Oct 27, 2015


Invest in JAPAN : Seize the Opportunity

 On Tuesday 27th October 2015, JETRO hosted the Invest in Japan Seminar Seize the Opportunity at the Japan Pavilion in front of the Queen Elizabeth the Second Conference Centre in London. This seminar was aimed at British companies interested in doing business with Japan. Guest speakers from Retail, ICT, Energy and Life Science sectors each presented their experiences when establishing their operations successfully in Japan and gave advice on how British companies could benefit when doing business in Japan.

 Director General of JETRO London office Toshihiko Sakaguchi opened the seminar expressing that “Japan is proud to be hosting two high profile global events, the Rugby World Cup 2019 and the Olympics and Paralympics in 2020. Huge business opportunities are expected alongside these events in many areas.”

  The Minister Plenipotentiary Motohiko Kato, from the Japan Embassy continued to highlight attractive areas for UK investment. The government plans to reduce corporate tax rates to within the 20 percent margin in the next few years, another excellent reason for investment opportunities.

 The first guest speaker was Aily Satoh, Product Marketing manager for Sensus UK. Sensus is a Clean Technology Provider for Utilities, Smart Metering & Smart Grid. Originally from California, the Business Development Team is based in London.

 Ms Satoh spoke about how Sensus worked with ‘Business Link Japan’ and JETRO to establish an entity in Japan. Ms Satoh advises companies wishing to invest in Japan, ensure that they have a good Japanese interpreter who didn’t just do literal translations but who is capable of reading between the lines, give feedback from sales meetings, sense intentions and translate the information in a comprehensive manner for native English speakers. 

 Mr Nick Lines, General Manager at Abcam K.K. a Cambridge based company that produces and markets high quality protein research tools. Mr Lines has been working at Abcam in Japan, managing sales in the Japanese market. Mr Lines said that Japan has the highest R&D spending as a proportion of GDP within the Asia Pacific. He also points out that Japan’s aging population provides a keen interest in health products that improve quality of life. The growth strategy “Abenomics” set up the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED) and is now coordinating the distribution of 100 billion yen for healthcare R&D budgets. This year it set up fast track medical R&D, with particular interest in iPS cell technology, Preventative medicine, Oncology drugs, Neuroscience and Nursing care.

For Japanese clients Mr Lines advised that face to face sales are essential for Japanese clients. The clients expect and enjoy visits from sub-dealers. He said British companies have to be prepared to change their business model and processes to adapt to the Japanese Business System. Mr Lines admitted that Japan is not always an easy market to break into, but it is extremely lucrative.


  Paul Flemming, Campaign director for East Asia at Amec Foster Wheeler (Amec FW), headquartered in London, has been building business in the nuclear services sector. The company operates in over 50 countries selling oil & gas, mining and clean energy.

   Why Japan? Amec FW already centered in Europe and North America was looking for an ambitious new market and growth in Asia. They planned to break into the Japanese market by introducing new processes and techniques, however after Fukushima there also became a need for radioactive waste management and decontamination technology.

   According to Mr Flemming their key market strategy was firstly to set up a Japanese company, Amec Foster Wheeler Asia KK Ltd, find a suitable location, to set up a local office, gain an understanding of recruitment practices and employment law, seek local support, assess and understand the market, build relationships with potential clients and partners. JETRO helped them gain access to country and face up to challenges in recruitment and employment. He also said that Amec’s long standing friendship with Fuji Electric previous to the merge with Foster Wheeler helped when establishing their presence.

 Final speaker Mr Dermott Rowan, CEO of the Orla Kiely Brand explained how Japan has played an integral part of their development for 20 years and was vital in the brand’s survival. Orla Kiely is an Accessory and Lifestyle brand in Ireland, the UK and Europe.

  Mr Rowan’s story began at an exhibition, where a representative from the renown Hankyu department store in Osaka, Japan proceeded to make a large order of bags. From then on Japan became central to the progression of the brand. Now Orla Kiely has a global retail footprint of $70 million dollars, a new collection at UNIQLO and has just opened a store in Omotesando the stylish shopping district of Tokyo.

   Mr Rowan also gave a helpful list of very simple witty ‘do’s and don’ts’ for first time Japan business. Such as Always respect the name card, Listen to trade advisers, Research your market, See the country, Make friends, Eat local food and when you take your shoes off indoors make sure there are no holes in your socks.


   The seminar ended with a panel discussion lead by Steve Crane from ‘Business Link Japan’ between the guest speakers and the audience, allowing the audience to ask any further questions regarding business with Japan. A networking session also followed with free Japanese food and drink, a final taste of Japan before finishing.

Programme & Presentations

14.30 - 14.35  Opening Remarks, Embassy of Japan in the UK

Business case studies in Japan

14.35 - 14.45  IT Case Study

                          Ms Aily Saitoh, Product Marketing Manager, Sensus

14.45 - 14.55  Life Science Case Study (PDF 1.7MB)

                          Mr Nick Lines, General Manager, Abcam K.K.

14.55 - 15.05  Energy Case Study (PDF, 1.9MB)

                          Mr Paul Fleming, Campaign Director, East Asia,  Amec Foster Wheeler 

15.05 - 15.15  Retail case study (PDF 5.6MB)

                          Mr Dermott Rowan, CEO, Orla Kiely   

Key to success in Japan

15.15 - 15.30   Panel Discussion (Including audience)

15.30 - 16.00  Networking Reception