President July / Aug 2020

Are you ready for an even more digital world?

At the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ) Digital General Meeting that took place last month, I had the honour of reporting on the state of the chamber. This included a summary of operations and achieve­­­ments during the year ended 31 March, and a reminder of BCCJ objectives. As described else­­where in this issue of ACUMEN, the chamber aims to promote the proliferation of tech­nology and inno­va­tion, responsi­­ble business, and more diverse and inclusive workplaces.

Projects in motion

In practice, we often see these objectives comple­ment each other through collaboration between Japanese and UK firms—especially with respect to tech­nology, innovation and responsible business. This is parti­cularly the case with commer­cial initia­tives that could contribute to the UK govern­ment’s goal of net-zero green­house gas emissions by 2050. Recent examples include UK investments by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Engineering, Ltd. (MHI) and Hitachi Rail.

In the case of MHI, the Japanese firm will pilot its bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) technology at UK Drax Group’s power station in Selby. The biomass-fuelled power station is the biggest renewable power generator in the UK and the largest decarbonisation project in Europe. According to Drax, implementation of BECCS could deliver 16mn tonnes of negative emissions per year—a major contri­bution to clean growth, which is one of the Grand Challenges set out in the UK’s Industrial Strategy.

In separate news, Hitachi Rail and the UK’s Hyperdrive Innovation have announced an agree­­ment to develop battery packs to power zero-emission trains. This initiative will create a battery manufacturing hub in the north-east of England, reinforcing the UK’s battery supply chain and contri­buting to another of the Grand Challenges: that of future mobility, using tech­nology to enable flexible, environmen­tally friendly and less-congested transport systems.


Continuing the technology theme, the BCCJ hosted an important webinar on 9 July to discuss cyber risk, featuring Cartan McLaughlin and Tomomi Aoyama of Nihon Cyber Defence, and John Noble CBE of NHS Digital (former director of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre). The session was moderated by Tetsuya Kodama, Japan chairman of Barclays Bank plc.

In a process intensified by Covid-19, rapid dig­italisation is wrapping information tech­nology into an increasing number of core business processes. This, in turn, increases the potential risk of severe operational disruption in the event of a cyber-attack. The increasing sophistication of mali­cious tools in the hands of hackers has provided them with new ways to target corporations. This includes the power to lock down business systems pending payment of a ransom. Although potentially dependent on cutting-edge technologies, this is a crudely effective method of extortion, and a form of coercion that few businesses (once ensnared) may be able to resist.

As firms use the experience of Covid-19 to reflect on the efficacy of disaster- and crisis-response plans, it is important they improve their ability to guard against the evolving threat of cyber-attack—not only through the use of technology to protect from the threat itself, but also in terms of their ability to respond to and recover from the consequences of a successful attack. In an increasingly volatile and uncertain world, thinking the unthinkable (and planning how to react) is a best practice we all need to develop—and quickly.