The Silicon Valley Japan Platform (SVJP) is an initiative of the U.S.-Japan Council (USJC) and the Japan-based Asia Pacific Initiative (API), formerly the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation (RJIF). SVJP emerged out of the success of the Governors’ Conference organized by the USJC. In July 2014, six Governors from Japan traveled to Silicon Valley, bringing 37 small-medium companies from their six prefectures to search for niche markets overseas, new business partners, and state-of-the-art technology.
SVJP followed up the Governors’ conference with an invitation to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to pay an official visit to Silicon Valley.
On April 30, 2015, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Silicon Valley (SV), the first journey ever taken by a Japanese Head of State to the Mecca of entrepreneurship and innovation. This historic visit, both symbolically and substantively, launched a new era in Japan’s long quest to revitalize its struggling economy—in this case, by connecting synergistically to the technological ferment of Silicon Valley.
The Silicon Valley Japan Platform (SVJP) played a catalytic and central role in bringing about Prime Minister Abe’s trip to SV. Not only did the SVJP issue the invitation directly to the Prime Minister; but it also worked closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in planning the trip itinerary and in formulating the substantive agenda.
Japan’s Technological Imperative: Japan faces the daunting task of rising to meet the challenge of highly disruptive competition, one in which mobile devices, cloud computing, and machine learning are transforming the structure and dynamics of the world economy. By visiting SV, Prime Minister Abe has sent a clarion signal, both domestically and internationally: namely, that Japan seeks pro-actively to revitalize its economy by adopting state-of-the-art technology in seminal fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics, and open-source enterprise software.
Failing to do so, Japan runs the risk of falling badly behind even in areas of traditional advantage—automobiles & transportation, banking & the financial services, retail goods & services, chemicals & composite materials, electronics hardware & consumer durables, health care, and the biomedical & bio-technological fields.
At Stanford University, Prime Minister Abe proudly proclaimed Japan’s commitment to the urgent mission of building strong bridges (“kakehashi”) of collaboration between Silicon Valley and Japan. The specific goals that he identified—academic partnerships, bilateral conferences and meetings, Silicon Valley incubators and accelerators, and specialized training for Japanese entrepreneurs–were taken directly from the SVJP’s statement of programmatic purpose.
The landmark visit–heavily covered by the Japanese media–triggered a veritable Silicon Valley “boom”, drawing Japan’s attention to the urgency of searching, discovering, and incorporating revolutionary technology.