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Regional Business Conference in Sendai

November 2019

From November 11 to 15, JETRO jointly held the Regional Business Conference (RBC) in Sendai with the city government and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, an event consisting of direct promotion by the City mayor and matching with local companies by inviting business people from Finland. With the attendance of eight companies in fields related to IT from the country with which the city has formed an industrial partnership, various measures and activities of Sendai, as one of the world’s role model cities for disaster prevention, and the benefits of establishing business in the city were explained.

Disaster prevention measures of Sendai City

On the first day, November 11, the group visited the Earthquake Disaster Measures Technology Expo in Sendai which was held in conjunction with the World Bosai Forum/International Disaster Risk Conference. They toured exhibition booths of companies and universities showcasing their technologies, services and researches related to disaster prevention and reduction. Among the exhibitions, disaster prevention education using a VR disaster training simulation, and the latest disaster observation and warning system especially interested the invitees.

On the second day, November 12, the invitees visited the devastated coastal area in Arahama district. At the quake-affected remains of Arahama Elementary School, they saw classrooms left in the exact state as when the earthquake hit and related exhibits. In addition to footage of interviews with victims, they heard a vivid account of the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 from their guide at the school, who was also a survivor. The invitees listened intently with solemn faces to the descriptions of the severe impact left by the earthquake and tsunami.

Later that day, they attended a drone flying demonstration by Nokia of Finland, which concluded a partnership agreement with the City of Sendai and is taking part in a project for near-future technologies using drones and private LTE networks to be put into effect for society. Simulating a tsunami evacuation alert, two drones equipped with cameras were flown to test their ability to call for an evacuation as well as to spot anyone in need of rescue. Many questions about the drones and private LTE network systems were asked by the invitees with keen interest.

Visits to the affected coastal area

Drone demonstration site

Promoting business opportunities in Sendai and Tohoku region

On November 13, a business matching event and Invest Japan Seminar were held. In the first session, Mayor Kazuko Kohri of Sendai City gave greetings, expressing her hope that the city’s business environment for creating a new disaster prevention industry would appeal to the visitors. This was followed by a speech by Atsushi Kitamura; Director-General for General Coordination and Policy Planning of Tohoku Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry; publicizing governmental initiatives for foreign direct investment in Japan. Innovation initiatives of Japanese leading companies and startups as well as each company’s effort towards creating innovation were introduced in the keynote presentation by CEO Takuya Matsutani of Project Nippon. From Director General Kazuo Endo of Economic Affairs Bureau of Sendai City promotional projects by Sendai as a disaster prevention supervision city, and open innovation toward new creation related to disaster prevention were presented. Furthermore, Head of Transport, Energy and Public Sector Japan Koichiro Okuda of Nokia Solutions & Networks; introduced his company’s public safety programs in cities worldwide, including Sendai. Executive Vice President Kazuya Nakajo of JETRO promoted the benefits of Japan and Sendai City as investment destinations.

In the second session, Christina Rinne, in charge of Business Ecosystems Digital at Business Finland, promoted the IT industries and business environment of Finland. This was followed by presentations by Finnish invitees introducing their companies to the audience.

The event was joined part of way through by Mayor Paivi Laajala of the City of Oulu, who had just attended a ceremony for the renewal of the Industrial Promotion Agreement with the City of Sendai on the same day, demonstrating how close the ties are between the two cities. During the networking session, local attendees and parties from both countries engaged in eager exchange.

In the following business matching event, a total of thirty-two meetings were held between the invitees and fifteen local companies. Many positive comments were made by both sides—including “We were able to talk to potential companies for joint development,” and “We see the possibility of cooperation toward mutual entry into the European and Japanese markets,” by Finnish companies and “We would like to combine the knowhow of Finnish companies with our own and create new business,” by a Japanese firm.

Business matching meetings

Presentation by Executive Vice President Nakajo

Toward creation of new business related to disaster prevention

A hackathon was held over the last two days of the RBC. Each Finnish company presented their business ideas on disaster prevention and risk reduction in coastal areas at risk of tsunamis. On November 14, mentoring sessions by staff members of the City of Sendai and Nokia were held. The mentors made rounds of each company and assisted with brainstorming in order to increase the feasibility of ideas.

On the last day, November 15, the final jury reviews were held. Secapp won by developing a smartphone app that enables the use of various communication tools during disaster and can also provide detailed evacuation instructions and evacuation routes based on its user’s location when an earthquake hits. Among many other ideas presented, there was one for a service that provides evacuation directions in multiple languages through an AI audio speaker shaped in the form of a cute mascot character (called yuru-chara in Japan) and an application that helps to raise awareness of disaster prevention through educational games. Secapp, being the winner, will join the City of Sendai and other related institutions to proceed with efforts toward verification of the actual use of the app.

After the end of the RBC, the invitees gave comments such as “We gained more understanding of fields related to Sendai’s disaster prevention,” and “We would like to consider investing in Sendai sometime in the future,” proving the event successfully promoted the appeal of Sendai’s business environment.

Presentation by Secapp, the winner of the hackathon

Finnish companies at the RBC

Outline of RBC Program in Sendai

Date Monday, November 11 to Friday, 15, 2019
Venue Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture
Organizers JETRO, City of Sendai, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI)
Invitees Total of eight companies (from Finland)
Program Monday, November 11: Overall briefing, hackathon kick off, tour of the World Bosai Forum
Tuesday, November 12: Visits to a disaster-affected coastal area (Arahama Elementary School, etc.), drone demonstration
Wednesday, November 13: Business matching, Invest Japan Seminar
Thursday, November 14: Hackathon
Friday, November 15: Hackathon, jury reviews

* This event was implemented as a consignment project by METI.