20 Sep 40 Midwest biotech organizations to explore Japanese partnerships
MADISON, Wis. — Midwest biotech businesses will soon have a chance to network internationally as part of a trade mission to Japan.
The Japan External Trade Organization, or JETRO, will take 40 representatives from Midwest colleges and corporations to Japan this September 25 through October 1. They will attend biotechnology conferences, visit research centers and network with Japanese companies.
Governor Jim Doyle, who just this March led a trade mission to China, will be going along. He will likely speak on biotech opportunities and Wisconsin’s university system and medical schools, according to Mary Regel, administrator of international development for the Wisconsin Department of Commerce.
In the world of biotechnology, Japan has rapidly emerged as a superpower. Valued at $12.2 billion in 2002, the market there is predicted to enlarge to $219 billion within the next eight years, according to a brochure distributed by the trade mission’s organizers. Determined to capitalize on this success, Japanese companies are also seeking new opportunities for expansion, working with foreign researchers, colleges, and businesses to bring together their efforts.
Biotech is a strategic point for Japan and the United States, so their governments are very eager to connect companies, said Tomoharu Washio, chief executive director of the JETRO Chicago office. Both sides don’t work with each other so much, so the simple purpose is to create a networking opportunityto see what sort of major players are in this area.
Attendees are looking forward to the opportunities provided by the conference, both for creating new ties and strengthening old ones with Japanese companies.
“We’ve been licensing technology in Japan since the 1950s … I think in many ways we have an excellent image because of the amount of business we’ve done with intellectual properties transfer,” said Andrew Cohn of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, one of the groups in the JETRO mission.
“We’re hoping we’ll build relations with companies, establish collaboration, and discover new areas of research that we can work on together.”
The WARF delegation will also represent the Wisconsin Biotechnology and Medical Device Association, according to James Leonhart, the association’s executive vice president.
Networking and exploration mission’s focus
The mission will begin with the JETRO Biolink Forum 2004 in Tokyo, a day of speeches and networking between attendees. Speakers will be members of government and academic organizations from all over the world, giving their advice about building biotechnology clusters in different countries and how to build connections between those clusters.
In addition to Doyle, Bob Taft, governor of Ohio, and Bob Holden, governor of Missouri, will speak at the forum.
“We hope that by him being there and speaking on the resources, knowledge and expertise in Wisconsin, we’ll help to bring new relationships and tech transfers into the state,” Regel said.
The central event of the mission is a visit to BioJapan 2004, the largest biotechnology conference in all of Japan. Hundreds of companies, institutions, and universities will have exhibitions for attendees to sample, and the conference will put on several informational sessions open to everyone. Attendees can also make arrangements for business meetings with other members of the conference, setting up one-on-one discussions with Japanese biotech and medical organizations.
Outside of the conference, JETRO will be putting on several visits to government-managed research centers. Mission members will join a European biomedical delegation to the proteomic and bio-tools clusters in Yokohama, and they will visit the Kazusa Akademia Park in the Chiba Prefecture, the most prominent DNA research center in Japan.
All mission members will have a company profile printed in a directory of U.S. life science companies, which JETRO will then distribute through Japan. This is designed to raise the profile of companies which want to branch out, providing them with a basis for introduction into Japanese markets.
Healthy representation from across the country
According to JETRO Chicago project manager David Peterson, the attendance of 120 organizations and universities on the mission makes this the largest-ever biotechnology mission to Japan. The split in attendees — 40 from the East Coast, 40 from the Midwest and 40 from the West Coast — is a good sign, creating an excellent spread for Japan to deal with, he said.
“The Midwest connection is also a good sign, because it represents a strong area which not received as much focus before.” Peterson said. “Traditionally, the West Coast and Massachusetts, New Jersey [and] North Carolina are stronger in biotech, but over one-third of our numbers will be from the Midwest this year, so you can take that as a sign people in the Midwest are serious about exploring collaboration”