. Besides, it presently has the largest production capacity and highly ambitious plans for expansion.
Hence, some of Faraday’s competitors are unable to participate in supply tenders when projects require large volumes of tape. Additionally, Lee says, “Our vast production volumes allow us to minimize production costs, thus offering a lower price compared to competitors. In the end, only the price/quality ratio will determine who will dominate this market.”
Faraday strives to offer all its clients, regardless of their order volume, the maximum possible options for delivery, payment, and customization terms.
In 2018, representatives of a USA based startup company approached Faraday and demonstrated the technical requirements for a tape without which it was impossible to implement their project technically. They requested the same from other companies in the field as well. Sergey Lee shares, “At that moment, these requirements almost doubled the best properties of tapes obtained in research experiments, let alone industrial samples. The amount of tape needed for their prospective project to create a prototype device greatly exceeded the annual total production capacity of all companies worldwide.”
Almost nobody believed then that it would be possible to meet such requirements within a reasonable timeframe. However, FFJ was firm in its decision to work toward it. Within six months, the team conducted intense research and was able to propose a product, which outpaced all competitors. Consequently, the company managed to obtain and fulfill the largest order ever.
As the first phase of the project was completed, the USA based company attracted hundreds of millions of dollars from private investors and started a second phase, where FFJ was selected as a major supplier of HTS tapes. Such effort and attention resulted in Faraday becoming the industry leader.
Sergey Lee says, “Our goal is to make HTS tape affordable and available – just in time to enable multiple disruptive projects in industries like compact fusion, low-loss transmission, lightweight wind generators, aerospace, healthcare, and scientific instrumentation. To do this, we develop new approaches to HTS tape production through R&D for advanced pulsed laser deposition (PLD) process, smart organization, and economy of scale.”
In 2011, at the company’s inception, the key technological stages of tape production were developed, which were majorly funded by national projects. Sergey Lee shares, “Several alternative approaches to superconductor deposition were proposed: pulsed laser deposition-PLD, solution-based deposition methods like MOD, gas phase deposition methods like MOCVD and RCE, and more.”
New companies had either been already created or new divisions were being established within large companies, each betting on the development of the method that seemed the most promising to them. Since the pros and cons of every method were unclear, every business in the industry was taking risks. Moreover, other factors like the market prospects of the materials, and production cost estimates were vague, needless to mention the indefinite nature of the customers ready to buy the tape.
Even in such enigmatic times, Sergey Lee was fortunate to meet an investor named Andrey Vavilov. He comprehended the potential of these materials greatly and saw that the proposed PLD technology was highly promising and could be scaled up. The past 12 years are proof that he was right to decide that.
Sergey Lee believes that among all companies presently working in the second-generation superconductor market, Faraday possesses a set of unique advantages that make the company stand out. He further believes that the credit majorly goes to the team. All the key employees – members of the board of directors – are specialists in the field of superconductivity and have worked in it for several decades.
Additionally, several employees have graduated from the same university, which means they have friendly relations besides professional ones. Sergey says, “We all started working hands-on, and to this day, we ourselves make all crucial technical and scientific decisions. At the same time, over the years, we have gained practical experience in business, management, and finance.”
The management team has succeeded in deeply understanding the technical aspects of production and believing that superconductors are materials capable of changing the world and have no alternatives. In fact, it is not just business for the Faraday team, it is their passion. Further, such a leadership style is maintained where all decisions are made as quickly as possible. Besides, personal responsibility for the decisions made is highly encouraged.
Considering the extent to which the employees play a key role in its success and uniqueness, the company strives to transfer the approach to the younger generation of managers and employees. What’s more, the staff composition of Faraday is remarkable. Lee says, “Alongside professionals and holders of doctoral degrees, we hire people with no technical education, housewives, retirees, students, young families with small children, etc. They all integrate into the overall process, go through the production cycle, and stay where they can bring the most benefit to the company.”
Faraday also has a team of diverse employees, wherein the majority of them are foreigners who have decided to spend the rest of their lives in Japan. The company employs representatives from 12 nations and strives to leverage all their strong national traits while simultaneously creating an atmosphere where every employee feels as comfortable as possible.
Last but not least, Faraday’s uniqueness is marked by the awards it has received over the years. These include Top 500 High-Growth Company in Asia-Pacific region 2021 and 2022 (Financial Times, Nikkei, Statista); Most Inspiring CEO from Japan Fostering a Culture of Innovations in 2023 (APAC Entrepreneur); and 2023 IEEE Dr. James Wong Award for Continuing and Significant Contributions to Applied Superconductivity Materials Technology.
The company’s tape production volume from its inception till today has seen exponential growth, which is typical for explosive growth and demand. FFJ does not see any reason for such growth to slow down. In fact, based on its forecasts, it is assumed that the need for the tape will augment a minimum of tenfold over the next five years. Based on these predictions, the company is further investing in the expansion of its production capacity.
Sergey Lee says, “In our market assessments, we believe that out of the multitude of potential projects currently in execution or planning stages, only a few might become successful. The landscape could significantly shift in a positive direction if one of the current projects, such as a compact fusion reactor, proves successful.” In such a situation, estimates may change and substantially outdo the forecasts.
It is beyond dispute that the superconducting materials have no alternatives. Sooner or later, they will have to be used to build a new technological society.
Pull Quote: “Our goal is to make 2G HTS tapes affordable and available – just in time to enable multiple disruptive projects in industries like compact fusion, low-loss transmission, lightweight wind generators, aerospace, healthcare, and scientific instrumentation.”
Description of the Company: Faraday Factory Japan LLC is a company making high quality 2G HTS tapes available and affordable for zero-carbon technologies.
Company Name: Faraday Factory Japan LLC
Founding Year: 2011
Office Locations: Sagamihara, Hachioji and Zama cities at Kanagawa prefecture, Japan
Official Website of the Company: www.faradaygroup.com
Name of the Featured Leader: Sergey Lee
Designation of the Leader: Chief Executive Office and Founder