Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was in Tokyo this May, in advance of his visit to Hiroshima for the G7 Leader’s Summit. He addressed an exclusive business reception hosted by the British Embassy Tokyo and Department of Business and Trade. It was an opportunity to celebrate the success of a number of UK companies in Japan, and to announce that major Japanese companies are investing nearly £18 million into businesses and projects across the UK.
The Prime Minister acknowledged the great strides taken by UK companies investing in the Japanese economy. Octopus Energy, Mott MacDonald and Leonardo were namechecked for announcing major contracts. Further to these substantial inroads into the Japanese market, Sunak referred to the great work of British start-ups and scale-ups announcing new partnerships and offices in Japan.
Octopus Energy announced its commitment to invest £1.5 billion in the Asia-Pacific energy market by 2027, helping speed up the region’s transition to a cleaner, smarter energy system. Octopus will also commit £300m to expand its tech innovation and energy retail hub in Tokyo. This will enable the business to increase its headcount tenfold by 2027, creating 1,000 green jobs for UK and local talent.
“International cooperation is the key to creating an energy transition which benefits consumers and economies as well as the climate. Our partnership with Tokyo Gas has grown ever stronger and I’m delighted to be bringing even more investment to Japan and into the UK.”
Greg Jackson, Founder of Octopus Energy Group
Building on the UK’s expertise in offshore wind, UK consultancy Mott MacDonald has secured a major contract to help develop a state-of-the-art offshore wind farm in Kitakyushu, western Japan that could power more than 1756,000 homes with clean energy.
“This successful milestone achievement reinforces the confidence in the potential of the Japanese offshore wind market. The opportunities for collaboration across borders and the continued projection of our industry leading capabilities to continue the growth of engineering talent in Japan is incredibly exciting. The growth of our UK / Japanese offshore wind capability enables us to continue our support to wider Japanese clients as they continue their investments into the UK offshore wind market.”
Osamu Ohta, country manager, Japan at Mott MacDonald
The UK has stepped up its defence cooperation with Japan. In line with this, Somerset-based helicopter manufacturer Leonardo UK in partnership with Kawasaki Heavy Industries has been contracted to provide further world-class naval helicopters and Mid Life Upgrade kits for the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force, in a deal worth around over £150 million in exports.
As well as announcements from these larger established UK companies, the Prime Minister acknowledged the success of UK Start-ups and SMEs in gaining traction in the Japanese marketplace. Making particular reference to Winnow, Transreport and Oxentia.
Founded in London in 2013 with a mission to tackle emerging concern about food waste. There is an estimated $1 trillion worth of food wasted each year. With an estimated $100bn per year of this in hospitality and catering sectors, it seemed a sensible place to start.
Winnow’s solution is fill the data gap in recording and forecasting food waste with tech. Moving from an IoT solution in 2017, an AI-equipped system with a built-in motion-detecting camera totals food residues by foodstuff item. The system calculates disposal costs, the number of meals that can be reduced and the amount of CO2 emission.
Firms using the Winnow technology make changes based on the terminal’s report, and users would expect to cut their costs by 3-8% and greenhouse gas emissions by 10%. Winnows contract with IKEA has shown to have cut food waste by half where implemented.
Winnow launched in Japan in 2019 through Hilton, where they have been able to cut food waste 60%. They are currently scaling up with Hilton to operate in all their managed properties by 2024. The support Winnow receives through global clients has the benefit of bringing the technology to new international markets. As well as being picked up by other hospitality giants like IHG/ANA, they continue to expand internationally with IKEA – with up to 2 systems in each of IKEA Japan’s 12 sites. They are also a Certified B Corporation
Transreport is the technology company behind the Passenger Assistance app, which rolled out across the entire UK Rail Network since 2021. Using this technology, passengers can book assistance, communicate their access needs, make seat reservations, and provide feedback on service levels for the journeys they make.
With an estimated 37 million people in Japan requiring assistance when travelling, Passenger Assistance has the potential to make a significant difference to disabled and older passengers.
Collaborating with Hankyu Railways (Hankyu Hanshin Holdings), they are expanding into supporting travel assistance for the disabled and older people in Japan.
The partnership also highlights the trust that Japanese railway companies have in Transreport to support their rail services – Japan has almost four times as many rail stations and 15 times more rail passengers annually than the UK. There are around 2,600-2,700 rail stations in the UK while Japan has over 9,700 with the country seeing around 25 billion rail journeys annually, compared to the UK’s 1.7 billion.
“We’re thrilled to be working with Japan’s prestigious and forward-thinking rail network and we’re proud to have been chosen by Hankyu Corporation to help transform the travel experience for millions of people. Our aim is to make travel accessible for everyone and this partnership takes us one step closer to achieving that goal.”
Jay Shen, Founder and CEO of Transreport
Emerging in 2017 from the technology transfer company of The University of Oxford, Oxford University Innovation, Oxentia Ltd is an innovation management consultancy providing training and support to clients throughout the world, helping them bring new ideas to life.
Their first interaction with Japanese organizations came in the mid-2010s, when a large research-intensive conglomerate (Kawasaki) sought support in finding new technologies to help with a future strategic development.
Oxentia have supported universities to commercialise early-stage inventions and research outputs as well as going on to support their proof-of-concept initiatives. More recently, they have run short accelerator programs supporting early-stage enterprises as well as those at the pre-incorporation stage, to refine their value propositions, towards securing investment and other support from larger established companies.
Over the past decade, Oxentia have worked with some of the most innovative companies and institutions in Japan (including Shionogi, Daiichi Sankyo, Takeda, Ono, Honda, Mitsui Chemicals, Mitsubishi, Kawasaki, NGK, and the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST)).
On the day before the Prime Ministers announcement, May 17th, Oxentia were proud to announce the opening of Oxentia Japan Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Oxentia Ltd, providing a local base from which to build closer ties with existing clients, and establish relationships with new clients
“We are excited about the opportunities and challenges of doing more business in Japan. Japanese companies are always looking for new ways to innovate and stay ahead of the competition, and increasingly recognise the value of collaborating with international partners to achieve their goals.”
Steve Cleverley, CEO of Oxentia
Investment announcements included:
Marubeni Corporation announcing approximately £10bn investment into the UK, including for offshore wind in Scotland and green hydrogen projects in Wales and Scotland.
Sumitomo Corp announcing £4bn investment into offshore wind projects.
£2bn from Mitsubishi Estate Co., Ltd. and over £1.5bn invested by Mitsui Fudosan in affordable housing, high quality office space and a life-science laboratory in London.
Sumitomo Electric Industries will build a strategically important high voltage cable manufacturing plant in the Scottish Highlands, bringing more than £200m investment.
Toshiba will expand operations at their Cambridge Laboratory, which is designing advanced quantum-safe cryptographic communication solutions.
The Prime Minister’s confirmation of the UK’s strong relationship with Japan, along with the momentum from of the UK accession to the CPTPP, and the support offered by the UK Government and Export to Japan, highlights that there is no better time than now for UK companies to consider selling and partnering with Japan.