SMEs at the heart of Japan-EU cooperation

Submitted by Eva Fadil on 22 November 2017

The EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation celebrates its 30th year of existence, dedicated to a continuous and unfaltering support to European and Japanese business partnering and reciprocal growth. For this occasion, the EU-Japan Centre came back to the importance of SMEs targeting activities, that are at the heart of EU-Japan business cooperation. Indeed, the biggest part of companies from both Japan and EU Member States are SMEs, representing 99.7% of Japan businesses (3.8 million) for 70% of the Japanese workforce and 99.8% of European businesses (20.9 million) for 66.7% of the European workforce, and thus are considered by Japanese end European policy makers as the main drivers of economic growth (sources: Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Eurostat). This underlines the importance of an SMEs targeted collaboration strategy between all stakeholders.

Cluster organisations, both Japanese and European, often are the main direct mediators between SMEs on the one hand and, on the other hand, the business and policy ecosystem composed of public managing authorities, policy makers, and business support organisations. On the Japanese side, the cluster environment is less formally organised and often takes the shape of an informal leadership by Research Centres for temporary periods (usually a specific project lifetime), whereas European clusters often benefit from a formal – and, very often, legal – configuration. Nevertheless, a mapping tool has been established by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) that shows the Japanese cluster community. The main running cluster policy is called the “Industrial Cluster Project” (2001-2020), led by the Japan Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and targeting SMEs competitiveness and development by involving them in cluster processes. Other programmes have been set up in order to provide funding to cluster members, generally SMEs, which often suffer from a difficult access to finance.

The EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation has developed a service called EU-Japan Technology Transfer Helpdesk which aims to support SMEs and cluster members, both Japanese and European, in their technology transfer transactions, practices and, more generally, strategies.

The EU Gateway | Business Avenues provide a number of opportunities for sector-related business meetings for SMEs.

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