The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

The inaugural trip of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan’s (ACCJ’s) Globalization Committee’s Furusato Project, an initiative to encourage bilateral investment in both Japan and the United States, took place in April 2015.

In the space of a single week, the Japan–US relationship was strengthened through a deep appreciation for the pursuit of scientific discovery and the formation of new friendships among colleagues. The success of the trip confirmed the value of the initiative, garnering further support from the US Embassy and members of the ACCJ.

Reciprocal trips to the US will be taking place over the next few months, and members involved in these projects have already started looking ahead, targeting new cities with growing industries, and recruiting more ACCJ peers and US contacts, encouraging them to become active liaisons.

ACCJ Globalization Committee Chair Bryan Norton selected his hometown of Buffalo, New York, as a prime case study for the new project. In recent years, Buffalo has developed a strong healthcare industry, and is investing heavily in regenerative medicine.

A major contributing factor is the development of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC), a collection of the region’s premier medical institutions, including the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute, and Ross Eye Institute.

The trip in April brought three BNMC representatives—Dr. James Reynolds, Dr. Steven J. Fliesler, and BNMC Chief Operating Officer Patrick Whalen—to Tokyo for a productive tour of Japanese companies.

Building on the momentum of an information-gathering mission to Tokyo and Kyoto in January 2015, the Buffalo delegates met with numerous organizations to discuss future research exchanges, collaborations, and business opportunities. ACCJ members Bryan Norton and Greg Norton, as well as the chamber’s Bioscience Subcommittee Chair Paul Cizdziel, acted as local liaisons.

The delegates took part in tours of labs and research centers around Tokyo and Yokohama, which led to fruitful discussions with fellow scientists who are seeking to further research and establish better patient care for citizens of both countries.

A major highlight of the trip was the visit to one of the largest research institutes in the country, Riken in Kanagawa Prefecture. The Buffalo delegates were amazed by Riken’s multitude of noteworthy scientific accomplishments.

The BNMC members also visited Mitsui Fudosan Co., Ltd.’s developing life sciences hub in Nihonbashi, Tokyo, a center of innovation and entrepreneurship with goals similar to those of the BNMC.

On the final day of the trip, Patrick Whalen and Dr. Junzo Takeda, chief executive director of the Tokyo Medical Center (TMC), met to sign the memorandum of understanding between the TMC and BNMC.

The Globalization Committee held two dinner receptions which drew members from TMC, Nippi Inc., Mitsui Fudosan, Yokogawa Electric Corporation, the US Embassy, and various ACCJ committees. William Bishop, ACCJ Healthcare Committee chair, praised the benefits of grassroots activities and Dr. Reynolds gave a heartfelt speech on collaboration in the spirit of advancing science and on the intertwined interests of the United States and Japan.

As a result of the trip in April, Japanese counterparts are arranging trips to the United States to take place within the next few months. In September, Dr. Hayashizaki, director of the Preventive Medicine & Diagnosis Innovation Program at Riken, is scheduled to present a seminar on the institute’s groundbreaking technology at the BNMC, with the support of the State University of New York at Buffalo and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

Collaboration between Riken and the BNMC could revolutionize healthcare diagnostics, especially in oncology. In addition, representatives from Mitsui Fudosan are coordinating a business trip to the BNMC campus.

It has taken time and effort for the ACCJ’s Globalization Committee to build trust and maintain steady communication in this endeavor. It is clear, however, that the developing cross-border activities are accomplishing the Furusato Project’s primary objective: to create beneficial, collaborative relationships.

Alyssa Smith is a writer and project coordinator at T-Mark Inc.
In the space of a single week, the Japan–US relationship was strengthened