JPO to Help Smaller Firms, Start-Ups Protect Intellectual Property
     The Japan Patent Office (JPO) will take steps to enable small and medium-sized firms to register a patent at half the current cost, or about 200,000 yen,
by fiscal 2019 starting April. It currently costs a total of roughly 400,000 yen to register a patent, including the cost for the application and examination fees. Small-and medium-sized firms possess unique technology, but it is believed that many have not taken steps to protect their intellectual property rights. The JPO is taking steps to make the cost for registering a patent the lowest among the main industrialized countries in a bid to strengthen the protective edge of domestic firms. In addition the JPO will take steps to back up startups to acquire intellectual property. It plans to launch a group of experts that will include lawyers to provide advice about how to apply and gain a patent.

   22 Japanese Start-Ups have Value of Over 10 Billion Yen – Nikkei Survey
     Japan's unlisted start-ups are growing in presence with the potential to make significant changes in the nation's industrial structure as well as to play a role in stimulating the industry. This was demonstrated in a recent survey conducted by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei) in its so-called “next unicorn” survey. Twenty-two of the 108 start- ups that responded to the survey had an estimated enterprise value of more than 10 billion yen. This is based on data provided by the companies and venture capital firms. The firms, with a history of under 20 years, possess unique technologies or business models. The Nikkei survey was conducted together with the Japan Venture Capital Association. Tokyo-based Preferred Networks Inc., which is pursuing industrial applications of a machine learning method, topped the list with an estimated value of 232.6 billion yen. Toyota Motor invested roughly 15 billion yen in August. In November, the company announced that it had achieved the world's fastest training time in deep learning. It said in a news release that it has “achieved the world's fastest training time in deep learning by using its large-scale parallel computer MN-1 … we completed training ResNet-50 for image classification on the ImageNet dataset in 15 minutes, which is a significant improvement from the previously best known result.” No. 2 Mercari Inc. develops smartphone friendly applications for its flea market operations. The Goldman Sachs Group decided in November to invest in No. 3 Sansan Inc. The term Unicorn was coined by a U.S. venture capitalist in 2013, and refers to a start-up with a value of more than 1 billion dollars. Nikkei uses the term “next unicorn” to refer to promising start-ups.
     <Top 10 firms by corporate value>
Estimated enterprise value
(Billion Yen)
Timing of recent capital increase
Preferred Networks Inc.
(Industrial application of deep learning)
232.6 2017/ 8
Mercari Inc.
(Flea market operation apps)
147.9 ’16/ 3
Sansan Inc.
(Cloud based business card management system)
50.5 ’17/ 7
ELIIY Power Co., Ltd. (Lithium-ion battery system developer) 40.4 ’12/ 5
Freee K.K.
(Cloud accounting for small- and medium-sized firms)
39.4 ’16/12
BizReach Inc.
(Career change website operator)
33.8 ’16/ 6
TBM Co., Ltd.
(Developer of substitutes to paper and plastic using lime stone)
29.2 ’17/11
FiNG Inc.
(Health service)
22.5 ’17/ 8
Raksul Inc.
(Internet-based printing, delivery service)
21.9 ’16/ 8
Bonac Corp.
(Nucleic acid drugs developer)
21.7 ’17/ 9
   FSA to Make Legal Changes to Help Boost Fintech
     Japan's Financial Services Agency (FSA) plans to reorganize legislation around services rather than businesses to help boost fintech enterprises. It aims to make changes so that the same legislation will regulate such financial businesses as clearance and remittance, thus allowing banks and Internet businesses to compete on the same ground in the same service. Currently, banks, e-money businesses and credit card companies are subject to different laws according to their respective industries, even for the same services. The FSA sees this restriction as impeding competition. It hopes that reorganizing legislation will help promote innovation. The agency expects that the move will also help cut financial services cost. The FSA hopes to formulate a rough policy during the current fiscal year and to introduce new system in fiscal 2018 starting next April.
   Japan Unveils Quantum Computer, to Provide Technology Free
   A Japanese team, including NTT, has unveiled a quantum computer prototype. It has said that the technology will be made available free to the public. Quantum computers can make complex calculations faster than conventional supercomputers and the global race to build faster machines is gaining momentum. Japan's quantum computer was built as a state-backed project that also includes the National Institute of Informatics and other organizations among its members. Unlike U.S. Google's technology,
Japan's computer is unique in that it exploits the properties of light. Japan's prototype consumes just 1kW of power, about the same amount used in an average household, compared to that of a 10,000kW supercomputer.

   Japan to Formulate New Strategic Vision for Intellectual Property
   The Japanese government's Intellectual Property Strategy Headquarters will formulate a new strategic vision to explore the use of intellectual property corresponding to new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT). The cornerstone is the establishment of evaluation standards for asset value of intellectual property owned by companies. The aim is to make it easier to evaluate corporate value to reflect the actual situation, thus smoothing the way to procure funds and human resources needed to create a new business. The government hopes to realize the new vision by 2025. It plans to set up a group of experts to discuss the issue by the end of November. The members of the group are expected to include heads of top IT firms and start-ups, as well as those directly involved in
working with M&As. The group is due to draft a new intellectual property strategic vision by next May. The framework of the new vision is expected to include steps to promote application of new technologies such as AI, big data, blockchain and virtual reality.

   Japan Launches Michibiki No. 4 Satellite
     Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in October successfully launched the Michibiki No. 4 satellite aboard a H-2A launch vehicle No. 36. The latest Michibiki is the fourth member of Japan's Quasi- Zenith Satellite System (QZAA), a constellation of satellites, which Japan is launching to improve the accuracy of satellite navigation. It is aimed at helping to create a new system to improve the accuracy of the GPS data. The current GPS has a margin of error of about 10 meters in global positioning. The Michibiki will reduce this to about 6 cm.
   JPO to Draft Guideline for Fee for SEPs
     The Japan Patent Office (JPO) plans to draft a guideline for negotiating the fee for the use of standard-essential patents (SEPs) as early as the spring of 2018 in order to increase transparency. The move is also aimed at preventing disputes as the use of patents cross industrial boundaries with the prevalence of the Internet of Things (IoT). There have been cases where negotiations faced difficulties due to a difference in views about license rate between differing industries.
   Japan Makes Progress on Developing All Solid-State Battery
     Progress is being made on the development of an all solid-state battery technology, which is widely seen as a next-generation, high-capacity energy storage devise that is an improvement on current lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles. The National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) uses silicon as the negative electrode material, raising the capacity of the negative electrode by about 10 times compared to existing lithium-ion batteries. The Tokyo Institute of Technology and Toyota Motor Corp. have increased output by more than three times by improving the electrolyte. Meanwhile Osaka Prefecture University has changed the polar material and improved the life span. The aim is to begin commercialization in the early 2020s.
   Japan Firm Aims to Begin Production of First Surgical Robot
     A Japanese start-up plans to commercialize the nation's first surgical robot at half the price of the top U.S. firm, in a bid to capture part of the market. Tokyo-based Riverfield Inc., which was established in 2014 in a spin off from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, has raised 1.15 billion yen in a third- party allocation of new shares from Toray Engineering Co. Ltd. and other firms for its program. It hopes to create a robot that will sell at half the price of the da Vinci, produced by Intuitive Surgical, the U.S. firm that is currently leading the global robotic surgical market. Riverfield is aiming to begin sales in 2020. Toray is expected to cooperate in the production of the robot.
   Fujifilm to Invest in Regenerative Medical Start-Up
     Fujifilm Corp. will invest in a start-up that aims to commercialize regenerative medicine products applying 3D tissue fabrication technology. It will invest 390 million yen in Tokyo-based Cyfuse Biomedical K.K., Fujifilm said in a news release. It added:
“Through this investment and partnership agreement,
Fujifilm will gain access to the technology and know-how developed by Cyfuse Biomedical in the field of 3-D tissue fabrication, while also accelerating in-house research and development into its own regenerative medicine products by applying the technology. Fujifilm will also expand its contract development and manufacturing business of regenerative medicine products for culturing cells, producing 3-D tissues, and providing consulting services on pharmaceutical affairs for Cyfuse Biomedical's regenerative medicine products.” Cyfuse was launched in 2010.

   Mazda to Release EV in U.S., European Markets in 2019
     Mazda Motor Corp. plans to release electric vehicles (EVs) equipped with range-extending compact rotary engines in the United States and Europe in 2019. By using a compact high-power rotary engine exclusively for power generation, the distance covered can be doubled compared to existing electric vehicles. The move is in response to tightening environmental regulations in the U.S. and European markets. Rotary engine technology that symbolizes Mazda's technical expertise will be revived in the production of its electric cars. A gas-fueled rotary engine can generate power to run the motor in an electric vehicle. This can allow for a smaller battery and to extend the distance an automobile can travel. In 2013, Mazda equipped a prototype electric car with a rotary engine that doubled its range compared with a standard electric compact. BMW offers a similar gas-fueled range extender for its i3. Mazda is expected to produce its new EVs at its existing domestic facility.
   Fujitsu to Step Up Efforts to Develop Quantum Computers
     Fujitsu Ltd. has agreed to a capital tie-up with a Vancouver-based software company, in a bid to strengthen its technology to develop quantum computers. It is due to invest close to 2 billion yen in 1QBit Information Technologies Inc. (1QBit), a software company solving the industry's demanding computational challenges using the most advanced quantum and classical hardware available. Fujitsu will become the top shareholder among the business companies. It plans to pair its “digital annealer,” a computing architecture inspired by quantum
mechanics, that it is developing, with 1QBit's leading quantum computer software. Although strictly speaking the digital annealer is not a quantum computer, it has been proven to achieve comparably quick speeds for certain calculations. Fujitsu has a research center at the University of Toronto, which is among the world's top ranked research institutions with strengths in quantum-inspired computing.

   Kawasaki, ABB to Work Together on Robot Automation
     Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. and the ABB Group have agreed to work together on the development of collaborative robots, or “cobots.” The Japanese and Swiss industrial automation and robot suppliers will work to create a unified standard for such robots in a bid to capture the growing global market for such robots. In a news release, ABB's Per Vegard Nerseth, Managing Director of ABB's Robotics business said: “Beyond the technologies behind collaborative automation, there is also a need for innovative new ways of working together and creating common industry approaches to safety, programming and communications.”
Japan Supercomputers Dominate 1-3 Top Spot in Green500
Supercomputers developed by Japanese start- ups dominated the top three slots of the Green500 list, a global ranking that rates the world's most power efficient supercomputers. Tokyo-based ExaScaler Inc. and PEZY Computing K.K. headed the list. The companies use the submersion cooling technology. ExaScaler was launched in April 2014 and PEZY in January 2010. All of the top three and the No. 5 firms' system is based on the ZettaScaler - 2.2. architecture and are loaded with the PEZY- SC2 accelerators. The SC2 is a second-generation 2048-core chip that provides a peak performance of 8.192 teraflops in single-precision. No. 5 JAMSTEC Gyoukou supercomputer was No. 4 on the TOP500 list of most powerful computer systems in the world.

   Japanese Researchers Discover 3 Drugs Combined May Provide Alzheimer Treatment
     A team of Japanese researchers has created induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells from Alzheimer's patients and discovered a new drug combination that reduces amyloid beta protein, which is believed to be a cause of the debilitating disease. The cells were grown in vitro to replicate the diseased brain tissue. Researchers led by Kyoto University Professor Haruhisa Inoue, tested 1,258 existing drugs on the tissue. The researchers discovered that the most effective combination to reduce the amyloid beta content was a drug cocktail combining three existing drugs — bromocriptine, which is used to treat Parkinson's disease; cromolyn, used for asthma; and topiramate, which is used for epilepsy treatment. The amyloid beta content was reduced by 30-40 percent. Inoue said that although it was not yet clear how effective the combination of the drugs would be on patients there was a possibility that they can be used to prevent and treat patients. The drugs are believed to be safe as they are already being used to treat the various diseases. Further tests on animals will be conducted. The finding was published in the online edition of the Cell Reports, a science journal.
   Takeda to Lure Researchers to Its Shonan Research Center
     Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. will step up accepting researchers from external start-ups at its Shonan research center near Tokyo. It aims to increase the number of researchers at the center to over 3,000 in the next 2 years, which is three times the current number. It hopes the expansion will promote open innovation and help boost the creation of new, next- generation drugs in Japan. Currently about 1,100 researchers from Kyoto University and Riken work at the research center in Kanagawa Prefecture. Takeda also plans to increase the number of start-ups that use the research center as a base to over 20 firms, three times the current number. It will launch a 10-billion-yen fund to support the efforts of start-ups. The firms will not be restricted to those collaborating with Takeda on research. The company also has a research facility in Boston in the United States.
   Tokyo Denki University Develops Scalpel that Safely Removes Tumor with Water
     A team of researchers at Tokyo Denki University led by Tatsuhiko Arafune, an associate professor, has developed a scalpel that does not damage the surrounding tissues such as nerves and blood vessels during surgery. The source of the disease such as the cancer is removed by force of water which is expelled by stimulation from a laser light. A clinical trial on patients with brain tumors was able to perform the surgery without injuring blood vessels with a diameter of 0.2 mm. The researchers are seeking a company to help in the commercial production of the scalpel as a medical equipment.
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