Japan Inc. sets out welcome mat for Israeli businesses

A series of business and tech events in Osaka and Tokyo will highlight companies from Israel in automotive, electronics, and other industries

Hacking away at the Toyota Israel Tech Center event (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Hacking away at the Toyota Israel Tech Center event (Photo credit: Courtesy)

After running a successful hackathon in Israel in October, Toyota has decided that it wants more Israeli innovation – and this time it’s bringing that innovation to its home base.

The company will be holding an Innovation Day at Toyota world headquarters (in, of course, Toyota City). During the event, members of an Israeli delegation will meet with more than 50 representatives from the purchasing and R&D departments of the company.

The event is just one of several that the newly established Israel trade office in Osaka is setting up. The new branch, in one of the world’s leading financial centers, will open up new economic opportunities for Israeli companies, including Japan’s large automakers, said Amit Lang, director general of the Israeli Economy Ministry, who is in Osaka to inaugurate the new center as well as lead a delegation of Israeli automotive supply companies as part of his working visit to the country.

“Over the past year, there has been a noted increase in the interest of Japanese companies in Israel in a variety of fields, evidenced by the arrival of Japanese companies to Israel and their willingness to host Israeli companies in Japan,” said Lang.

The goal of the Israeli delegation, organized with the Israel Export Institute, is to create business ties between Israeli companies and potential business partners in the field of auto services in an effort to increase exports to Japan, said Lang. It also aims at presenting Japanese companies with possibilities of investing in Israel.

Israel isn’t the first place you’d think of when looking for companies that develop technology for the auto industry, but there are a number of local firms that do just that – providing manufacturers with ways to build quality cars for less money, helping salespeople to sell parts and services over the Internet, and even helping drivers drive more safely, using sensors that alert them when they get too close to the car ahead of them.

Among the Israeli firms active in the auto business is Israeli start-up Geomatrix, which developed in cooperation with the Israeli R&D center of Mckit Software Autoflat a system that is designed to help companies in the sheet metal industry save money. Sheet metal is a major component of automobiles, constituting the shell of most vehicles. Autoflat promises to provide manufacturers with exact specifications on the right way to cut metal for specific models, providing information about dimensions and shapes that will provide maximum aerodynamic efficiency for vehicles. Armed with this information, manufacturers will be able to cut the metal in the most efficient way possible.

“The Autoflat solution is meant for companies that produce sheet metal products,” said McKit Israel CEO Zeev Kroizman. “It improves the production planning cycle for sheet metal-based products by orders of magnitude over CAD systems that are currently used for planning such products.”

Israel is also the home of what has become one of the biggest hits in auto production – The MobilEye Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS). Now standard on many new car models, MobilEye alerts drivers when they come too close to vehicles and pedestrians, or when they veer out of their lane, sending out a beep that gets the driver’s attention. New versions of the system can also detect cyclists, debris on the road, curbs, barriers and constructions zones, and can also detect traffic lights and can even read signs. The advanced version of the system will be enabled by a number of forward-facing cameras and a number of low-cost radars for redundancy. All that, the company says, will make fully driverless cars feasible within the next two or three years, long before Google will be ready to sell its version of hands-free vehicles.

The Trade Office will present these and other technologies at several events in and around Osaka in cooperation with the Osaka Trade Bureau and the Japanese Ministry of Economy. In one event, executives from Honda, Suzuki, Daihatsu, Panasonic, Murata and others will meet with members of the delegation. In another, the Trade Office will bring members of the delegation to the offices of Denso, the world’s leading manufacturer of car parts. Denso has 184 subsidiaries and its annual sales exceed $35 billion. During the event, representatives of the Israeli companies will meet representatives from Denso’s purchasing, network and security departments and others.

And, of course, the Trade Office will bring the companies to Toyota, where the world’s biggest carmaker (a title it recently retook from Volkswagen after losing it for about two months) will get its own event.

“This is the first time in which Toyota managers agreed to host such a delegation,” said Noa Asher, the Israeli Economy Ministry’s Trade Representative in Japan. “This is a significant sign that Japanese automakers are beginning to see Israel as a source of technological innovation and that the solutions being developed in Israel will help Japanese companies win the hearts of car buyers.”

Establishing a trade office in western Japan comes following an Israeli government decision taken in January, the result of the work of an inter-ministerial team led by the deputy director of the Prime Minister’s Office, Yossi Katrivas, aimed at strengthening economic relations between Japan and Israel. One of the goals of the decision is expanding the India-China Fund of the Foreign Trade Administration at the Ministry of Economy to include Japan as a target country. The fund helps Israeli companies set up marketing representation in target countries. A call for submissions for companies interesting in receiving support from the ministry was published over the past months.

Besides the car companies, Lang will meet with officials from firms like electronics manufacturer Kyocera, food and beverage company Suntory, robotics company Yaskawa, chemical company Tijin and electronics company TDK. In addition, he will meet the head of the planning committee for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and with the Keidanren – the Japanese Industrial Association.

According to the Economy Ministry’s Foreign Trade Administration, trade between Israel and Japan reached $2.3 billion in 2014, with exports reaching $800 million and imports $1.5 billion.

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