Pioneering Sustainable Aviation and Technological Partnerships

Stéphane Ginoux
President, Airbus Japan K.K.
Head of Region - North Asia

April 2024

Airbus, a global leader in the aerospace industry, has established a significant presence in Japan, emerging as a leader across a range of sectors including commercial aircraft, helicopters, defence and space exploration. To gain deeper insights into the dynamics of doing business in Japan, we sat down with Stéphane Ginoux, President of Airbus Japan K.K. Under his leadership, Airbus has expanded its market share for commercial aircraft from nearly zero to 30% while also capturing over half of the helicopter sector in Japan.

Airbus A320neo

Airbus' Diversified Success Across the Japanese Aerospace Sector

While globally Airbus is renowned for its commercial aircraft, Stéphane Ginoux elaborates on the company's multifaceted approach in Japan: "We are involved in an array of sectors here. Initially, our operations in Japan gained momentum through the helicopter business, a segment in which we've been active for over 60 years, achieving a share of 52% in the civil and para-public market today." This deep-rooted history is complemented by successful collaborations with Japanese companies, such as the one with Kawasaki Heavy Industries. In commercial aviation, Airbus has elevated its market presence to 30%, with an eye on reaching the company's global average. "Our goal is to hit a 50% market share," Ginoux states.

Highlighting Airbus' expansion beyond aviation, Ginoux adds, "We're also making significant advances in the space sector, having supplied Japan with its first non-US satellite three years ago." This move not only diversifies Airbus' portfolio but also reiterates its strategic commitment to the Japanese market.

The Land of Rising Opportunity: Japan's Allure for Airbus' Expansion

Japan's market attractiveness stems from its advanced technological landscape and supportive local ecosystems, aspects that Ginoux readily acknowledges. "The level of technology and stable product quality, alongside Japan's role as a strategic hub, make Japan an ideal place for Airbus' operations," he states. Enhanced by favorable economic conditions and political stability that safeguards against sudden regulatory changes, Japan also offers an attractive platform for Airbus' local production.

Governmental authorities, notably the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and organizations like JETRO, alongside municipalities, play a crucial role in facilitating foreign investment, offering incentives and practical support that underscore Japan's welcoming stance towards international businesses. "When we invested in Kobe, the overwhelming support from local authorities was instrumental in establishing our maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) operations," Ginoux recounts, highlighting the strategic importance of aligning with local ecosystems to foster business growth. " Thanks to this local support, our biggest Maintenance and Repair center for helicopters in the Asia-Pacific region is now in Kobe." Ginoux adds.

Airbus Helicopters Japan's Kobe Airport Facility

Forging Strong Partnerships and Innovating Toward the Future

Partnerships with Japanese companies are foundational to Airbus' success, underlining the importance of local collaborations. "Our partnership with Kawasaki in the helicopter sector is not just about co-development; it's about creating value that resonates across global markets," Ginoux adds.

These collaborations do more than just enhance Airbus' product range; they integrate the company more deeply into Japan's advanced technological and quality landscape. "We've been able to engage with over 100 Japanese suppliers, demonstrating our profound integration into the local industry fabric, significantly benefiting both Airbus and our partners," Ginoux reveals. Such collaborations extend beyond traditional manufacturing, involving cutting-edge research and development that pave the way for future technological advancements. He adds, "The synergy between Airbus and Japanese industries is not just about what we are doing now; it's about shaping the future together."

Pioneering Hydrogen Hubs and SAF in Japan

The collaboration between Airbus and Japanese companies has not only significantly enhanced Airbus' domestic presence, but also supported initiatives like transforming airports into hydrogen hubs, a pioneering effort that aligns perfectly with Japan's leading position in hydrogen technology. "Our vision for a decarbonized future heavily relies on hydrogen and Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) as alternative fuels," Ginoux shares. Japan's advanced logistics capabilities make it an ideal partner for developing the necessary infrastructure for hydrogen fuel, positioning the country as a benchmark for global hydrogen initiatives. "Collaborating with Japanese companies like Kawasaki and Kansai Airports, we are laying the groundwork for the world's first hydrogen-fueled aircraft, envisioning a sustainable aviation ecosystem," he adds, highlighting the alignment of Airbus' innovation goals and Japan's technological leadership.

Signing an MoU for partnership with Kawasaki Heavy Industries

Fostering Innovation through Academic Partnerships and Strategic Startup Investments

Airbus' commitment to fostering innovation in Japan is evident through its collaborations with academic institutions and strategic investments in startups. Ginoux highlights the importance of these partnerships, noting, "Our partnership with the University of Tokyo enhances our technological capabilities and contributes to the aerospace and space industries." These academic-industry collaborations are vital for nurturing a culture of innovation and crucial for developing future talent. He emphasizes, "Building connections with academia is key to sustaining our competitive edge and driving future advancements."

Parallel to its academic engagements, Airbus Ventures (AV) invests in innovative Japanese startups, extending Airbus' ecosystem of technological advancement. By supporting companies like Infostellar and ispace, inc., Airbus not only broadens its technological base but also plays a key role in propelling Japan's space industry forward.

A Strategic Window for Entering Japan's Market

For companies eyeing Japan as a potential market, Ginoux delivers straightforward yet compelling advice: "Don't wait. Come now because it is the time." He notes the growing interest and the unique opportunity now available for foreign investments, emphasizing a significant shift: "The numbers show that foreign companies are increasingly recognizing Japan's potential."

Ginoux Shares his Expectations for the Japanese Market

This reflects a transformative perception of Japan's market, viewed now as an invaluable investment landscape. "With its distinctive mix of technological advancement, quality and stability, Japan offers a unique chance for companies aiming to solidify their global presence and achieve success," Ginoux concludes.

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