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SusHi Tech Startup Expo Highlights Japanese Innovation

Tokyo Metropolitan Government's SusHi Tech and Tokyo Innovation Base nurture local and global startups in Japan with a vibrant expo and monetary prize.



(SusHi Tech is honoring startups and innovation in Japan. In turn, Paris is honoring Tokyo with an invitation to Paris in May 2024© JAPAN Forward by Arielle Busetto)

On February 14, a showcase of two major projects aiming to foster innovation in Tokyo took place in Yurakucho. Entrepreneurs gathered for a briefing on SusHi Tech Tokyo 2024 Global Startup Program (GSP) and Tokyo Innovation Base (TIB). Both projects were established by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. The SusHi Tech GSP is on in Tokyo from May 15-16.

SusHi Tech (Sustainable High City Tech Tokyo) seeks to balance innovation and digitization with sustainability. These it hopes to use in addressing environmental and urban development concerns. It also serves as a network for ideas on how to leverage Tokyo's wealth of technology and ideas. 

The greater aim is to create a more startup-friendly environment in Japan, especially in Tokyo. TIB, on the other hand, aspires to become a global node for innovation. Its participants see it developing as a hub for innovators and entrepreneurs. 

(© JAPAN Forward by Arielle Busetto)

Developing an Ecosystem

In its briefing, TIB also stated that one of its four core principles is "growth." As a representative explained, "We want to help facilitate younger generations playing a greater part in the future." As part of this goal, TIB has been helping university students organize and manage their own startup expos. 

One such student group is ITAMAE (Innovation, Technology, Academic, Maestro). Group member and Tokyo University student Manami Hasegawa briefly took the stage during the event to speak about ITAMAE. "We want to plan events that students can enjoy and that contribute to Japan's startup ecosystem," she said. 

Starting from February 15, TIB will be offering a consultation service for startups. The service will additionally cover advice on securing funds, breaking into foreign markets, and receiving assistance from local governments.

Keiichi Yoshimura, Director General of the Office for Startup and Global Financial Strategy at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, explained further. One aspect of the program is how best to incorporate artificial intelligence into our daily lives. Yoshimura posited this and the discussion on Japan's changing city landscapes as a central tenet of the program. 

A Prize for Taking Up the Challenge

Innovation is "not just a question of technology," Yoshimura emphasized. "We also have to consider infrastructure, the environment, sustainability, and culture." Therefore, he argued, debate on the latest carbon capture and storage technology, for example, would be key. 


Like TIB, SusHi Tech's program also prioritizes "realizing the future that younger people envision," Yoshimura explained. In that connection, he said, "How to get Japan's startup ecosystem on the right track will be crucial." 

To encourage this along with cross-national competition, the GSP will also feature an entrepreneurial pitch contest called the SusHi Tech Challenge. Here, selected startups from Japan and abroad will present their own technologies and ideas for tackling global issues. 

The first prize will be ¥10 million JPY (approximately $66,587 USD). "Our goal is to make the GSP the largest startup expo in Asia," Yoshimura said of his ambitions for the program. 

Liberaware's new small drone, IBIS2 featured at SusHi Tech. (© JAPAN Forward by Daniel Manning)

Innovations and Solutions

TIB also organized an exhibition space for startup companies. Products and inventions on display included everything from virtual reality (VR) technology to disaster survival tools. Reflecting the overarching themes of TIB and SusHi Tech's GSP, most of these inventions demonstrated environmental soundness in their construction. Many of them also gave a glimpse of how startup technology could revolutionize the way we live.

System development company Kokua demonstrated a personal disaster preparedness analysis tool called "pasobo." The service proposes the necessary information and items in the event of a natural disaster based on each individual's circumstances. 

Pasobo takes the individual's age, location, size of house, family composition, and personal values into account. The recent Noto Peninsula earthquake, for example, points out how such devices and services could be helpful. 

Elsewhere, domestic drone company Liberaware exhibited its new micro drone, the IBIS2. At 243 grams, the drone can operate in narrow and confined spaces where larger conventional drones cannot. Photos taken during use in the Noto Peninsula recovery effort are featured on its website. Also, according to the company's pamphlet, over 200 railroad and steel companies are already using the drone. 

Senior reporter Arielle Busetto tries the Exo-Power at SusHi Tech 2024. (© JAPAN Forward by Daniel Manning)

Aging Population

Aging is another problem Japan faces. To tackle this, Innophys (Innovation for Physical Support) has developed a product designed specifically to alleviate some of the problems it causes. At its booth, Innophys displayed its Exo-Power muscle suit, which helps support the muscles of the lower back and thighs. Unlike other muscle support suits, the Exo-Power does not require electricity. Instead, it operates using compressed air to inflate the artificial muscles. 

When this writer inquired as to whether the product was intended solely for the elderly, I was surprised by the answer. "Anyone from age one to eighty can use it," beamed Minoru Shionoya, senior manager of the Innophys sales department. 

Young innovators with the company shows how the Exo-Power can be suitable for all types of people. (© JAPAN Forward by Arielle Busetto)

A Reputation to Honor

A video message from Viva Technology managing director Francois Bitouzet brought proceedings to a close. Viva Technology, Europe's largest tech-digital startup event, nominated Japan as Country of the Year in January. Japan will therefore enjoy a strong presence at this year's event in Paris in May. 

Bitouzet lauded Japan's history of innovation, saying "For decades, your country has been the most innovative in the world." As he acknowledged Japan's rich history of creativity and invention, he also alluded to its future potential. "Japan is innovation," he affirmed.  



Author: Daniel Manning, reporting for JAPAN Forward

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