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Case Studies and Success Stories

As the world’s third biggest economy, the Japanese market is an excellent opportunity for European companies to export their products and/or services. Despite the geographical distance, doing business with Japan is not overly complicated and it is not restricted to just the big companies. In fact, many European Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) are successful in Japan. This page intends to illustrate how feasible and profitable this trade can be, by way of several case studies and success stories mainly supported by the EU-Japan Centre.

Table of Contents

  • Case studies and success stories supported by the EU-Japan Centre
  • Other case studies

 

Within the frame of our activities as member of Enterprise Europe Network (EEN), we published a 10-year anniversary booklet (2011-2021) highlighting some success stories of EU SMEs succeeding in Japan thanks to our EEN support.

The Access2Markets portal managed by the European Commission is listing some cases of EU companies that benefit from the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement in their business with Japan. 

JETRO - Japan External Trade Organization as well regularly releases examples of success stories of foreign companies in Japan.

 

Case Studies and Success Stories supported by the EU-Japan Centre

  • Sokisahtel (textiles)

Sokisahtel is an Estonian SME specialising in the production of socks and hosiery. Founded in 2010 in Tallinn, it has since then been steadily growing. Approximately five years ago, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the company started noticing a trend in its online sales: an increasing number of orders were being placed from Japan. 

The company benefited from the Centre's Get Ready for Japan programme. 

To read more about this success story, have a look at their interview!

  • SVCS Process Innovation (nanotech)

SVCS Process Innovation is a Czech SME that specializes in the designing and manufacturing of horizontal and vertical diffusion furnaces, tailored for the semiconductor and photovoltaic industries. Additionally, the company produces a variety of gas source systems, including gas cabinets, valve manifold boxes, and customized equipment gas manifolds.

The company benefited from the Centre's nanotech business mission.

To read more about this success story, have a look at their interview!

 

  • Novaptech (biotech)

Novaptech, a French biotech SME, specializes in the development of aptamer-based tools and devices for applications across health, agri-food, and environmental sectors. Aptamers are artificially synthesized short sequences of DNA, RNA, or XNA designed to bind selectively to a specific target molecule or a family of target molecules. 

The company benefited from the Centre's biotech business support mission.

To read more about this success story, have a look at their interview!

 

  • Oleoestepa (food)

Oleoestepa is an Andalusian cooperative specialised in the production of extra-virgin olive oil. Established in 1986, it unites over seven thousand farmers who cultivate olives covering around 62 thousand hectares. The Estepa and Puente Genil regions, home to the cooperative, are renowned for their high quality of oil, attributed to the variety of olive trees, a favourable climate, and historical know-how. In 2004, this area was awarded a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status by the European Union. 

The company benefited from the Centre's training programme on Japanese business culture.

To read more about this success story, have a look at their interview!

 

  • CTIBIOTECH (biotech)

CTIBIOTECH is a French company specializing in repurposing human tissue discarded by hospitals for research, drug and cosmetic testing, and future therapies. The founders of CTIBIOTECH were pioneers in creating artificial human tissue from adult stem cells, including liver-like and brain-like cells. Today, the French-based company provides support to hospitals, universities, and other companies in their research and development programs, contributing to the advancement of modern healthcare.

The company benefited from the Centre's biotech business support mission.

To read more about this success story, have a look at their interview!

 

  • Selvita (life science)

Selvita is a CRO (Contract Research Organisation) driven by a clear purpose: to bridge the gap between early drug discovery and the clinical stage of drug development by providing state of the art scientific support. Selvita provides comprehensive solutions including Medicinal Chemistry, in silico drug design, in vitro pharmacology,  in Absorption, Distribution, Metabolism, and Excretion (ADME), Drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics (DMPK), structural biology, in vivo models and translational studies using patient samples.

The company benefited from the Centre's biotech business support mission.

To read more about this success story, have a look at their interview!

 

  • The Swedish Bee Company (food)

The Swedish Bee Company was founded in 2018 by Mr. Olofsson, the founder who was always interested in bees. Fascinated by how the bee community works and the crucial role bees play in nature and pollination, decided to take a course in professional beekeeping.

Since the beginning, the focus of the company had been on producing honey in close harmony with nature and without any processing. Allowing nature to take its time and letting the bees do their job is the company’s philosophy, building on the idea of “slow honey”. This mixture of passion and dedication finally resulted in "The Honey of Sweden", the company's flagship product.

The company benefited from the Centre's training programme on Japanese business culture.

To read more about this success story, have a look at their interview!

 

  • Mellifera JSC (food)

Mellifera JSC is a Bulgarian SME founded in 2016. Since then, it has been rapidly growing thanks to its focus on innovation and sustainability. The company’s catalogue consists of honey-based products, skillfully blended with a variety of other superfoods and plant extracts.

Biljana Lowndes-Nikolova, the founder, graduated as a food technologist and further specialized in sports nutrition. Leveraging this expertise, the company placed its focus on functional foods. Thus, after the pandemic, Mellifera marketed MelliGEL, now heralded as its flagship product. This bioenergy gel, designed for athletes, is acknowledged as a healthier substitute for energy drinks. 
The company’s mission is to restore faith in the superpower of clean and sustainable food. 

The company benefited from the Centre's training programme on Japanese business culture.

To read more about this success story, have a look at their interview!

 

  • Super Garden (food)

UAB Geld Baltic – Super Garden is a young Lithuanian company created in 2016. It specializes in the manufacture and commercialization of freeze-dried products. Today, the company offers more than 300 stock-keeping unit (SKU) spanning over 15 different categories of products such as: non-melting ice cream, cheeses, berries, fruits, vegetables, snacks, smoothies, milkshakes, and others, while exporting to over 20 countries.

The company benefited from the Centre's training programme on Japanese business culture.

To read more about this story, have a look at their interview!

  • SOCKSSS (clothing)

SOCKSSS is a young Swedish company founded in 2019. It is specialized in the fashion of socks. The mission of the company is to elevate socks to a full-fledged part of the outfit. To do so, SOCKSSS offers socks with an outstanding design, excellent quality, and sustainable materials. Nowadays, the company sells its luxury socks in 240 stores all over the world including 12 stores in Japan. Whereas many larger companies failed in Japan, SOCKSSS already makes 5-7% of their turnover in Japan and their made in Japan style socks amount for 20% of their global turnover.

The company benefited from the Centre's helpdesk on the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement.

To read more about this success story, have a look at their interview!

 

  • Cosylab (ICT)

In the late nineties, Dr Mark Plesko brought together a group of physics students, based at the Jozef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana, Slovenia. After successfully completing their project, the group decided to found their own company, and this is how Cosylab (Control System Laboratory) came into existence.

Today, Cosylab is the world leader in controls for large-scale experimental physics facilities. Cosylab provides system integration and customer-adapted solutions, covering the complete area of control systems and instrumentation. It specialises in accelerators, tokamaks and radio telescopes. Cosylab employs over 60 engineers and physicists, expert developers and state-of-the-art electronics and software integrators. Their services range from writing specifications, through design and implementation, to installation. This whole-process approach provides a cost-effective, low-risk delivery of a control system for components at a fixed price. Cosylab offers deep inside knowledge and combines this with industry-standard development processes, including systems engineering, project management and quality assurance.

Cosylab’s customers are located on all five continents. Thanks to its deep understanding of physics, the market, the development cycle and the specifications of large-scale physics facilities, Cosylab has developed partnerships with the world’s most advanced science and research institutions.

Cosylab is a flagship company of the Slovenian high-tech industry and is recognised and supported by the Slovenian government and top officials. Cosylab has also worked on European Commission Framework Programme projects and between 2004 and 2008, Cosylab participated in the EU’s 6th Framework Dependable Distributed Systems (DeDiSys) Project.

Between 2009 and 2011, Cosylab hosted several Japanese trainees for some months, through the Vulcanus in Europe scheme run by the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation. This involvement worked as the springboard for the opening of a local branch in Japan in 2011. Today, Cosylab Japan not only represents the company, but is also able to provide some engineering services directly, ranging from writing specifications to implementing software. This means that customers in Japan can access services more quickly than previously, and in their native tongue. For those in Japan who were reluctant to ask a company abroad to do something, this branch eases their anxiety and solves their problems. This branch is intended to provide services not only in Japan, but also in China, Korea, Taiwan and other Asian countries.

The company benefited from the Centre's Vulcanus in Europe scheme.

 

  • Prezi (ICT)

Peter Arvai is the CEO and founder of Prezi. Prezi is a cloud-based presentation software company that allows users to make "zoomable" presentations, which are different to traditional slide-based presentation formats such as PowerPoint. The company was founded in Budapest in 2008 with the aim of replacing the old style of presentations. In this sense, Prezi is frequently used as an alternative to slide shows and PowerPoint. The product has been used by numerous leading voices in business and politics to share and explore their ideas. Notably, The World Economic Forum is currently using Prezi as part of its presentation and media strategy. Many TED Conference speakers have used Prezi, including TED curator Chris Anderson who used a Prezi for his acclaimed TEDGlobal 2010 presentation: How Web Video Powers Global Innovation. Since then, the inspirational presentation tool has grown dramatically and had around 13 million users in 2012.

Teachers and school systems worldwide—from nursery to university—are increasingly employing Prezi to augment and enhance their pedagogy. In primary education, Prezi is often used as an interactive medium to bridge non-linear exploratory learning and more-linear instructional learning.  In higher education, Prezi is sometimes used to present complex thoughts, narratives or other visual information. Prezi is also a tool for visualising information online. Architects and visual design professionals use Prezi to showcase their work, and illustrate design thinking. Media organisations use Prezi to help their readers navigate visual information.

In 2002, Peter Arvai took part in the Vulcanus in Japan programme. He stated that this experience changed his approach to building a business by giving him a global perspective. He also revealed that the Vulcanus experience in Japan gave him the confidence and experience to make Prezi a global company. Although based in Budapest, the firm has entered the US market and has a prominent presence in Japan and Korea. The company expects to keep growing and expanding the business into new regions and countries.

The company benefited from the Centre's Vulcanus in Europe scheme.

 

  • Citromil (food)

Citromil S.L. is one of Spain’s leading lemon processors. It is located in the Murcia region, the largest lemon growing area in Europe, and although specialised in the supply of lemon-based ingredients for the food and the beverage industry, it also supplies other citrus products, such as orange and mandarin juice concentrates. In addition, Citromil supplies a range of high-quality organic products.

Citromil’s principal aim is to supply European standard products at competitive prices. The company’s intermediate size enables it to be flexible and to easily adapt to each customer’s specific requirements; for example, by making both standard and tailor-made products.

In 2008, Citromil’s managers attended the Distribution Business Practice (DBP)* course held by the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation, and benefited from the great opportunity to gather information on Japan and its business culture, and to strengthen relationships with Japanese associates.

Although Citromil S.L. has a significant degree of export experience (90% of its products are sold outside of Spain), the Japanese market varies dramatically from that of Europe. The new knowledge acquired during the DBP course enabled Citromil to overcome many of the difficulties linked to Japanese business culture by helping them identify differences and face these in a positive way.

Above all, the company underlines the importance of being patient and persistent. Business relationships in Japan are based on confidence and loyalty, although it can be very hard to gain a counterpart’s confidence, especially if you are a foreign company. Answering many detailed questions can be a tedious and lengthy process. At the same time however, it is an absolute requirement from Japanese customers in order to be accepted as partners. Learning about lifestyle, business attitude and some basic language helped Citromil increase their communication with partners, agents and clients.

Not long after the DBP programme, Citromil S.L. succeeded in concluding its first shipment to a Japanese customer. It took them three years to get that contract!

*The programme is not active anymore.

 

  • Debailleul (food)

Debailleul was created in Brussels in 1983 by Marc Debailleul. Since then, the company has produced luxury cakes, ice-creams, chocolates and pastries. Despite the internationalisation of the company, the production is entirely based in Belgium and so it must ship its products worldwide under the best and safest conditions. The Japanese market plays a fundamental role in the success of the company as sales to Japan represent 23% of overall turnover.

The company benefited from the Centre's DBP programme (The programme is not active anymore).

To read more about this success story, have a look at their interview!

 

 

  • Lincasa (textiles)

Lincasa UAB is a modern business specialised in the manufacturing of linen and wool fabrics, blankets and home textiles. The company is based in Kaunas, Lithuania, and produces garments for both men and women. Although employing less than a hundred people, Lincasa UAB is not a company to be underestimated. Lincasa UAB manufactures high quality linen and wool textiles with German, French and Italian new technologies, which allows Lincasa to maintain a high quality, efficient production costs and competitive prices.

Its textile products are sold in many countries throughout the world such as Japan, the United States, France, China and Italy. Furthermore, Lincasa’s textile products can be seen at international fairs held in major European fashion countries like Italy, France, Denmark and Germany. They can also be seen overseas, such as at the Interior Lifestyle show in Tokyo, Japan.

Entrance to the Japanese market came after a very positive response by Japanese customers during the 2004 and 2005 international fairs. After that, the company started cooperating with big Japanese companies such as Franc Franc and Bals Corporation, among others. In order to further understand the Japanese market, the company’s manager Mr. Vaitkus participated in the Distribution and Business Practices (DBP*) in Japan programme managed by the EU-Japan Centre and the EU Gateway programme* also funded by the European Union. These provided an understanding of the Japanese economy and society, and allowed him to develop a winning strategy for his company. In this regard, Lincasa, bases its strategy on a close relationship with clients through the Japanese brand Lincasa Japan KK, and a permanent warehouse located in Japan.

*The programme is not active anymore.

 

  • Schleich (toys)

Schleich was founded in 1935, by Friedrich Schleich. The company started as a supplier to the plastic industry, but in the 1950s started manufacturing toys, figurines and accessories. Its products cover animals, The Smurfs, the Wild West and mythological figurines. Their products are highly recognisable and are distributed worldwide, including to Japan.

The design of the Schleich products and the creation of the required tools are done in-house. The production itself takes place at the company’s German headquarters, as well as in a number of production facilities in foreign countries. Schleich products are marketed worldwide. Schleich GmbH focuses on the quality and safety of their toys, adopting strict requirements that go beyond those prescribed by law. The German origin and care for safety, combined with precision and perseverance, are probably the basis of Schleich’s success in Japan.

In 2007, Schleich took their first steps into the Japanese market when Mr. Haack, Vice President of Global Sales for the company, took part in the Distribution and Business Practices (DBP)* in Japan managerial course held by the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation. The course focused on understanding the Japanese distribution system and provided its participants with both the practical and theoretical support needed for the development of an effective marketing strategy. Thanks to DBP, Mr. Haack had the chance to meet many important executives and identify potential Japanese business partners, including a Japanese distributor, which was of crucial importance for the business.

After a number of years exporting to the Japanese market with the help of a Japanese distributor, Schleich decided, at the start of 2011, to start marketing its products through a wholly-owned Japanese Schleich subsidiary. Located in Tokyo, the subsidiary has been operational since July 2011. A team of seven Japanese employees are actively involved in successfully creating new business opportunities and managing existing accounts. The operation is being headed by Mr. Haack as its Representative Director. According to Mr. Haack, the seminar let Schleich to acquire an in-depth understanding of Japanese Business Practices, which had a great impact on its success, as it permitted its products to have a stronger presence in the Japanese market.

*The programme is not active anymore.

 

  • Taflo Group (industrial equipment)

Originating in Sweden, Tapflo Group is a manufacturer and distributor of pumps for a wide range of industries and applications. The group has offices in more than 28 countries and distributors in over 56 countries, employing a total of 320 people worldwide. The company first started its activities in Japan in the early 2000’s, when one of their managers participated in HRTP* 31. Tapflo Japan was incorporated in April 2014 and the office officially opened in early 2015.

The company benefited from the Centre's training programme on Japanese business culture.

To read more about this story, have a look at their interview!

*Previous name of the actual Get Ready For Japan training. 

 

Other Case Studies

  • Abbeal (ICT)

Abbeal is a French start-up specialized in web and mobile development consultancy. They have four branches in France (Paris, Lyon, Lille and Bordeaux) as well as two subsidiaries in Canada (Toronto and Montréal) and one in Tokyo, Japan. They recently expanded their business in Japan and met quite a big success in the country of the rising sun.

They offers two services: one where they work as consultants and meet their clients with engineers so they can advise their client and help them develop alongside an existing development team. The second service is about application development, and in this case Abbeal will take charge entirely of the whole development of the application.

To read more about this success story, have a look at their interview!

  • Treefrog (biotech)

TreeFrog Therapeutics is a French biotechnology company specialized in cell therapy. Founded in 2018 by biophysicist Kévin Alessandri and stem cell biologist Maxime Feyeux in Bordeaux (France), TreeFrog Therapeutics develops a breakthrough technology – C-StemTM – which allows to mass-produce stem cell-derived cell therapies. Currently advancing cell therapy programs in Parkinson’s disease, liver failure and cancer, TreeFrog Therapeutics aims at making cell therapy safer, more efficient and widely available to large patient populations. In April 2022, Treefrog announced the opening of a lab in Kobe, Japan, with the aim of establishing strategic alliances with key academic and industrial players in the field of regenerative medicine.

To read more about this success story, have a look at their interview!

 

Further Reading

 

Picture: Ninomiya Kinjiro's statue, Kakegawa, Shizuoka Prefecture
Picture copyright: Wikipedia under the GNU Free Documentation License

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