Innovation Drivers: High-Value Collaborative Ties Between Japan and the San Francisco Bay Area

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The following brief reflects themes developed at a 2014 symposium organized by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute and sponsored by Union Bank. Sean Randolph, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, developed the analysis with the Institute’s Vice President Tracey Grose and support from Research Associates Saori Hamidi and Alex Foard. Contributors included Patrick Bray, PacificVision Partners; Michi Kaifu, ENOTECH Consulting; Aiko Fushida, KDDI America; Mitch Kitamura, Draper Nexus Ventures; Kevin Kuhn, Mitsubishi Corporation (Americas); Austin Noronha, Sony Corporation of America; Kenji Kushida, Stanford University; and John Thomasand Rochelle Kopp, board members of the Japan Society of Northern California.

ECONOMIC TIES between Japan and the San Francisco Bay Area date back 150 years, to when the first diplomatic mission from Japan to the United States arrived in San Francisco. Since then, both Japan and the Bay Area have developed into two of the world’s leading technology hubs.

Today, much attention is understandably focused on the Bay Area’s business ties with fast-growth economies such as China. The Bay Area’s relation with Japan has developed deep roots, however, based on technology, established partnerships, and younger enterprises that provide new vehicles for high-value collaboration. This foundation and complementary economic strengths are reflected in a Memorandum of Understanding, signed in September by 2014 by California Governor Jerry Brown and Japan’s Ambassador to the United States, for cooperation in the fields of climate change, renewable energy, zero emission vehicles, electric vehicle charging, and water management. In October 2014 implementing agreement, the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) and Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) agreed to conduct feasibility study for an electric vehicle charging demonstration project in California.

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November 2014