Hervé Cottard, CEO of Almatech, was aware of Japan’s hydrogen strategy and saw great potential for his shuttle in the Land of the Rising Sun and its 7,000 islands. Thus, he approached Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE), the official agency for the international promotion of Swiss SMEs, to find investors in Japan. After discussing Almatech’s needs, the S-GE office in Renens passed them on to its Japanese branch, the Swiss Business Hub Japan (SBHJ).
Test run during the Green Mobility Symposium
In August 2020, a colleague from SBHJ with good knowledge of the field began a systematic analysis of potential partners and was able to provide Almatech with an initial list of 29 potential candidates. This long list was subsequently reduced to a small number of candidates, which included e5Lab. On October 19, Almatech presented its solution to Japanese hydrogen players at the online Green Mobility Symposium organized by SBHJ and made contact with representatives of the Japanese green mobility ecosystem.
Taylor made service in Japan
SBHJ’s second step was to prepare Almatech for the Japanese market, so that they could fully understand the Japanese business world, and in particular its hydrogen market. This coaching enabled the company to equip themselves better and to understand customs in order to attract a Japanese partner. SBHJ also supported Almatech in the translation of their marketing material into Japanese. Finally, on Wednesday, May 19, 2021, Almatech signed an unprecedented partnership with e5.lab, Japan’s largest maritime platform. A signing ceremony via videoconference took place simultaneously at the EPFL Innovation Park in Lausanne in the presence of the Japanese ambassador to Switzerland and at the Swiss Embassy in Tokyo in the presence of the Chargé d’Affaires.
It is true that the Japanese branch of S-GE provided the company with tailor-made support. However, Claudio Mazzucchelli, Director of the Swiss Business Hub, points out that Almatech had major advantages in the Japanese market: They managed to offer a unique technology that cannot be found in Japan, a country that is already very advanced in the field of hydrogen. Only a very specific technology could have a chance of breaking into this market. Moreover, Almatech has shown unfailing interest and commitment to the Japanese market. This perseverance, a quality highly prized in Japan, paid off. And to top it all off, Almatech hired a Japanese business manager to handle its communications.”
Hervé Cottard concludes: “S-GE is very attentive to its customers and knows the different markets very well due to its international presence. It is very difficult for medium-sized Swiss companies like Almatech to conduct market research from Switzerland in countries like Japan without the support of specialists like S-GE. We are extremely satisfied with S-GE’s service and will certainly place new mandates for Korea and the United States in particular.”
Almatech SA is a Swiss high-tech company based at the EPFL Innovation Park campus since 2009. Almatech specializes in the development and implementation of complex systems for space and naval applications. Almatech works for the European Space Agency (ESA) and, notably, built the complete structure of the first Swiss satellite telescope, CHEOPS. Almatech was also part of the Hydroptère project, which broke the world record for sailing speeds on water using foils optimized by Almatech in 2011.
About e5.lab Inc.
e5.lab is a Japanese joint venture by Asahi Tanker, Exeno, MOL and Mitsubishi. Founded in 2019, e5.lab – which stands for electrification, environment, economy, efficiency, evolution – aims to address the increasingly critical challenges soon to be faced by the Japanese maritime industry. In partnership with Japanese and foreign companies, e5.lab aims to commercialize zero-emission electric-powered merchant and passenger ships.