Wind and solar power generation in rural Japan

Eight years ago, the Fukushima nuclear disaster left an unimaginable trail of destruction in Japan and with a raging controversy over its nuclear energy on which it is highly dependent. Owing to the closure of many plants, the country significantly increased its energy imports and started to face the uncomfortable situation of being too dependent on fossil fuels coming from overseas. As the prices of energy soared and investments in renewable energy took a slow pace, the government started to set up a strategy for sustainable energy.

If there is ever a positive outcome from disasters, the Fukushima case which has resulted in the development of a plan to attract new, clean and secure alternative sources to Japan, stands as a good example. A year ago, still suffering from the consequences of the nuclear accident, the Japanese government announced a Strategic Energy Plan which set the goal to increase self-sufficient energy rate from 8% in 2016 to 24% in 2030.

With this plan, renewable energy will be pivotal. Knowing that the Paris Agreement commitments made by Japan limit the consumption of fossil fuels, the government will support other renewable sources, along with energy-saving programs, including solar and wind power. Large scale solar is still costly and unstable and the government is pushing for more technological innovation to turn it into a feasible alternative. Wind power is less expensive, but is not ideal in some regions of Japan, as the windiest regions are far away from the most energy-consuming territories, which would require the building of transmission lines and storage batteries.

While Japan invests in more sustainable options, fossil fuels and nuclear plants will still be part of the country’s energy mix. However, the plan stated that the government will promote efficiency and new generation power plants to minimize the environmental load in the long-run. The energy market was liberalized in 2016, when the government wanted to implement reforms that would not only enable better integration of renewable power generation but also an effective supply and demand ratio.

The next phase of the plan will take place in 2020 – power sector reforms and regulation will be implemented to make the energy market more open, competitive and supportive of renewable energy companies.

Want to know more about Japan, the host country of SIGEF 2019? Follow our posts on Horyou blog.

SIGEF 2019 will take place in Tokyo on 18-19 September.

Known for its ageing population as well as its disruptive technology, Japan is compelled to invest in MedTech

MedTech is a promising revolution in Japan

With a quarter of its nationals over 65 years old, Japan’s is the oldest world population; hence, the resulting demographic gap is a constant preoccupation for its government, as birth rates are steadily low and immigration is difficult due to cultural and administrative barriers. The ‘generational’ challenge has reached a key level: while in the foreseeable future a growing number of elderly people will require more care, there will just not be enough caretakers.

As the healthcare system is facing ever-stronger financial and social pressure, the development of innovative MedTech alternative solutions is critical to address the issue. Which is why research in fields including artificial intelligence and virtual reality is topping the priority list of innovators, as well as corporations and investors.

According to a recent McKinsey report, MedTech may not only help solve healthcare problems but also induce more competitivity and productivity in the country. After all, Japan is the third largest medical device producer globally, though it is still struggling to be among the most innovative technology-driven ones. Capital is available – Japanese companies hold an estimated US$ 2,4 trillion in cash, just waiting to find the right investment.

Over three-quarters of the top 20 largest companies in Japan are already investing or making acquisitions in the sector. In the last few years, alongside the major automotive industry giants, blue chip corporations including Canon, Konica and Nikon have invested billions in healthcare technology.

While the market has been moving, other stakeholders are pushing forward their Research and Development policies in order to build resources for the upcoming MedTech revolution. Initiatives like Japan Biodesign, a medtech fellowship program which gather universities to support aspiring innovators, and the Japan Organization for Medical Device Development (JOMDD), a private venture firm and incubator focused in medtech projects, are only two examples of the efforts that many actors are now putting into the sector.

Yet, there are some challenges the MedTech revolution has to overcome before it turns into reality. Most importantly, Japan, where failure is not an option, must significantly foster and stimulate entrepreneurial spirit, without which no new business can survive and succeed.

MedTech is one of the main topics of discussion at SIGEF, the Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum, which will take place in Tokyo on 18-19 September, 2019. Want to know more about this game changing event? Click here to register!

The Japanese Capital supports startups, public policies and innovative ideas to help solve the transportation challenge

Each day, 20 million commuters leave their houses to go to work in one of the trains of Tokyo’s metropolitan area. The figure is impressive, and it represents only a part of the challenge that the city, which is home to more than 13 million people, is facing. Yet, Tokyo also has one of the most efficient and innovative transportation systems in the world, which places it in the smart cities’ Olympus.

Thus not surprisingly, Tokyo will be hosting the Summer Olympic Games next year, and the Japanese authorities are making important efforts to improve intramuros mobility. Since planning is key, a few years ago the government started to stimulate and support innovative projects which would bring greener and smarter solutions to that particular challenge.

The results are already showing: projects like “Condition-Based Maintenance” use Internet of Things (IoT) technology to collect and analyze data pertaining to the Yamanote Line, one of the busiest train rings in Tokyo, in order to forecast failures and identify weaknesses, and hence to reduce the need for maintenance closures. The city has also set a bold objective in terms of the environmental impact of its transportation system: bring down carbon dioxide emissions to 25 percent by next year.

The entrepreneurial landscape is also bustling in Tokyo, as projects like autonomous driving, transportation apps and shared mobility start to flourish. Even private companies from traditional industries like Mori, an urban developer based in Tokyo, are investing in on-demand transit technologies for its employees. By using a mobile app which calculates and optimizes commuting routes, they can share cars and give rides.

A recent McKinsey report has calculated that the taxi market alone accounts for more than USD$17 billion, which has attracted companies like Uber but also caught the attention of other investors. Last year, the city’s first autonomous taxi was launched as a pilot project, which is intended to be fully operative during the Olympic Games. Financed by the metropolitan government, the project is projected to be affordable and safe with sensor-equipped vehicles that operate in full autonomy while a driver is at the wheel to attend to emergencies.

Smart transportation is one of the major investments in Japan, as the country faces a series of demographic and economic shifts, requiring new solutions and regulations. Air mobility is another one. Japan is an insulated country with restricted land mobility. Via its Future 2018 Investment Strategy, the Japanese government has set up a roadmap for the development of flying vehicles, which has already attracted several startups and innovative minds.

Are you interested in Smart Technology, Mobility and Smart Cities? Register for SIGEF, the Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum, which will be held in Tokyo on 18-19 September 2019. Experts, officials and entrepreneurs from all over the world will discuss new trends in transportation and disruptive technologies for the future of our cities.

For decades, Japan has been known for its solid, predictable financial landscape built on aversion to risk and long-term returns. As a result, according to a Deloitte report, it’s been striving to attract investors and venture capitalists. Yet, in the last few years, the Japanese have been facing a much-welcomed revolution caused by fintech, a market that, in 2021, will be 15 times bigger than it was in 2015. The reason is that the fintech scene has been evolving thanks to a few factors that are key to the success of entrepreneurs in the country:

Photo: Miyabi Inoue

Support from the government – The Japanese Ministry of Economy understands that emergent fintech companies will bring innovation, competitiveness and jobs. In a recent publication, the ministry commits to a more modern regulatory framework, promoting such innovations as application programming interfaces (API) and Blockchain and electronic data exchange (EDI), especially among small and medium-size companies.

New regulation – In March 2019, the Japanese authorities set new rules for the Blockchain and fintech markets, offering more security and transparency to investors. The government is also studying new regulations for banks, which would potentially help new competitors, especially the ones involved with emerging technologies.

A strong ecosystem – Recently-founded associations such as Fintech Association of Japan and hubs like Finolab are helping to create a strong ecosystem of companies, united to learn from and help each other.

Investors – Japan is one of the most important business & tech hubs of Asia, as well as a safe haven for low-interest rates seekers. It is also a forward-thinking country known for its innovative companies. These unique characteristics attract investors who are looking for disruptive but safe projects to fund.

Want to know more about Japan, the host country of SIGEF 2019? Follow our posts on Horyou blog.

SIGEF 2019 will take place in Tokyo on 18-19 September.

Tokyo will host the next SIGEF as it plans to become an example of sustainability by 2020

Tokyo is the host city of the 6th edition of SIGEF

Tokyo wants to set a good example for the world. As it braces to host the 2019’s edition of SIGEF, the Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum, the city is aiming to reach the highest standards of sustainability by 2020, when it will also host the Olympic and Paralympic Games. With its ‘Be Better Together – For the Planet and For the People’ slogan, Tokyo is indeed committed to develop sustainable solutions and showcase them to the world.

The Olympics are not the only reason the city is heavily investing in sustainability. 2020 is indeed the final date for a 7-year plan whereby the Japanese government aims to make Tokyo the ‘world’s most environmentally-friendly low-carbon city’. Part of the transformation includes the revitalization of the urban area while surrounding the city with water and greenery.

The initiatives are broad and they resonate with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In addition to promoting ideas like zero waste and reducing carbon consumption, the city shall otherwise rely on technology to make the 2020 Games a landmark in sustainable management. One of the projects includes fuel cell vehicles and renewable energy (see image). The city wants to equalize the greenhouse gas emissions by stimulating public transportation, reusing water and recycling not only waste but also buildings – the plan includes using existing venues and avoiding building new ones.

These are some of 2020 Tokyo Olympics goals

The 2020 plan also includes:

– Creating more than 500 hectares of new green space in the city

– Ending free distribution of plastic shopping bags

– Equipping metro facilities with 100% LED lighting

– Using recycled metal for the production of all the medals for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo Medal Project)

– Equipping the Olympic stadium with solar-power and a rainwater retention system.

In order to promote so many changes in such a short time, the Japanese government is seeking partnerships with other countries, especially regarding public transportation, air pollution and waste management. Last year, the city hosted the Tokyo Forum for Clean City and Clean Air, gathering representatives from 22 cities around the world which shared their experiences in smart and sustainable management. Next September, Tokyo will host the 6th edition of SIGEF, the most important Social Innovation and Global Ethics forum in the world, organized by Horyou and covering the following topics:

  • Artificial Intelligence for Positive Change
  • Fintech and Blockchain
  • Sustainable Lifestyles
  • Technology and Life Extension
  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • Renewable and Future Energy

Over the next few weeks, Horyou blog will showcase all the initiatives that are being developed by the Japanese government to transform its capital – and the whole country – into an innovative, sustainable and peaceful society, inspired by the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

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Eight years ago, the Fukushima nuclear disaster left an unimaginable trail of destruction in Japan and with a raging controversy over its nuclear energy...