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The Big Picture San Diego Blog


Yokohama

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