20 Oct 2020

Carving a Niche—An Interview with Hitoshi Yoshino of Japan IP Network


Innovation in the Land of Rising Opportunities
With their expertise and wide network in technology and commercial domains, Japan IP Network supports overseas businesses that wish to realise their potential in the Japanese market through open innovation.

Currently the third largest economy in the world, Japan remains a global leader in science, technology, and innovation. This unsurprisingly makes the archipelago highly desirable for overseas companies aiming to make the most out of their intellectual property (IP) assets and services.

For most of these non-Japanese businesses, however, several obstacles stand in their way. Besides the inherent physical challenges in communication, companies may struggle with establishing their presence in the Japanese market due to language barriers, cultural differences and varying business practices.

Recognising the increase in demand among overseas businesses to enter the Japanese market, Japan IP Network was set up in 2005 to address their technology-related needs in Japan. In this interview, managing director of Japan IP Network, Hitoshi Yoshino shares how the company provides reliable professional marketing and connectivity services through open innovation and its vast network of technology experts and institutions.


1. What does Japan IP Network do, and what are your strengths?

Japan IP Network provides global clients with technology transfer, patent licensing, patent transactions, as well as other technology and IP-related services. Additionally, we’ve helped a number of overseas companies to develop businesses in the Japanese market. I have personally been involved in these activities for thirty years since 1990. Our strength lies in a wide personal network with corporates, universities, research institutes and IP professionals globally.

2. What is unique about Japan IP Network’s approach towards open innovation? Why did you choose such an approach?

For each case, we bring in business partners who are the best persons to work with from our wide personal network. From a commercial viewpoint, we know that open innovation is generally time-consuming and carries unexpected risks for companies due to complicated processes. To promote open innovation of this nature successfully, it’s necessary to have collaboration with experienced and qualified partners.

3. How does collaborating with Japan IP Network help companies engage in open innovation?

As mentioned above, we have a lot of experience in technology transfer, with a lengthy track record and a wide personal network. We’re also quite familiar with complications that may arise during the open innovation processes, as well as possible solutions to them. Therefore, our clients are able to promote open innovation activities effectively and efficiently.

4. Please share a success story where Japan IP network has helped connect businesses and innovation owners.

We helped Rolic Technologies, a Swiss-based high-tech company that specializes in the optical alignment of molecules applicable to displays, securities and organic electronics, to promote the licensing of their technology portfolios to a number of Japanese companies, including Sharp, Toppan Printing and Dai Nippon Printing. We also helped a Japanese SME to successfully transfer their hydrogen generation technology to a Chinese company and research institute.

Another client that we’ve been helping to enter the market here is SciTech Patent Art, an India-based data analytics firm. For the last five years, we’ve been their representative in Japan, actively marketing their data analytics services focused on technology and IP. Their services are now being used by more than 20 large Japanese companies with high IP-consciousness, in industries like automobiles, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, medical equipment, electronics, engineering, and so on.

5. In your opinion, what are the ingredients required for a successful open innovation partnership?

Open innovation involves the transfer of technologies, so innovation owners tend to choose someone with a strong technical background as a partner. However, forming a successful open innovation partnership requires the capability to understand the commercial value of an innovation, in addition to its technical value. Most businesses will see innovations from a commercial viewpoint, rather than a technical one. They’re looking for innovations with which they can possibly generate business revenue.

Professionals who understand the commercial value of innovations are in a better position to find potential partners and successfully persuade them to pay attention to those innovations. For instance, I do not have a strong technical background but have nonetheless successfully engaged in technology transfer activities across various technology sectors for the past thirty years.

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