Award For Academic Startups ceremony held at Innovation Japan gathering in Tokyo


This is a guest post authored by “Tex” Pomeroy. He is a Tokyo-based writer specializing in ICT and high technology.

L to R: Takashi Azuma (Prof. of Mechanobio Engineering, the University of Tokyo), Shiho Azuma (CEO of Lily MedTech), Shuichi Matsuda (Chair of Award Selection Committee / Prof. Emeritus, Waseda University)

The Award for Academic Startups, marking its fourth year, held its presentation ceremony at Tokyo Big Sight’s East Hall 1 on the opening day of “Innovation Japan.” The annual two-day event is sponsored by the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) in cooperation with the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). The 2017 ceremony in particular was special in that the award category came to include an “Early Edge” Award which is for startups that had been launched within the last three years and headed by someone aged 30 years old or younger.

The winner of this newly-instituted award was Lily MedTech, headed by Shiho Azuma with support provided by the University of Tokyo. The firm is offering a system for an easier-to-use breast cancer screening based on research results from JST’s Center Of Innovation program. The fact that the young lady CEO’s mother had passed away from breast cancer added extra weight to the need to promote this new technology. Conventional screening methods are detested by women despite the fact that it is a prevalent form of cancer which can be life-threatening.

There are some two thousand university-linked startups in Japan but the country is still far behind the US for example in terms of robustness and vigor for this category of startups. The Award for Academic Startups looks to find and highlight technologies based on “own ground” research and development rather than relying on non-Japanese work. Minister Motoo Hayashi in charge of the industry portfolio were among the dignitaries in attendance at the ceremony this year.

Cyfuse Biomedical presented their proprietary 3D bio-printing technology.

Other awards, categorized after the heads of JST, NEDO and the Japan Venture Society as well as the ministers in charge of Education/Science & Technology and of Economy, Trade & Industry, were given to such medical field startups like ORTHOreBIRTH which in tandem with Nagoya Institute of Technology produced an artifical sponge-like bone product – cleared by FDA for use in the United States – as well as Cyfuse Biomedical, along with Saga University, realizing 3D printing of blood vessels and internal organs.

Of interest for me were the power device development plans announced by FLOSFIA as backed by Kyoto University and the University of Tokyo’s Edge Capital plus the development of a new transparent (thermal) insulation material (called SUFA) by tiem factory utilizing Kyoto University research findings and working with materials company YKK AP. The remaining award was given to the University of Tokyo-affiliated PKSHA Technology using an algorithm for furthering Deep Learning.

Benjamin Joffe from Shenzhen-based accelerator HAX shared the latest trends in hardware startups.