Global Opportunities

Japan enacts high-tech “Super City” bill

Certain regulatory sandboxes are set to accommodate revised AI, big data and blockchain solutions alongside other cutting-edge technologies in areas including transportation, infrastructure, medicine and education. The initiative will see a few cities designated as National Strategic Special Zones. These cities will embrace bold regulatory reforms and pave the way to roll out advanced digitized products and services, such as telemedicine, self-driving transport and cashless payments. The Zones will also support inward investment from abroad.

Tokyo, Japan

The Super City Initiative and digitization needs

May 2020 saw the “Super City” concept come into being when the Japanese Diet passed the namesake bill. It is intended to facilitate partnerships between local governments and private tech that leverage AI, big data, blockchain and other cutting-edge technologies. Ultimately, the initiative aims to mitigate the acute problems caused by the ongoing aging population and labor shortages.

The legislation accelerates the roll-out of certain technologies by relaxing regulatory hurdles in certain ‘sandboxes’. Priority areas for technological solutions include self-driving transport, MaaS, logistics, remote education, telemedicine (including data analysis and patient feedback), nursing care, disaster prevention (quick response based on real-time data), cashless payments, identification, energy management by visualization, waste control and e-government among others.

Japan has long acknowledged but failed to address domestic issues such as the stalled digital revolution, due mainly to regulatory impediments stifling innovation and related initiatives. The push for government-led reform, however, became inexorable when the COVID-19 pandemic meant these issues could no longer be ignored.

For example, the health ministry has lifted its ban on doctors seeing first-time patients online. The shutdown of schools and ensuing educational gap has intensified the urgent need to facilitate online teaching. Cities and municipalities can work with technology-driven business to consolidate and realize these demands by performing bold experiments in projects under this Super City Initiative.

The required solutions

Solutions are needed to deliver goods by drone, monitor local energy usage and provide locally generated renewable energy, provide bespoke learning services for individual students and user-friendly online medical and nursing care consultations and assistance on demand. Such initiatives will also improve the ability to cope with disasters like the recent massive nationwide flooding and minimizing energy usage and CO2 emission as far as possible.

A single platform housing all the data will be interlinked to other platforms to facilitate storage and analysis of big data. Within such smart cities, protecting personal data effectively and avoiding excessive social surveillance is crucial.

Switzerland is a leading player in data management and cybersecurity; something the Swiss Business Hub (SBH) Japan will emphasize when selling Swiss know-how to help such smart city projects progress.

Requirements for Swiss exporters and how the Swiss Business Hub Japan will help

By the end of 2020, five smart cities will be selected for funding, whereupon Swiss companies offering innovative solutions and products will need a presence in Japan. For businesses with their own Japan-based subsidiaries or distributors, SBH Japan will work with their Japanese partners to formulate and implement a strategic plan to make progress possible. For businesses still seeking a partner in Japan, SBH Japan can introduce their technologies to the key Japanese tech companies involved in the smart cities project and help source a suitable distributor once interest on the Japanese side is generated and confirmed.

Since Japan is also benchmarking other global smart cities, Swiss companies with proven track records in projects such as Hangzhou, Toronto, Helsinki or Amsterdam will have a head start.

Switzerland Spearheading Innovation

Japan may be synonymous with technology, but its high manufacturing standards are still largely down to exceptional craftsmanship of individual engineers and factory workers and it lags behind in digitization. In response, the major Japanese tech players have begun striving to bring new technologies on board and welcome collaboration with foreign start-ups.

SBH Japan has started a campaign to position Switzerland as the global innovation leader. The scope involves establishing a network with major Japanese tech companies, encompassing areas such as mobility, healthcare, robotics, advanced manufacturing, finance and energy in particular. Other sectors requiring innovation include carbon-neutral manufacturing, upcycling of industrial by-products, bio-based raw materials and hydrogen in buildings to name but a few, as part of efforts to transform the Circular Economy. Japanese businesses also want to familiarize themselves with the specific Swiss industrial regulatory environment when testing out new technologies, which is perceived to be far more efficient than in Japan or the EU.

So, if your products, services and technologies can address the aging population and labor shortage issues, contact the Swiss Business Hub Japan today.

Let us help you open the door.

Super City Initiative

Read more
Recommend us
How should we contact you?

Premium Partner

Strategic partners

Institutional partner

Official program