Industrial, trade and investment cooperation: A new era for the EU and Japan

trade and investment, Industrial trade
© Xvaldes

Masanori Osumi, Japan-side General Manager and Philippe de Taxis du Poët, EU-side General Manager of the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation, explain why a new era begins now when it comes to promoting industrial, trade and investment cooperation between the EU and Japan

The EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation(1) is a joint venture established in 1987 between the European Commission (Directorate General Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs) and the Japanese Government (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) for promoting industrial, trade and investment cooperation between the EU and Japan.

With the entry into force of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) on 1st February 2019 creating the largest open trade zone in the world which covers 600 million people, the Centre will contribute ensuring that companies, in particular, SMEs reap the maximum benefits from the EPA. To this end, we are mobilising several instruments, for example, the EPA help desk, public procurement help desk, and stakeholders, e.g. Enterprise Europe Network and clusters, to raise awareness, guide and stimulate SMEs.
In this context, the Centre is developing important activities regarding (i) people mobility, (ii) research and innovation, and (iii) technology transfer:

People mobility is one of the key elements for strengthening relations at the international level. The Centre has put in place the Vulcanus Programme, a unique internship programme involving industrial placement for European students in Japan(2), and for Japanese university students in Europe(3). Co-funded by the host companies and by the Centre, this one-year programme targets engineering or science students. It provides a four-month intensive language course and an eight-month internship in a host company.

• On the EU side, every year, 30–40 motivated Vulcanus participants are selected among 800 applicants to undertake industrial internships at host companies in Japan. In this vein, there is a strong signal of interest and a typical internship project includes mechanical/electrical engineering, computer science, ICT, chemistry, nanotechnology and biotechnology. Besides the technological and industrial dimension, the Vulcanus programme also helps participants gaining an in-depth understanding of culture, history and intercultural communication.

• The EU and Japan both see cooperation in research and innovation as necessary to promote the excellence of our research, increase the competitiveness of our industries and effectively address global societal challenges. The Centre is the National Contact Point(4) (NCP) in Japan for the EU research and innovation programme “Horizon 2020”. Hence, the Centre raises awareness, disseminates information and calls for proposals, implements activities and training to support and provide guidance to potential R&D applicants in Japan. In close cooperation with the EU Delegation to Japan, NCP Japan provides information and participation support services to Japanese research institutions, companies and universities. Further expansion and development of EU-Japan relationships in science and technology are expected in the future EU research and innovation programme “Horizon Europe”, including the possibility for Japan to become an “Associated Country” with this programme.

• The Centre promotes the commercialisation of technologies, and boosts innovation via the EU-Japan Technology Transfer Helpdesk(5), which supports EU and Japanese companies, universities, research centres and individuals in their steps to search for and acquire available proprietary technologies, and better understand the process of tech transfer transactions. All the online services are supported by the official website of the help desk, which provides general content about intellectual property rights, technology transfer, and an ever-growing database with more than 20,000 technologies potentially available for licensing deals, and more than 100 million patent documents and a wealth of information for the benefit of SMEs. Additionally, webinars, videos, podcasts, and presentations are intended to make the help desk’s website a “must-see-and-use” for implementing open innovation practices. To favour this cross-pollination approach, research institutions can freely create an account and upload their technologies, and companies can write and publish requests for proposals to complement the existing tech offers.

The Centre also provides a six-month fellowship grant called “Minerva” for experts to work in Japan on topics of interest for researchers and businesses, including particularly creative and innovative ones, such as research into the NewSpace(6) sector in Japan and the potential for collaboration between EU and Japan NewSpace start-ups. This will include a Haiku competition(7) to reach out to the public with a view of inspiring them to consider space, the theme being “Improving Life on Earth as in Space” for promoting NewSpace collaboration, by inviting artists, businesses and investors.

The EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) will simplify trade and investment procedures, reduce export and investment related costs and will, therefore, enable more small firms to do business in both markets. Beyond what it includes, the EPA may also have an important triggering effect to reinforce existing and explore new areas of cooperation, such as research and innovation, space, security, investment, regions and clusters, regulation, digital economy and circular economy.

It may also accelerate the current trend for joint EU-Japan business partnerships to operate together in third countries, e.g. South East Asia, Africa, Latin America, EU neighbouring countries. As stressed by the EU-Japan Business Round Table(8), a “new era for the EU and Japan starts”.

In a global context with rising protectionism, where walls are being built and with geopolitical uncertainties, the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation is also a political signal that the EU and Japan stand together for sustainable cooperation and team up to preserve the benefits of openness, ensure a level playing field, pursue resilient economies and inclusive society.


Masanori Osumi

Japan-side General Manager


Philippe de Taxis du Poët

EU-side General Manager


EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation





Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here