*This article was originally published in Japanese. All information in this article is as of November 2, 2022.
The Asian Entrepreneurship Award 2022 (AEA2022), a contest for tech startups from Asian countries and regions, was held entirely online on October 26th and 27th. Out of 24 entrant companies, OUI Inc., a Japanese health tech startup, won first place. The company developed a device that enables ophthalmic diagnosis with a smartphone.
AEA is an award program co-hosted by Japanese public organizations, private companies and educational institutions, held in the Kashiwa-no-ha Campus area (Kashiwa City, Chiba Prefecture). It has been held since 2012 and aims to publicize Kashiwa-no-ha as Japan’s high-tech innovation center. Various universities, research organizations and medical institutions are concentrated in this area.
In the 11th AEA in 2022, 24 startups selected from nine Asian countries and one region* participated. Competing companies gave presentations on themes related to health care, workstyle, lifestyle, and sustainability while competing on a wide range of perspectives, such as the innovativeness of the business and the possibility of business deployment in Japan.
The event studio, with participants presenting online (photo taken by JETRO)
The winner, OUI Inc., is a university-launched startup founded by ophthalmologists. Their mission is to protect people's health by reducing blindness by 50% around the world. They presented their Smart Eye Camera (SEC), a smartphone attachment medical device they have invented. It enables ophthalmology diagnosis of equal quality to a conventional slit-lamp microscope** anywhere, anytime, and by anyone. SEC is also much less costly than diagnosis using a conventional microscope. When the founder joined the Cataract Camp in Vietnam, where making a diagnosis was difficult due to a shortage of inspection devices, he came up with the idea of using smartphones for diagnosis. The technique converts the light of a smartphone to the light used by ophthalmologists.
Along with the first prize, OUI Inc. won two other awards, including the Life Science Award. “We are very honored and are looking forward to future collaborations in Japan. With our technology, we hope to establish many collaborative relationships,” said the company representative.
Winner OUI Inc., at the awarding ceremony (photo by JETRO)
Similar to the the previous year, JETRO co-hosted the AEA and nominated some entrant companies. Among the companies selected by JETRO, Nervotec of Singapore and MUI Robotics of Thailand advanced to the final session for six companies, and Nervotec won the second prize.
Nervotec is a startup that provides mobile platforms for remote health management, enabling non-contact measurement and analysis of biomarkers using its video-based analysis technology. The app offered by Nervotec enables users to measure their vital signs, such as heart rate, heart rate variability, and respiratory rate, simply by scanning their faces with a smartphone. Along with the second prize, Nervotec won two other awards, such as the Audience Award (for the company that gained the most votes from the audience). “We are very honored. We hope to enter the Japanese market and collaborate with Japanese companies,” said the representative, expressing their intention to work with Japanese companies.
Second prize winner Nervotec at the awarding ceremony (photo by JETRO)
Michael Alafant, one of the judges of the final session, gave an overall comment on the AEA2022, saying, “all the teams were wonderful, and it was very difficult to decide the winner. The judges were impressed by their well-balanced commercial and social interests and technologies supported by very deep science. We look forward to seeing the future development of the teams participating in the AEA2022.”
As a condition for nomination, AEA requires participating startups to have the intention to enter the Japanese market or collaborate with Japanese companies, as it supports matching participating startups with Japanese companies. If you are interested in collaborating or matching with the participant startups, please contact the AEA2022 steering committee and secretariat (firstname.lastname@example.org).
* Bangladesh, India, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand andVietnam
** A microscope to observe mainly the anterior segment of the eye by applying slit light on the eye
YAMAZAKI Yusuke, Innovation Promotion Division, JETRO