Interview with Mr. Hisanobu Takayama, Director General, Japan Space Systems (J-Spacesystems)
Japan Space Systems is a non-profit, general foundation corporation, and we were formed after the merger of 3 non-profit R&D organizations related to space under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).
Mr Hisanobu Takayama, could you tell us a bit about the history of J-Spacesystems; how your organisation started and what is your mission and how does it fit with other entities in Japan taking care of the industry sector which delivers commercial services based on EO data?
Japan Space Systems is a non-profit, general foundation corporation, and we were formed after the merger of 3 non-profit R&D organizations related to space under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). They are Institute for Unmanned Space Experiment Free Flyer (USEF), Japan Resources Observation Systems & Space Utilization Organization (JAROS), and Earth Remote Sensing Data Analysis Centre (ERSDAC), and in 2012, they merged together to newly start activities as Japan Space Systems. The aim of J-spacesystems is to promote the utilization of space systems and technologies to contribute to the expansion of national economy and support industry development. Due to our close relationship with METI, we are very much industry-focussed meaning that our projects are aimed to benefit the industry instead of pure academic or scientific purposes.
Part of our budget comes from the financial support of our 42 member companies, which consist of major players in Japan from aerospace, EO data analysis, heavy equipment, oil & gas, and mineral resources sectors. We work closely with them to foster technology development within the industry through joint design projects and basic research, as well as exchange of staff between J-spacesystems and the member companies.
We have strong expertise in EO data application, particularly in areas of mineral exploration, environmental monitoring, disaster response & management, and land management, and have conducted numerous feasibility studies. In line with the current global trend of EO downstream, we are putting more and more emphasis on commercial EO data applications. We are looking to strengthen our collaboration with non-space industries and engage new players to contribute to the “industrialization of EO data” through new business creation.
Can you describe briefly the main services J-spacesystems provides and J-spacesystems involvement with the Japanese EO industry? What has been the greatest challenge encountered by your organisation?
Our services consists of 3 main pillars – 1) technology development, 2) human resources development and capacity building, and 3) market analysis and policy advice.
We perform R&D, conceptual design, feasibility studies, and technology developments in the areas of small satellite missions and bus development, launch systems, satellite operations and ground facilities, remote-sensing technologies and data applications. Some of our main projects and systems that we developed together with the industry includes the Earth-observation payload ASTER (Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer), which is on-board NASA’s Terra satellite, high-performance small satellite bus ASNARO (Advanced Satellite with New System Architecture for Observation).
We also offer training and capacity building for developing countries in remote-sensing, particularly for data processing and information mining from images. Over the years, we have conducted capacity building programs in over 50 countries in Europe, Africa, South East Asia and South America.
Lastly, we conduct market analysis on behalf of METI and the National Space Policy Secretariat of the Japanese Cabinet Office (CAO) to examine trends and needs with respect to EO data in emerging countries. In the recent years, we have strengthened our ties with CAO to offer policy analysis and advice to support shaping up Japan’s space policy initiatives.
Contrasting Japan and Europe probably there are different approaches shaped by the different market conditions. How do the Japanese EO data suppliers invest in new opportunities?
Indeed, traditional EO data companies in Japan didn’t view satellite imagery as a data commodity, and remained focussed on government contracts and overseas development projects. Thus, their business and investment are somewhat already established. On the other hand, we, J-spacesystems, are looking to move away from conventional business model, and bring in the interests of the wider user communities into the EO domain. To bring this vision into fruition, we launched our online business creation platform Space Business Court to create new business opportunities and investments by engaging entities from a wide range of non-space sectors.
In November 2016, EARSC and JSS signed a memorandum of understanding to develop synergies and strengthen cooperation in business, research and technology between Europe and Japan in the utilisation EO technology. What are your expectations and how do you judge the first steps which have been taken?
I feel that previously, Europe and Japan just didn’t know about each other, particularly about each other’s industry, their current status and capabilities. The line of communication really didn’t exist before. With that in mind, I believe improving the understanding of each other has been an important outcome of the partnership between EARSC and JSS so far. We have already had several information exchange and workshops which have been extremely valuable in gaining better insights into the current status and issues in Europe and Japan, and I feel that the partnership is off to a good start. Having said that, I do feel that it’s vital that we maintain this momentum, and we have to work together to facilitate greater collaboration between European and Japanese companies, where both sides complement their strengths and weaknesses to create new businesses. Japan has a very strong IT industry with many energetic start-ups in AI, IoT and Machine-learning, as well as established players, and I would like to see more collaborations between them and the European players.
Signature of the Memorandum of Understanding by Chetan Pradhan, Chairman of the Board of Directors of EARSC and Yoshiharu Kunogi, J-spacesystems President of the Board of Executives in Brussels on 23 November 2016.
The EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation acts as an intermediary support organisation to support activities between the JSS and EARSC as part of its objective to facilitate EU-Japan industrial cooperation under its Space.Japan project. Could you explain more concretely how they (can) support this collaboration?
The EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation has a solid experience in promoting EU-Japan industrial and innovation cooperation in Earth-observation and other space-related industries through organising numerous events to facilitate company partnerships, B2B matchmaking, networking and industry liaison. To give some concrete examples;
- Space.Japan project to support EU SMEs in Aerospace to search for business / R&D cooperation with Japan (the first partnering mission was organized in March 2015 in Tokyo, involving EARSC and 14 other EU SMEs).
- First EU-Japan Space Forum in Tokyo in October 2014, bringing together stakeholders and industries to discuss future cooperation, along the EU-Japan Space Policy Dialogue.
- Annual EU-Japan Business Round-table, consisting of major aerospace companies such as Airbus, Arianespace, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
- Japan partner for Enterprise Europe Network (EEN), a dedicated B2B partner search database.
Therefore, we feel that EU-Japan Centre has various ‘practical tools’ to facilitate company collaborations, and their role is absolutely vital to ensure the success of the partnership between EARSC and JSS.
EARSC together with 3 member companies – Airbus D&S, GMV and e-GEOS participated in the S-NET 4th Sectorial Meeting “EO Data Platform” in Tokyo on 15 February. The event showed growing interest in Japan for consolidating EO and IT. The following day, JSS organised the first EARSC-JSS Joint EO & IT Seminar to give an opportunity for the two industries to come together and exchange ideas from fresh perspectives. How can we together ensure a EU/Japan industry collaboration on a sustainable and long-term basis?
I think it’s important for EARSC and JSS to maintain the enthusiasm from both sides through regular exchange of information, and more importantly, organise events that capture the needs and interests of the industry. The 2 workshops in February indicated that the hint to new business opportunities lies with Japan’s energetic IT sector to our European audience, and I believe this is kind of topics that JSS and EARSC need to discuss and disseminate to assist creation of new business ventures. JSS is planning to organise a large-scale space symposium in Sept 2017 focusing on the industry and new business opportunities. The symposium held in Sept 2016 enjoyed over 200 attendants, and we also have several other events in the pipeline focused on the industrialization of EO data. We hope that these events will support industry collaboration between Europe and Japan, and set the scene for more concrete framework to be put in place in the near future.
The link between EO and IT seems to be an important topic in both Japan and Europe. How do Japanese policy makers and companies foresee synergies between the two sectors?
In November 2016, JSS contracted MM Research Institution to estimate the market potential of “EO & IT”, which found it to be staggering €2.8 Bn (350 Bn yen) already in 2016, and it’s expected to grow to €6.4 Bn or 16 Bn by 2030 with CAGR of 5.2 and 11.8% respectively. This is a staggering projection, and it has quickly attracted large interests from both the Japanese government and the industry. Thus, the key government ministries and agencies are very supportive and hopeful about the potential synergies between the two industries.
Could you explain to our reader what the Space Business Court is? How it is intended to support industry?
Space Business Court (SBC) is an online business creation platform fully funded by JSS. The aim is to become a one-stop shop to foster new business creation using EO data application as well as other areas of space such as GNSS and space hardware and software. SBC is for entrepreneurs and companies in Japan as well as overseas looking to start new business in space, and we intend to offer support right from the initial idea phase to actual business implementation. SBC is a completely free service and it’s equipped with many useful contents: 1) companies can register their profiles and look for partners, 2) news section to gather valuable insight on the latest trends and developments in the space industry in Japan and overseas, 3) obtain information about various funding opportunities, 4) experts pool to connect space industry experts with start-ups and established companies, and 5) API for open-source EO data and data-processing tools, which we plan to develop in the near future. The teaser-site for SBC is already up and running, and the URL is https://www.bizcourt.space/en/ . The grand opening is scheduled for May 16, 2017.
How can we improve co-operation between JSS and EARSC in a more effective way? How do you perceive both roles in this respect?
I think it’s vital that the 2 organisations maintain regular and effective communication to maintain the momentum. Furthermore, exchange of industry insight and other business information would also be of interest for European and Japanese companies. I think the key is to increase the understanding about each other. By understanding each other’s strengths, capabilities, and areas in which the two sides can complement one another, we can identify possible subject areas and ideas for collaboration. Then the two sides can lobby their respective governing bodies to convert these ideas into proper policy framework to support new business ventures.
In your opinion, what will be the best mechanism to build a strong partnership?
Following from the previous question, I think a having a proper cooperation framework agreement would help moving potential partnerships forward. For this, it’s important to show some success cases of cooperative ventures, ideally in EO, and maybe even exchange of personnel between Japan and Europe to better understand about each other’s strengths and capabilities.
At the end of the interview, here is the opportunity for your final thoughts and how your activities could contribute to the future development of the EO geo-information service sector?
SBC is the first industry-led service in Japan focused on the benefiting the industry, and I will strive to ensure that it contributes to new business creation in EO data application in Japan and internationally. Let’s work together and look forward to the road ahead.
Hisanobu Takayama started his career at Mitsubishi Electric Co. (Melco), a major Japanese aerospace/electronics company, and worked the development of antenna for satellite communication. He was in charge of proposal creation and bidding, contract management, and business strategy & planning for many government projects. He has a proven expertise in business planning and negotiation, with the total value of projects that he dealt with amounts to nearly 1 billion EUR. Later, he joined the business management and strategic headquarters for Mitsubishi Precision Systems. Hisanobu joined Japan Space Systems in 2015 as the Director General of Strategic Planning Office and the Vice Director General of Space Industry Division, where he spearheads activities on creation of new space business and cross-sector engagement. He has a vast knowledge and network in the Japanese space sector, ranging from space and non-space companies, government ministries and institutions. He also organizes space training events for elementary schools and companies interested in space.
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