Commencing business operations in an entirely new market in a different part of the world can be challenging, even when opportunities abound. Luxinnovation, Luxembourg’s national innovation agency, and the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce have set up a cooperation with Tsukuba City and JETRO (Japan External Trade Organisation) to help Japanese companies access the EU market through Luxembourg, and for companies from Luxembourg to benefit from the Tsukuba ecosystem to reach the market in Japan and north-east Asia.

On 12 June 2024, the partners organised the “Tsukuba x Luxembourg Startup Night 2024” as part of the Luxembourg economic mission to Japan. Four Luxembourg and four Japanese start-ups presented their innovative and technological solutions in the form of pitches at the event, which attracted participants from more than 90 companies. This was an opportunity for all participants to learn more about the economic ecosystems in the two countries and forge new contacts and partnerships.

Local entry points

Jenny Hällen Hedberg and Akira Karachi at the Luxembourg-Tsukuba Startup NightTsukuba City stands out for its strong focus on R&D: it is home to two universities and around 60 national research institutes as well as more than 240 private research facilities. “Luxembourg and Tsukuba have much in common, including a focus on space and fintech,” comments Akira Kawachi, Chief Director at JETRO Ibaraki. “Tsukuba City’s research sector and Luxembourg’s strong focus on innovation perfectly complement each other. I think that it can be a very good entry point to the Japanese market and to cooperation with universities and research centres here.”

Tsukuba City’s research sector and Luxembourg’s strong focus on innovation perfectly complement each other.

Luxembourg-based Gradel, Email Tree, Virtual Rangers and Rafinex all pitched at the Startup Night. Jenny Hällen Hedberg, Head of International Relations at Luxinnovation, highlights the potential all companies see in the Japanese market. “Virtual Rangers was represented by no less than four people, which indicates a real commitment to exploring new opportunities,” she points out.

She also emphasises Luxembourg’s advantages as a launch pad for business in Europe. “Luxembourg is strategically located in the very centre of western Europe with direct access to France and Germany, two of the EU’s biggest consumer markets. The national economy is open and export-oriented, and the population is exceptionally international and multilingual. Companies that come to Luxembourg tend to think internationally from day 1, rather than just focusing on one single country and then having to start all over again when it is time to expand to the next one.”

The power of partnerships

Luxembourg-Tsukuba Startup Night

Having a partner that can help open doors and overcome cultural and linguistic barriers is in many cases a key to success. Luxinnovation supports innovative companies from across the world that consider doing business in and through Luxembourg and can provide them with tailor-made information and introduce them to key partners and support players. The agency works closely with the Luxembourg Trade and Investment Office in Tokyo which often is the first port of call for Japanese companies.

As Japan’s leading trade organisation, JETRO helps us connect with relevant Japanese companies and spots opportunities for Luxembourg-based businesses.

Ms Hällen Hedberg is also quick to point out the importance of the partnership with JETRO. “As Japan’s leading trade organisation, JETRO helps us connect with relevant Japanese companies and spots opportunities for Luxembourg-based businesses,” she says. “Our collaboration is exceptionally efficient.”

During the Startup Night, Thermalytica, a spin-off from the Tsukuba-based National Institute for Material Sciences (NIMS), announced the incorporation of its European office in Luxembourg following its participation in the accelerator programme Fit 4 Start. “Thermalytica is a very good example of a Japanese company accessing the European market with support from Luxembourg and not least from Luxinnovation,” says Mr Kawachi.

I hope this success story will inspire other Japanese start-ups to follow the same path.

Lex Delles, Luxembourg Minister for the Economy, SMEs, Energy and Tourism, also expressed his satisfaction with the Luxembourg-Japan partnership and its result at the Startup Night: “I’m delighted to have been able to visit Tsukuba today, to meet young entrepreneurs and researchers, and to discover technological innovations in a wide range of sectors. The example of Thermalytica, which decided to establish a long-term presence in the Grand Duchy by opening a subsidiary in record time, is very encouraging in terms of our country’s attractiveness as a location for European companies. I hope this success story will inspire other Japanese start-ups to follow the same path.”


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