Saitama City Technology Brand companies use smarts to position themselves on the world stage.
Situated just north of Tokyo, Saitama City is placed, geographically, and has placed itself, technologically, in a unique position. The city, with its extensive transportation infrastructure, serves as the gateway to eastern Japan. In an increasingly globalized world where manufacturing is outsourced to places such as China, the businesses of Saitama have moved to position themselves within niche and value-added markets, creating technology which simply cannot be manufactured anywhere else in the world. Through the creation of platform technologies needed for use in a broad range of industries to the development of extremely specialized technologies, the R&D departments of Saitama have made themselves known distinctly on the world stage.
To support some of the cream of the crop in terms of research and development, the city has created a new program. The Saitama City “Technology Brand” Companies Certification Program is designed to promote some of the mot innovative of the city’s technologically elite firms. Firstly, through PR and then through business partnership programs and other support initiatives, the city’s business development division plans to spread the technology of the area further afield.
In the last year, a diverse range of companies received certification as a Saitama City Technology Brand company. Thirteen companies were chosen this year by an evaluation committee to receive the certification (see photo). The companies this year ranged from cutting-edge material makers of advanced silicone rubber, exceptional titanium materials manufacturers and break-through lubricant developers as well as ultra-high precision technology makers of innovative cutting machines, advanced vacuum technology, leading powder metallurgy, high speed digital communications developer and so on.
While big names like Fujinon and Arai Helmet Ltd. Were selected under the program, the majority of the certified companies are innovative small- to medium-sized enterprises. For example, Bellnix was selected—a company which provides electrical power systems for planes and bullet trains around the world. Other companies, such as Watanabe, a company making a name for itself through the development of new fiber-sensing technology, are starting to go international also.
In the first year of the program, Saitama City offers PR support both in the media and at events, such as at Asia’s largest international trade shows for specialized technologies. In the second year, the local government provides customized business support designed to suit each individual company.
The Saitama City Foundation for Industrial Creation offers core support for the companies. While the Saitama International Business Support Center and the Industry-Academia Collaboration Support Center Saitama supports the R&D and business development of companies and eases them onto the international highend advanced technology market. Support is given specific to individual firms, from help with human resource development to consulting on strategic management.
Those organizations also help companies gain funding from the Central Government for R&D development.
Saitama’s 1.2 million-strong population has the second youngest average age of any major city in Japan. With an average age of 40 and with a multitude of skilled and highly educated residents, the workforce is one of the most attractive in the country.
Due to the abundance of highly skilled human resources within the city and the surrounding area, the headquarters and centers for the research and development of global companies often favor the move to Saitama. Nissan’s commercial vehicle manufacturer headquarters and R&D center are located there and Nikon’s R&D center is also located within the city. It is also the home of module makers, international in-vehicle equipment manufacturers and a host of others. With this in mind, the business development team at Saitama City hope to see more collaboration between the Technology Brand companies themselves, as well as between global companies new to Saitama and other R&D orientated companies both inside and outside Japan.
While the globe remains in economic turmoil, Technology Brand companies continue to spend money and put efforts into both human resource development and product development and global marketing.
“They are preparing and taking initiatives to get things off the ground when the economy recovers,” says the business development division director.
“We believe that one of the strong points of companies concentrated in Saitama is to be able to improve its ‘leadingedge’ platform technologies via R&D. We believe that this program can be a pioneering initiative that can help to increase the country’s lead in this regard. We want the Saitama City Technology Brand companies to represent Saitama and Japan as a nation and to pull the Japanese economy along and we are sure that companies we certify have the power to do so.” JI