President October 2017

Presence and leadership

Showing commitment to Japan

This month’s BCCJ ACUMEN is the last for British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ) members before the 10th annual British Business Awards (BBA) on 2 November. Thanks again to the generous support of the headline sponsor, Jaguar Land Rover Japan Limited, the BBA promises to be the highlight of the BCCJ calendar once more.

Taking place in the afterglow of summit meetings between the British and Japanese Prime Ministers Theresa May and Shinzo Abe, respectively, the 2017 BBA is a unique opportunity for BCCJ members to make visible their leadership and presence in the Japanese market, as well as their commitment to UK–Japan business excellence and success. Those who have booked tables will benefit from the undivided attention of their invited clients, colleagues and stakeholders for four hours in the outstanding surroundings of the Grand Hyatt Tokyo’s newly refurbished ballroom.

As the BCCJ approaches its 70th anniversary, I am confident there will be many more BBAs to come. The 10th anniversary, though, comes at a time when the UK is boldly reaffirming its commitment to a strong bilateral relationship with Japan, and its unwavering desire to cement shared interests and values with ever greater investment and trade.

The position of the UK and Japanese governments is clear, and I am delighted that many BCCJ members are taking this BBA as a timely opportunity to show their presence in, and commitment to, the Japan market.

Sharing success
Whilst the BBA is a superb opportunity to entertain and network, its primary goal is to showcase the achievements of firms and individuals that are making an excellent contribution to UK–Japan business. The sharing of success stories, however, is something on which anglophiles could improve.

No one can fail to be impressed by the 600kph test speeds achieved in Japan by the Central Japan Railway Company’s magnetic levitation (maglev) train, but how many people recall that the world’s first commercial maglev transport system was opened in 1984 in Birmingham?

Although considerably more sedate than Japan’s engineering marvel, Birmingham’s historic maglev connection was, and should remain, a reminder that the UK has long been an incubator for some of the world’s most impactful technologies.

Other examples include graphene, the ultra-light, ultra-tough (200 times stronger than steel) material first isolated by researchers at the University of Manchester, and the world-leading studies at the University of Sheffield into small modular reactors, which have the potential to revolutionise the engineering and economics of nuclear power generation.

New ideas
Beyond the nurturing of technology, Britain also has a fine reputation for the early adoption of innovative ideas. Take, for example, Costcutter Supermarkets Group Limited, which recently became the world’s first retailer to trial 3D finger vein recognition to authenticate payments, a technology originally developed by Hitachi, Ltd. and used in banking by Barclays Bank PLC.

I of course cannot guarantee that any of this year’s BBA winners will revolutionise the way we live our lives or do business. But day-to-day, however, they deserve our plaudits and, most importantly, our recognition for their tenacious pursuit of excellence in their own area of UK–Japan commerce. With that in mind, I very much look forward to seeing you on 2 November.