In October, Random42 travelled to Japan alongside MedCity and the Northern Health Science Alliance as part of a 50-strong delegation to showcase the UK’s excellence in health science. From the 9th to the 15th October, they held a series of events and opportunities for the companies and academics from across the UK. Random42’s Corporate Strategy Director, Richard Grethe was part of the team that attended the events and he has shared his experience with us below.
Random42 in Japan – a blog by Richard Grethe
UK Symposium – Tokyo
After arriving in Tokyo, my first impression was the overwhelming quietness of the city and the polite and hospitable nature of everyone I met. I managed to meet up with the organisers from MedCity and The Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA). We went trawling the streets to find some food and drink, which is not hard to come by in Tokyo and luckily, we did not have to venture too far.
The first working day in Japan was a UK Symposium organised by MedCity and the NHSA in the Nihonbashi District of Tokyo. There were various presentations from Aki Soyama, CEO of Link-J (the hosts of the event), Sarah Haywood of MedCity and Suzie Ali-Hassan on NHSA. Also, Setsuo Morishita, Director of the Japan Bioscience Association welcomed the group to Japan. An interesting talk was given by Joanne Hackett of Genomics England, an initiative that has seen 80,000 genomes sequenced already.
Random42 were lucky enough to be one of the industry snapshots that day and had just five minutes to communicate the work of the business. This was a great opportunity and seemed to spark interest among many of the attendees, who were keen to have a look at our VR and AR offerings. Interestingly, there was a cluster collaboration there too; I met many people from San Diego, a great group of people to meet, as the industry there is very large and set to continue to grow quite substantially in the next few years.
The rest of the Random42 team, Liam and Laura, arrived in Tokyo that day, but I suggested they try and get to Yokohama to catch up on their sleep, as I found the eight hour difference very hard to manage. I then followed on the Shinkansen to Yokohama, a huge 13 minutes on the fast train!
The conference started the next day near the sea in Yokohama and can only be described as absolutely fascinating. After concerns about the setup of the UK Delegation stand, we need not have worried as everything was ready to go when we arrived. We only had to unpack the many boxes of promotional material, Fortnum and Mason Tea gifts, and charge the VR equipment.
There is a huge industry in Japan and apart from the amazing traditional pharmaceutical companies that exhibited, like Chugai and Takeda, there were many complex machinery companies, such as Sony, Hitachi and Toshiba. These companies found the work we have done on virtual machines in an AR environment captivating and wondered why they needed to take their large machinery around with them at all!
It was clear that the Japanese market has not seen anything like Random42’s quality and diversity of material before, particularly in our main area of work – animation. The output from similar companies was a different spin on animation, so very cartoon-like and purposefully not realistic, although still informative.
In terms of size, the conference was around a quarter of the size of the Bio International Convention that took place in Boston last June. There were fewer academics at BioJapan and people seemed more genuinely interested in the product, and what we could do for them to promote their product or company story across to the world. I also thought that the language barrier may prove to be an issue, but surprisingly most people or at least one person in a group did speak English.
Being on the stand with so many other companies worked really well, as there were a lot of referrals between the UK companies when we each met people. It was a great way to go to a conference like this!
One thing that really stuck in my mind in Tokyo, was the prominent emphasis on aging. To understand why this is so important to the Japanese we can consider the following statics – 26% of Japanese citizens are over 65, compared to just 18% in the UK. This aging population has huge health implications for Japan and this appeared to be the overarching theme for the entirety of the conference.
We have gained many useful contacts and some good work from the conference, we will definitely be returning to Tokyo soon. Maybe this could be the first step to gaining a Japan office!