This is a guest post authored by “Tex” Pomeroy. He is a Tokyo-based writer specializing in ICT and high technology.
Many startups in Japan are exhibiting their products and services with the arrival of fall, when many major exhibitions are being held throughout Japan. The characteristic this year of the exhibitions seem to be the closer cooperation and industrial crossovers between the various sectors. It is thought that in reflection of the networks that are developing around the world by the day the “niche-ness” of the past, especially for Japanese startups, may be overcome.
For example on October 2, the Edo/Tokyo Comprehensive Skills and Techno Exhibition supported by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government was held at Tokyo International Forum. In past years, many “niche” companies from industrial areas in Tokyo were gathered here but this year saw many Tokyo firms joining forces with those from other prefectures as well as abroad. In highlighting the move, a super-compact electric vehicle maker whose product is later being showcased at the Tokyo Motor Show and a humanoid robot startup supported by Osaka University took center stage.
Exhibitors of interest included a Fukushima-focused group of companies working to expand cooperation between agricultural products providers and small trading houses, a Saitama outfit looking to expand business overseas with “boutique trading support”, and a Yokosuka Research Park (YRP) IoT (Internet of Things) endeavor aiming to spawn actual applications of YRP-IoT technologies among others.
Also opening the second week of October is CEATEC, the consumer electronics confab supported by the Japanese electronics industry. This year, it is cooperating closely with the Tokyo Motor Show in a first such attempt, along with hosting a hackathon event jointly with Nomura Research Institute in trying to realize IoT applications by stimulating such efforts by startups. They will also hold a “Space Robot Contest” with an eye to space development activities gaining support from the electronics sector.
In parallel, other startups in Japan took part in La French Tech, which brought many French startups to Tokyo to present their wares. The Japanese firms were keenly interested in cooperating with business expansion efforts by such companies involved in health/sports and the environment not to mention manufacturing. Although the French firms still tend to prefer “marketing individually” as opposed to attending exhibitions there were notable exceptions.
Of particular interest was BeAM (which stands for “Be Additive Manufacturing”) that had its CEO appear in Tokyo, in advance to having his engineers attend the Tokyo Motor Show in a few weeks’ time; the company’s strength is being able to use metal lasering tech for its 3D printers. Looking to market aggressively as well were companies like IDEOL selling floating platforms for wind power generators and Natural Grass, started by a former Rothschild banker, offering “manufactured turf grass” seen being usable for sport fields as well as for “greening” of buildings.
As for other European companies such as those from UK, Ireland or Norway, CEATEC was set forth as “testing ground” for their products. IoT seems to the “promising sector” for UK and Irish startups, while a chat with Nordic Semiconductor indicated field applications research in Japan to be a priority in their Asia-Pacific strategy. Regarding US firms, the CPS IoT standards for lower power consumption being pushed by industry members in conjunction with the International Energy Agency (IEA) – to realize “Energy Efficient End-use Equipment” – was seen as an impetus for venture businesses to enter the sector.
Japanese startups like Emotion Intelligence, Increments, and Repro took part in La French Tech. For the readers’ information, 2015 is “France Japan Innovation Year” and the French government has been vigorously assisting collaboration by French and Japanese firms.