• Osaka chamber, UKTI key players
• Bilateral project drew 12 UK firms
• Inspired reverse trade mission
• Contracts signed, funding secured
It all began in July 2011. An invitation was extended by the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry asking that four or five firms visit in January 2012 to showcase advanced UK technology.
We at Electronics Link Asia responded by partnering with the National Microelectronics Institute (NMI), a trade association representing the British electronics systems, microelectronics and semiconductor communities.
NMI helped promote the project and recruit other British firms. Meanwhile, UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) supported the mission in both countries, greatly helping by securing the ambassador’s residence as a location for the event.
We then began reaching out to our own contacts and leads from UKTI. Our goal was to recruit a major firm that would capture the attention of the Japanese and communicate the importance of the project. Reaching the right contacts in Japanese firms was key, since it would be the primary reason that people would join the mission.
Our plan was successful, in part due to the support of ARM Holdings, a leading semiconductor intellectual property supplier. Lance Howarth, executive vice-president, was dispatched to help promote the mission. ARM gave the keynote speech at the event.
The spirit of cooperation among the mission’s members greatly contributed to its success. As members introduced the project to other firms, they spawned the development of a representative UK technology team.
The mission took place in Osaka and Tokyo during the week from 31 January 2012 and comprised 12 firms, namely, ARM, Neul Ltd., Nexeon Limited, Software Imaging, XMOS Ltd, XJTAG Ltd., Test and Verification Solutions, SDL Plc, DigIN Corp, Nallatech, Oxford Digital and Scottish Development International.
Together with UKTI, we came up with the theme “UK Technology for the Next Generation”, which was well suited, given the participants.
One of the firms recommended by ARM was Cambridge-based Neul. The organisation offers next-generation networks using TV white space, the ultra high frequency radio spectrum that has become available since the demise of analog TV. The white space will be a major enabler for the Internet of Things and for providing emerging economies with online access.
Corporate Vice-President Business Development Tracy Hopkins was keen to participate in the mission to raise key Japanese market players’ awareness of Neul. The mission helped facilitate a major coup for the firm, which secured equity funding and attracted the interest of Mitsui & Co. Global Investment Ltd.
“We are very pleased to have the honour of a Japanese investor and cannot express enough how we appreciated the support of the embassy and, of course, the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry in facilitating out first contact with Mitsui & Co. in Osaka. The mission really took us to the next level in Japan”, Hopkins said.
Chief Executive Officer Scott Brown represented Nexeon, which is a leader in the technology market in the area of silicon anodes for lithium-ion batteries.
Nexeon used the embassy’s Overseas Market Introduction Service to meet new suppliers. “We have successfully completed phase two of our joint development agreement with the automotive firm and just signed [an agreement] with a tier-one battery firm. Both are Japanese but cannot be named”, Brown said.
We also felt the need to involve some key firms from Bristol in the mission, as many semiconductor-related enterprises have originated there.
NMI arranged a meeting with Professor David May FRS, founder of Bristol’s XMOS, a parallel processor firm. The firm agreed to send its executive vice-president, a step that emphasised the British firm’s influence in the field of next-generation processors.
Another firm making headway in Japan was Oxford-based Software Imaging. With 25 years’ experience in printing, this enterprise offers print anywhere software.
The mission soon bore fruit for the firm. In June an announcement was made that NEC Corporation would start shipping its Android tablets equipped with Software Imaging’s DirectOffice™ Mobile Print solution.
“We had the technology needed, and the embassy brought the firms that we needed”, said Software Imaging’s Chief Executive Officer Peter Lismer, adding, “It was a great success. There are other [potential deals] we are also working on from that mission that have not matured yet, so we expect still more [business]”.
As a follow-up to the mission, the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry visited the UK on 19 September last year.
The business-to-business mission, involving industry organisations from both countries, was a major success, and was magnificently supported by the British Embassy Tokyo and the British Consulate-General in Osaka.