Solving the Grand Challenge of our Time: Carbon Neutrality through Open Innovation
Successful case studies and processes presented by Trusted Corporation & World Bank Tokyo Development Learning Center (TDLC)
Trusted Corporation held an event with a guest speaker from the World Bank at CIC Tokyo on April 26. The seminar focused on real-life case studies of how the open innovation process can be applied to solve one of the grand challenges of our times–carbon neutrality–through open innovation. Innovation has shifted away from Japan — once synonymous with innovative technology — to other hubs around the world.
Once synonymous with innovation, Japan now lags behind
The country was once synonymous with innovation during its heyday in the bubble era. The three decades following the burst of the bubble are also known as the lost decades and it is time for Japan to break out of this. The country is still a world leader when it comes to innovation in manufacturing, processes, and supplying the world with high-quality products in manufacturing — yet its innovation processes, which were often closed and happening behind closed doors at large traditional firms — doesn’t quite gel with a globalized economy and collaboration with startups, which let the country fall behind the US, China, and Europe when it comes to open innovation.
Japan innovates behind closed doors, missing opportunities
According to JETRO, 80–90% of stores, distribution networks, and other physical assets are owned by large corporations in Japan. Venture capital supplied to startups is minuscule compared to the global average and by 2020, Japan had only produced 7 unicorn start-ups overall. A drop in the ocean with the global output presented by Victor Mulas, Team Lead of the World Bank Tokyo Development Learning Center during the seminar.
According to Mulas, the global trend is towards de-centralizing and de-risking innovation: open innovation distributes innovation on a collaborative network of players, which also minimizes risks. This requires overthinking the very hierarchical and internally-focused business model of traditional Japanese firms, but opens the doors to faster and more effortless innovation and taps new networks and markets.
“Japanese people are great innovators and Japan has brought the world many ‘walkman moments’ — a small innovation by a Japanese corporation that changed the world. Japan still harbours the same potential, and open innovation seems to be the key to unlocking it again,” Mulas concluded his talk.
The will is there, but Japanese companies don’t know the way
It is not a lack of willingness that is stopping Japan from becoming open innovators. The right processes simply aren’t known and in place yet, which is a major obstacle for process-oriented Japanese companies, according to Mie Ishibashi, Sales Director of Trusted Corporation. Ishibashi presented Trusted’s internal research that surveyed more than 60 Japanese corporations on why they either don’t attempt open innovation or why such efforts have failed. 64% stated lack of organizational readiness, with the main reasons being lack of a clear vision, resources, a defined process, or alignment between different departments.
New business processes are needed to integrate open innovation into the Japanese business model
To alleviate this, Trusted has designed the Innovation Planner, a 5-step assessment & workshop tailored to Japanese companies that will lead them on their way to open innovation — starting off with a clear roadmap, to a skills matrix that captures existing skills and resources in the organization, to PoC planning and integration of the innovative technologies or services into the company’s existing business model and line-up. Trusted now helps various large Japanese corporations–ranging from real estate developers to manufacturing and fast-moving consumer goods clients–unfold their true open innovation potential with the 5-step plan.
Open innovation is not reinventing the wheel, but applying existing technology to new areas
Japanese people have always been great innovators, more than inventors. They understand how to refine processes and apply inventions to new areas of application. In her closing presentation, Fariza Abidova, CEO of Trusted Corporation demonstrated how existing technologies can be transferred to new industries, which leads to streamlined processes, improved efficiency and productivity, and new product line-ups.
This is where open innovation shines: New technologies developed by startups fuse with the services and products of established companies.
Beyond business challenges such as efficiency, productivity, and latent market needs, open innovation has proven an effective tool for many corporations to accomplish their carbon neutrality goals: For example, automotive and manufacturing companies have used startup events to find technologies to enhance their recycling and circular economy processes.
Open Innovation and Carbon Neutrality: Applying New Tech to Save the Planet
One of Abidova’s examples focused on how remote sensing aids bees, the main pollinators of our planet. WIthout bees and other pollinators, plants could not reproduce. Trees and other plants not only store carbon but are also our primary food source. Remote sensing was once mainly used by scientists and the military, but through an SAP startup event, the technology has been applied to bees used in honey production. This monitors the bees' activity and can remote report on their health, and activity hot spots — a win-win for both honey producers and the environment in helping to keep bee populations healthy and detecting potential threats to local bee populations early on. The initial project has now been applied across three continents.
European Startups Lead in Carbon Neutral Technologies
Open innovation has put carbon neutrality — one of the major goals of our times — within reach for us. European startups and their vast and tightly interconnected ecosystem play a major role in this achievement in the European Union. Abidova presented several success studies during her talk — from a Dutch company that managed to recycle car tires fully carbon neutral to a Finnish startup that found a way to convert city air collected on rooftops into storable electricity.
“In 2021, the human race has created virtually all the technology to solve most of the world’s problems. What is missing now is connection: applying inventions to the areas where they are needed. This is what open innovation does,” explains Abidova.
About Trusted Corporation
Trusted helps corporations find potential new technologies and partnerships effortlessly. Driven by a vision of accelerating cross-border and cross-industry innovation, Trusted’s open innovation process and platform replace outdated business processes, an approach suited to the era of global innovation.
To receive Trusted’s blueprint for open innovation and learn more about how Trusted can introduce you to startups working on innovative solutions in carbon neutrality through their Startup Finder service, please contact Mie Ishibashi at firstname.lastname@example.org
Trusted Corporation Contact Details
15F Toranomon Hills Business Tower, 1–17–1 Toranomon, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105–6415, Japan