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The Big Picture San Diego Blog


from the road

October 17, 2016


By Nikia Clarke, director, World Trade Center San Diego

WTC San Diego was on the road again last week, joining Biocom, UC San Diego and four San Diego life sciences companies for BioJapan in Yokohama. Yokohama is San Diego’s sister city; a lovely port city of 3.7 million people—and Japan’s second largest metro—that often gets lost in the shadow of nearby Tokyo (sound familiar?). Yokohama was an auto manufacturing and export capital, and in the words of city officials, “home to the very first Japanese auto company: Ford motors.” As much of that manufacturing moved to lower cost destinations in Asia, Yokohama has had to pivot towards more knowledge-intensive industries like ICT and life sciences. I toured several research spaces and innovation houses in which the city government has invested to support these new industries.

Yokohama and San Diego will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the sister city relationship in 2017, with a visit from Mayor Hayashi. I carried with me this time a letter from San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, celebrating this relationship as both sides look to build upon long diplomatic relations with more robust business and commercial exchange. 

A quickly-growing gateway into the Asian life sciences industry, BioJapan 2016 hosted 800 companies, 15,000 visitors and was sponsored by big San Diego employers like Takeda, Ajinomoto, Kyowa Kirin, Chugai and J&J Innovation, among others.

Japan is the second largest pharmaceuticals market globally after the U.S., and is also San Diego’s second largest source of foreign investment. 'Asian multinationals have been shifting significantly from legacy industries into new growth verticals: Ajinomoto moving from food additives to pharmaceuticals; Samsung exploring biologics, precision instruments and wireless health; and FujiFilm expanding from cameras to vaccine manufacturing.

However, as Takeda CEO Christophe Weber shared in his keynote, the majority of big discoveries in this space are being generated by startups and SMEs, which is why aligning corporate capital and strategy with venture-fueled innovation is essential for the future of the global life sciences industry. This is where the opportunity for San Diego lies.

San Diego does innovation very well, which is why BioJapan is a great opportunity for partnering and sales opportunities for local companies targeting Japan. Companies like Organovo, a San Diego company that “bioprints” human tissue, traveled to Yokohama for partnering meetings. Founded in 2007, Organovo now employs more than 100 people and is trading on the Nasdaq.

Even as new trends and technologies change the industry in both Japan and San Diego, it is clear that the importance of relationship building remains paramount. Biocom has made a long-term investment in the region, and has cultivated a widespread respect for the California life sciences ecosystem. Biocom now has 40 member companies in Japan, and on this trip signed an MOU with the Kobe biocluster and opened a Biocom Japan office; its only presence outside the U.S.

UC San Diego has similarly focused on Japan, opening its own office in the prestigious Nihonbashi life sciences building in central Tokyo earlier this year, and building robust industry and university research and training collaborations across Japan, in everything from medicine to robotics to entrepreneurship.

As Biocom continues to build bridges between global life sciences clusters, and UC San Diego reinforces them with world-class research alliances, WTC San Diego’s objective is to build the sustainable infrastructure to move companies across those bridges, through export programs like MetroConnect, and the creation of innovation investment networks.

In 2016 we have participated in a Technology Symposium, spoken to 400 investors in three cities about opportunities in San Diego, and partnered with JETRO to connect MetroConnect companies to business opportunities in Japan.

As always, increased collaboration globally—especially in our most competitive and high-growth sectors—amplifies our outcomes for the region as a whole, creating jobs, opportunities and connectivity. Luckily, collaboration is something San Diego does well

July 28, 2016

By Nikia Clarke, Director, World Trade Center San Diego

This week, World Trade Center San Diego spent a whirlwind few days in Tokyo celebrating the launch of a UC San Diego office and workspace in the heart of the life sciences hub in downtown Tokyo, Japan. The workspace will promote collaborations between UC San Diego researchers – and the larger San Diego business ecosystem – and research, education and industry partners in Japan.

Located in the region’s largest trade and investment market, the facility represents how San Diego continues to lead with its research and innovation in building global connectivity and competitiveness.

As a collaboration between the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering and the UC San Diego Office of Research Affairs, the Tokyo facility will serve as a home base for university faculty whose research brings them to Japan and as a venue for research symposia, networking events and alumni functions.

As is always the case in San Diego, the opening was founded in regional collaboration. I was proud to celebrate the opening alongside Sandra Brown, UC San Diego vice chancellor for research, dean of UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering Al Pisano and Robert Sullivan, dean of UC San Diego’s Rady School of Management. It was also a wonderful opportunity to meet so many UC San Diego alumni, who are now in positions of influence throughout Japan’s major industries, and all are eager to build bridges back to San Diego.

“We are very pleased the office is located at the heart of the life sciences hub in Tokyo, a perfect fit for UC San Diego as our two cities are seen as world leaders in life sciences and biotechnology,” said Sandra Brown, UC San Diego Vice Chancellor for Research.

A big thank you to Rough Draft Brewing, one of this year’s MetroConnect companies, who provided some of San Diego’s finest craft beer for giveaway at the event. That’s the San Diego story: world-class research and innovation, paired with first-class enjoyment.

For more information, visit UC San Diego’s news release.

April 27, 2016

By Nikia Clarke, Director, World Trade Center San Diego

WTC San Diego is on the road again, with a focus on deepening channels of connectivity between global cities around trade, investment, innovation and thought leadership (as well as herring, it turns out).

I spent last week in Stockholm, Sweden, participating in a Brookings/JPMorgan Chase Global Cities Forum. San Diego joined the Global Cities Initiative (GCI) almost four years ago, led by WTC San Diego founding partners—the City of San Diego, San Diego International Airport and the Port of San Diego—and followed by more than 30 other metros. Stockholm is now joining the GCI and drafting its own internationalization strategy. Together with four other GCI representatives, I spoke on panels and participated in working groups convened by Brookings, the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce and CONNECT Sweden to share San Diego’s experience of building a data-driven trade and investment strategy backed by a regional coalition of partners.

And, as is always the case with these Brookings Metro Exchanges, it’s a wonderful opportunity to learn from our peer cities. Philadelphia’s Economy League, together with their very active WTC, just launched a regional export plan, leveraging service provider networks to reach exporting firms. In London, the Mayor’s office and London & Partners are linking with private sector multinationals to create opportunities for 800 SMEs in new markets. Minneapolis-St. Paul has built strong regional economic development infrastructure that drives significant foreign investment to their bi-city region. World Business Chicago has been leading an effort among dozens of counties to move from competition to collaboration in a metro region that is one of the country’s largest foreign investment destinations.

At the close of the forum, the Chamber—along with the Mayor, Governor, Airport Authority and other public and private sector senior leadership from the region—launched Team Stockholm to drive the effort forward. As the CEO of AstraZeneca—an English-Swedish firm that is the seventh largest pharmaceutical company in the world—spoke to the group about the importance of global connectivity, on the other side of the world, his company inked a deal with San Diego’s Human Longevity Inc. to sequence more than 500,000 genomes and analyze samples from clinical trials. Indeed, competitiveness is all about connectivity.

So how do we continue to grow this kind of connectivity here in San Diego? Turns out Stockholm is the perfect place to reflect on this question, which is why innovation economy experts, like our own Mary Walshok, have been building linkages between our two regions for decades. Stockholm and San Diego have a lot in common: we are both metro regions of 2-3 million with world-class research ecosystems, strong life sciences, telecomm and technology sectors and we happen to be two of the top three most patent intense regions in the world. It is why as you drive down the road you see big names in our region that are also big names in Sweden: Thermo Fisher, Kyocera, Trinity Biotech, Ericsson, JLabs among others.

And in both our cities, so much of the innovation ecosystem is driven by SMEs—which in both San Diego and Stockholm make up around 95 percent of all companies—and the ways in which they are able to engage with large firms and global networks. I visited a number of the institutions that incubate, accelerate and commercialize technology in the region and there is much we can learn from Stockholm.

The Karolinska Innovation Institute spins life sciences and pharmaceutical discoveries out of the university research hospital. Sting—a city-university-private sector collaboration that runs a network of incubators, accelerators and co-working spaces in the region—is launching a new digital health accelerator program that will launch firms into international markets.

EpiCentre is an innovation house founded as a temporary experiment in a downtown high rise awaiting redevelopment last year. Now it has 600 members—large tech corporates, entrepreneurs and everything in between—who run incubators, accelerators, hackathons and labs. As companies grow and scale they move through the flexible, diverse office spaces throughout the building. It will anchor plans for an expansive downtown redevelopment with hotels, restaurants and office space all linked by aerial walkways. Too cool, right?

I had the opportunity to continue these conversations with a brief stopover in London on the way home to visit co-working spaces, tech hubs and San Diego company Cubic’s new transit innovation centre. Cubic already moves 10 million people around London every day as the operator of the Underground’s oyster card payment system. But here they are working with universities, transport providers and entrepreneurs on what’s next for the ever smarter, safer cities of tomorrow? (hint: it might involve talking holograms and buying your ticket with the veins in your hand

One of WTC San Diego’s primary mandates is to grow opportunities both for local firms in overseas markets, and for foreign ones investing in our region. To this end we’ve spoken with more than 400 investors in Japan, taken a group of water tech companies to England and France and are about to select our 2016 cohort of MetroConnect firms. As we reflect on what’s next for our region in terms of boosting our global competitiveness, it is clear that international innovation networks are critical. Certainly some great lessons were taken from this trip: creating great spaces, collaborating with diverse partners and being a little wild and very flexible.

As always, at each stop we were sure to leave behind one of San Diego’s best exports: Stone Brewing Co. craft beer—this time the Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout. No wonder they like us.

Cheers to Stockholm and London, and see you soon, San Diego. 

January 28, 2016

By Sean Barr, senior vice president of economic development

Greetings from Tokyo, Japan. This week, behind a newly relaunched World Trade Center San Diego, EDC kicks off its 2016 international program. Our goals are clear – grow exports and position the region as a choice location for investment and science and technology partnerships.  

I am here in Tokyo the next few days with the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego. From day one, we were met with great enthusiasm for expanded partnerships with the University of Tokyo, University of Osaka, and private industry leaders such as Mitsui, Honda and the Japan Venture Capital Association, to name a few.

Japan represents San Diego's largest trade and investment market, making the relationship key to our economic growth. Tokyo alone accounts for nearly 25 percent of all foreign owned establishments in the region. With operations in San Diego, Japanese companies such as Kyocera International, Sony, Ajinomoto, and Takeda are some of the most active and community-minded companies, employing hundreds of San Diegans. Japan leads the way as an export market, consistently ranking among the top five most important markets for San Diego. From water technology, to microelectronics, to tourism, to telecommunications to renewable energy and craft beer, Japan punches way above its weight in the consumption of San Diego products and services. 

The relationship, however, is not one-sided. A number of organizations in San Diego have long recognized the importance of Japan to our economy, with some committing to a fulltime presence abroad, including Biocom, the San Diego Tourism Authority, the San Diego International Airport, the Port of San Diego, SDSU and of course, UC San Diego. We are looking to build on, amplify and support their work to advance the region's trade interests. 

Leading with our universities and science and engineering talent, San Diego is successfully attracting attention to our global innovation economy. In partnership with Al Pisano, Dean of the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego, EDC co-hosted a symposium this week for more than 30 Japanese investors. As investors traveled from Osaka, Kyoto, and throughout Tokyo to attend, it was evident that San Diego’s technology and engineering prowess has garnered global attention, with many inquiring about the region’s business climate and international presence.

 

The global outreach continues next week, through the end of April, and beyond. Next stop: Tokyo (return visit), Nagoya, Osaka, Auckland, Sydney, London, Toulon and Stockholm. We will certainly keep you updated from the road.