EU-Japan cluster collaboration is well established since 2008. The EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation that has been launched in a collaborative approach offers services to European and Japanese clusters to help them identify potential cooperation partners in the reciprocal regions (matchmaking missions, thematic focus…).

Based on close economic ties and thanks to a stable and fruitful business and innovation environment, bilateral trade is well established, notably focussing on some high-technology sectors and diplomatic relations are also very positive.

Japan has a clear cluster strategy and offers a number of cluster programmes on a national and regional level that have resulted in a rich cluster community and the creation of the novel concept of “Knowledge Clusters” that refers to a system for technological innovation, organised by a local initiative around universities and other public research institutions with original R&D topics, as well as companies.

Economic and political context and framework

As a highly developed economy and a major global trader and investor, Japan is an important partner for the EU: Japan is the 6th EU partner in terms of both exports and imports and accounted for 3.1 % of EU exports, 3.3 % of EU imports in 2014, with a total trade that represented about 104, 483 billion € in 2014. The trade relationships between the EU and Japan have traditionally been characterised by big trade surpluses in favour of Japan but trade figures have become much more balanced in recent years. Japan is the EU’s second biggest trading partner in Asia after China.


In terms of important sectors for business, EU exports to Japan are dominated by a few high-technology sectors such as motor vehicles, machinery, pharmaceuticals, optical and medical instruments, and electrical machinery and exports from Japan to the EU are also dominated by machinery, electrical machinery, motor vehicles, optical and medical instruments, and chemicals.

Japan is also considered as one of the most innovative economies in the world, ranked the 5th economy in terms of innovation in the Global Competitiveness report, and its GERD was the third highest in the world in 2013 (3,47 % of GDP).

In terms of political stability, Japan generally benefits from a good image of a stable and predictable environment abroad, notably for business investment. The World Bank rates Japan’s political stability as rather strong (data from 1996-2014), classifies it the 27th most stable country in 2014, before the United States of America and considers it one of the first big industrial countries. The Global Competitiveness report 2015 also classified Japan as the 13th country in the world in terms of performance, independence or stability of the country’s institutions and regulations. However, Japan is also seen as a country where, due to the specific features of the Japanese society and economy, doing business or investing is often challenging.

Diplomatic relations between the EU and Japan are well developed, and trade and industrial policy dialogue are ongoing. The Directorate-General (DG) for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs has been working with the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) on an industrial policy dialogue since 1998. The aim is to further develop regulatory convergence and solve regulatory hurdles. The cooperation allows for better mutual understanding of respective policies, particularly relating to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and government procurement. Negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement between EU and Japan are ongoing (already 13 rounds of negotiations since 2013).Read less.

Cluster community in the country

The Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) has developed a mapping tool that provides information about the industrial clusters (major companies, related research institutions, main sectors, etc.) in various regions of Japan, and various sectors (mainly Automobiles and Transport Equipment, Aircraft, Food manufacturing, ICT, Electronics, Life Sciences, Environment and Energy, Service, Tourism).


The EU-Japan Center for Industrial Cooperation also published a report in 2013 on cluster mapping in Japan that provides information on cluster organisations in 6 major sectors:

  • Pharmaceuticals, Biotechnology, Healthcare, and Welfare clusters: 20 clusters + 1 knowledge cluster
  • Environment, Energy Clusters: 3 clusters
  • IT clusters: 4 clusters
  • Automobile Related Industry clusters: 7 clusters
  • Electronic Components, Devices and semiconductors clusters: 3 clusters
  • Precision machinery clusters (robotics, optics, nanotechnology, textile, fabric): 5 clusters + 2 knowledge clusters

Japan benefits from an important cluster landscape (at least 45 cluster organisations in 2013). The cluster organisations were all initiated and funded by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) or the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) that introduces a form of quality label for the cluster landscape. Moreover, the report provides information on each cluster contact, mission, members, sectoral focus and international cooperation activities. Most Japanese clusters appear to have international activities, sometimes in the form of international cluster cooperation, and often with Europe. In terms of innovation, a category has been created and distinguished from other clusters, the “Knowledge clusters” defined as a system for technological innovation, organised by a local initiative around universities and other public research institutions with original R&D topics, as well as with companies. Moreover, an important part of the other cluster organisations has identified increasing R&D as an objective and mission of the cluster.Read less.

Cluster policies encouraging the development and internationalisation of clusters

Since regional industry became concerned by the industrial hollowing-out of Japanese regions caused by globalisation, the importance of regional innovation through the advancement of science has gained recognition in Japan. Cluster Plans have been implemented and adjusted by the Japanese Government to become effective policies for regional innovation and job creation. The cluster policy in Japan is strongly dedicated to growth in industrial sectors and innovation. Read more...

Japan has a clear cluster policy implemented by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) and also by regional authorities.

The METI has established an industrial cluster policy since 2001 (20 Industrial Cluster Projects launched within the first period until 2005 which aim to enhance the competitiveness of Japan through industrial clusters.) Following a first stage of this policy in 2001-2010, Japan cluster policy has entered the “autonomous growth period” of the plan in which 18 out of the 20 Industrial cluster projects are now expected to be led by their local government, collaborating with their local academia and industry for further advancement.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has also launched several projects supporting cluster development over the last few years. Knowledge clusters have been established in several Japanese regions in the framework of the “Knowledge Cluster Initiative” launched by MEXT since 2002. Knowledge Clusters establish networks of individuals in academia and the private and government sectors—through project planning, joint-research, and exchanges of ideas. In addition, in 2010 MEXT launched the Project for Developing Innovation Systems in Japan in 2010 which aims at establishing and improving the systems that enable individual regions to create proactively innovations through the industry‐academia‐government collaboration policy. As part of this national project, two programmes were created in 2010: the Regional Innovation Cluster Programme and the Regional Innovation Strategy Support Programme launched by MEXT. The Regional Innovation Cluster Programme promotes joint research by industry, academia and government with local core universities and other research institutions with high R&D potential, and aims to form clusters capable of producing sustainable innovations by establishing industry‐academia‐government networks.

International cooperation in the field of cluster policy takes a strong importance in Japan. All cluster initiatives have dedicated tools or programmes aiming at encouraging international cooperation.Read less.

Cluster to cluster cooperation opportunities and potential interest from European clusters and SMEs

EU-Japan cluster cooperation is well established since 2008 (“EU-Japan Regional Cluster Forum”).The EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation was established in 1987, under the joint initiative of the European Commission (DG Enterprise and Industry) and the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). The Centre’s core mission is to deliver training and information to managers, engineers and students (both from EU and Japan). The EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation has launched a service for the benefit of European and Japanese clusters, to help them identify potential cooperation partners in the reciprocal regions.


The centre organises matchmaking missions to Japan for EU Clusters, notably thematic missions, recently in the sectors of Biotechnology (October 2015), Nanotechnology (January 2016) and ICT (to be confirmed). Another EU-Japan matchmaking event is also foreseen in Japan in April 2016. An EU sponsored B2B matchmaking mission was organised in 2014.

A new service of the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation called the Japan Technology Transfer Helpdesk has been established, dedicated at supporting primarily EU SMEs in finding promising technologies originating from Japanese universities and research centres (ongoing survey).

An MoU was signed between ECCP and the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation in 2012, showing that the EU-Japan cluster cooperation is clearly already well established.

Japan is also clearly an ESCP target country.

Japan cluster organisations are generally interested in international cooperation and notably inter-clustering. In the report from the EU-Japan Center, cluster organisations reference their existing cluster-to-cluster cooperation and show a number of EU-Japan existing cluster cooperation: for example such cooperation exists between:

  • Kyushu regional Bio Cluster and the French food cluster (France)
  • Northern Osaka Bio Medical Cluster that signed an MoU FlandersBio (Belgium), and an MOU with BIO-M (Germany)
  • Kyushu Semiconductor Industries & Technology Innovation Association (SIIQ) and the Hellenic Semiconductor Industry Association (Greece)
  • Japan Bioindustry Association with Medicon Valley Alliance (Denmark & Sweden)
  • Hokuriku Life Care Cluster Association with Cosmetics Valley Cluster (Loiret, France)

Japan cluster policy programmes work to further enhance international cluster cooperation.Read less.




Date Name Target Type
Tuesday, 11 April, 2017 - 10:00 EU-JAPAN SMART CITY PROJECT - CITY PLATFORMS AS A SERVICE (CPaaS.io) Cluster managers, Cluster Policy Makers, Large audience, Project coordinators, SME Seminar
Tuesday, 9 May, 2017 - 10:00 EU-Japan collaborative project on intelligent knowledge as-a-service (IKAAS) Cluster managers, Cluster Policy Makers, Project coordinators, SME Seminar
Sunday, 9 October, 2016 - 16:45 bioXclusters Plus and EU-Japan Centre - Announcement of the mission to Japan (Oct. 9th – 14th, 2016) Cluster managers, SME Matchmaking
Tuesday, 8 November, 2016 - 09:30 EU-Japan Cluster Matchmaking Event @ BIO-Europe 2016, Cologne, November 8th 2016 Cluster managers, Cluster Policy Makers Matchmaking
Monday, 12 October, 2015 - 08:45 Biotech Cluster and SME Matchmaking Mission to Japan Cluster managers, SME Matchmaking
Monday, 26 October, 2015 - 08:30 ICT Cluster and SME Matchmaking Mission to Japan Cluster managers, SME Matchmaking
Monday, 11 May, 2015 - 07:30 Human Resources Training Programme - Japan Industry Inight (HRTP) Cluster managers Seminar
Sunday, 17 July, 2016 - 10:00 World Investment Forum 2016 Large audience Conference
Tuesday, 5 July, 2016 - 09:15 NANOMATERIALS AND BIONANOSCIENCE IN JAPAN-EUROPE COOPERATION Cluster managers, Investors, Large audience, Project coordinators, SME Workshop



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