Group photo during the visit to the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST); Credit: MECO

Luxembourg's Ministry of the Economy and the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, Defence, Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade have reported that the third day of the economic mission to Japan mainly focused on startups.

On Wednesday 12 June 2024, there was an event held in Tsukuba dedicated to the startup ecosystem, at which the Japanese startup Thermalytica, a spin-off from the Tsukuba-based National Institute for Materials Science, active in space technologies, officially announced the opening of an office in Luxembourg.

Japan-Luxembourg Parliamentary Friendship League

The day began with a breakfast meeting with the Japan-Luxembourg Parliamentary Friendship League, during which Prince Guillaume, Hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg, together with Xavier Bettel, Luxembourg's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, and Lex Delles, Minister of the Economy, SMEs, Energy and Tourism, exchanged with its President, Yoshima Hayashi, and several other members of the National Diet of Japan.

After having held several ministerial positions, including the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yoshima Hayashi has served as Cabinet Chief Secretary of the Japanese Prime Minister's Office since December 2023.

Tsukuba visit

The participants then left Tokyo for Tsukuba, Japan's research and innovation hub, around 1.5 hours from the capital, where they were welcomed with honours by the city's mayor, Tatsuo Igarashi, for a working lunch.

As a special city with greater autonomy, Tsukuba is home to 60 national research institutes and two national universities, grouped into five zones: higher education and training, construction research, physical science and engineering research, biological and agricultural research, and joint (public) facilities. These zones are surrounded by more than 240 private research institutes. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is headquartered here. Of the city's 245,000 inhabitants, 20,000 work in the research sector. The city is also renowned for its strong support for startups, noted the Luxembourg ministries.

The afternoon was punctuated by a visit to the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), one of Japan's largest national research institutes, which is characterised by a strong culture of cooperation with the industrial world and is home to an R&D centre for quantum technologies. The visit was organised to establish initial contact and explore areas for future collaboration.

The delegation then visited the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) for a guided tour of the research laboratories. NIMS is a leading research institute in Japan, dedicated to advancing the field of materials science. The purpose of the visit was to take a close look at Japan's cutting-edge materials research, which forms one of the foundations of Japanese industry, and to explore opportunities for future collaboration in research and industrial applications.

The data economy and artificial intelligence (AI) were discussed on several occasions during these visits, which were also attended by the business delegation led by the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce.

Tsukuba-Luxembourg startup night

At the end of the day, an event dedicated to startups highlighted the strengths of both ecosystems, and four Luxembourg and Japanese startups presented their innovative and technological solutions in the form of pitches. Minister Delles delivered the opening speech, in which he reiterated why Luxembourg is an attractive starting market for foreign companies wishing to enter the European market.

The event was organised jointly by Luxinnovation, the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce and the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), the Japanese agency responsible for promoting foreign trade, in line with the agreements signed between these institutions. It brought together some 94 companies: 43 on-site and 51 online. The Luxembourg ministries recalled that Luxinnovation signed a memorandum of understanding with Tsukuba in December 2022, with a view to cooperating to promote economic development and innovation and provide mutual support to innovative companies on both sides. At the same time, the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce and Luxinnovation signed a memorandum of understanding with JETRO to strengthen their cooperation.

During the seminar, Thermalytica announced the opening of a subsidiary in Luxembourg. A spin-off from NIMS, it offers cutting-edge solutions based on its patented TIISA® thermal insulation materials, for terrestrial and space applications. It took part in the ICT Spring trade fair in Luxembourg in 2023, after which it applied for and was selected to take part in the Fit 4 Start acceleration programme.

Minister Delles commented: "I'm delighted to have been able to visit Tsukuba today, to meet young entrepreneurs and researchers and to discover technological innovations in a wide range of sectors. The example of Thermalytica, which decided to establish a long-term presence in the Grand Duchy by opening a subsidiary in record time, is very encouraging in terms of our country's attractiveness as a location for European companies. I hope this success story will inspire other Japanese startups to follow the same path."

To round off the day, Hajime Sawabe, Honorary Consul General of Luxembourg and former CEO of TDK in Luxembourg, hosted the official delegation for a courtesy dinner.