“UTEC UTokyo Meetup” (Supported by: The University of Tokyo, Division of University Corporate Relations and Division of External Relations)
UTEC Managing Partner Dr. Goji (left) and President Teruo Fujii of UTokyo (right)
On Tuesday, January 24th, 2023, with the objective of advancing basic research at The University of Tokyo (UTokyo) and enhancing its startup ecosystem, we at UTEC hosted a hybrid event "UTEC UTokyo Meetup" at UTokyo's Ito International Research Center. Attendees included delegates from UTokyo and other universities, large corporations, startups, and benefactors.
During the morning session, titled "Academia Session," the significance of the "UTEC UTokyo FSI Research Grant Program" was discussed. This grant program, which was established by a donation from UTEC to The University of Tokyo Foundation, focuses on funding and supporting basic research. The outcomes of its activities were also presented in the session.
In the afternoon session, titled "Startup Session," current trends in university spin-offs and university-related startups were outlined, as well as UTEC's efforts to support them were highlighted through lectures and panel discussions.
A snapshot of the event with pictures is presented here.
■ Morning 'Academia Section'
Objectives of UTEC UTokyo FSI Research Grant
Dr. Tomotaka (Tommy) Goji, Managing Partner and CEO of UTEC, gave a presentation and highlighted the following aspects:
Since its establishment in April 2004, UTEC has been at the forefront of fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, managing five venture capital funds totaling approximately 85 billion yen in collaboration with the University of Tokyo and other academic institutions. UTEC has offered hands-on support to over 140 Japanese and global startups based on profound science and technology from the seed/early stages, both upon and after their foundation, and achieved 19 IPOs, and 20 M&As or equivalents.
In recognition of the importance of giving back to the academic community, UTEC has also made several donations to the University of Tokyo and other universities. One such initiative is The UTEC UTokyo FSI Research Grant Program, established through UTEC's donation to the University of Tokyo Foundation. This program has become a cornerstone for fostering basic scientific research, with 31 researchers selected to date. The results of this research are already beginning to be published in some of the world's most prestigious journals. “We hope that this program will continue to flourish in the years to come, inspiring similar initiatives at UTokyo and other universities and research institutes across Japan. Furthermore, we hope that support for basic research will become a norm among venture capitalists, companies, entrepreneurs, and donors, helping to elevate the status of Japanese academia on the global stage and foster a virtuous cycle between academia and industry.," Dr. Goji noted in his presentation.
Basic Research as the Foundation of Society
Dr. Nobuhito Saito, Executive Vice President of UTokyo, who is also in charge of promoting research at UTokyo, spoke about the importance of basic research for the development of future society and the significance of the UTEC UTokyo FSI Research Grant Program. He emphasized the need for society-wide support for young researchers who are the future leaders and how this grant program plays a vital role in nurturing them.
Panel Discussion by researchers, UTEC portfolio companies and UTEC investment professionals
At the event, we invited researchers from UTokyo who have been selected for the UTEC UTokyo FSI Research Grant Program, as well as the management of UTEC portfolio startups, to participate in our panel discussions. The session was divided into three areas of research, and the discussions focused on both the research itself and the potential for commercialization and business opportunities.
Panel Discussion #1 - Life Sciences
Hideaki Kato / Associate Professor, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, The University of Tokyo
Seitaro Nomura / Project Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Medicine, The University of Tokyo
Takayoshi Awakawa / Associate Professor, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, The University of Tokyo
Yuji Suzuki / President and CEO, bitBiome Inc.
Atsushi Usami / Board Director and Partner, UTEC (Moderator)
The topics discussed included the need to broaden one's perspective and explore fields outside of one's area of expertise, as well as the importance of implementing research outcomes in society, given the rapid pace of technological innovation in recent years. A key theme of the panel was the importance of accumulating steady and consistent research efforts on a daily basis, as unexpected discoveries can lead to major technological breakthroughs that have the potential to change the future.
Panel Discussion #2 - Science and Engineering
Yusuke Yokota / Associate Professor, Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo
Kaori Sugihara / Lecturer, Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo
Sosuke Ito / Lecturer, Graduate School of Science, The University of Tokyo
Ryota Hayashi / President and CEO, Finetext Holdings Ltd.
Noriaki Sakamoto / Partner and Managing Director, COO, UTEC (Moderator)
This panel discussion touched upon the importance of cross-disciplinary inspiration and collaboration in solving complex contemporary social problems. The researchers shared their proactive experiences and highlighted the need to actively share and demonstrate their work to the society, as they acknowledged that without it, their research and technology may not reach its full potential. Mr. Hayashi, who then spoke from the perspective of a startup, also expressed his agreement with researchers and the highlighted the importance of industry-academia collaboration.
Panel Discussion #3 - Humanities and Social Sciences
Norihisa Baba / Professor, Institute of Advanced Studies on Asia, The University of Tokyo
Hiroshi Hoshiro / Professor, Institute of Social Science, The University of Tokyo
Satoshi Akita / CEO, WASSHA Inc.
Tomotaka Goji / Managing Partner, President & CEO, UTEC (Moderator)
In this panel, the participants shared their insights on bridging Japan and emerging countries, the challenges, nuances, and opportunities of doing business in different regions and the importance of cultural and historical awareness. They also touched on the nature of collaboration between academics in the humanities and social sciences, and startups. Mr. Goji expressed his belief that the accumulation of research in the humanities and social sciences can play a crucial role in supporting our daily activities and ensuring the sustainability of cutting-edge research.
Significance of Basic Research at Universities
Dr. Atsushi Tsuda, Executive Director and Vice President of UTokyo, who is also in charge of promoting external relations of the university, spoke about the significance of basic research, the need for its continued support, and the importance of striking a balance between 'cutting-edge' and 'holistic' research at universities. He emphasized that basic research enables universities to play a "cutting-edge" role in society and drive breakthrough innovations.
■ Afternoon 'Startup Section'
Expectations for University-spinoff and University-related Startups
President Teruo Fujii of UTokyo, reflected on the topic of "starting a business" which he had addressed in the previous year's UTokyo Entrance ceremony. He conveyed a message of encouragement to students who possess a global perspective and aspirations to make a positive impact on society through their own unique ideas and actions. He urged students to take on the challenge of starting their own companies, as well as conducting cutting-edge research and publishing their findings.
UTEC's Activities for Deep Tech Startups
UTEC’s Managing Partner Dr. Goji took the stage again and presented the following:
UTEC adheres to its three-prong investment strategies, including "Prominent Science/Technology," "Strong Team," and "Global Markets and Issues of Humankind". UTEC has taken the following initiatives to successfully implement its strategy:
1) Collaborated with universities and research institutions both within Japan and internationally, such as the University of Tokyo.
2) Provided HR support to its portfolio startups through the assistance of experienced executives and professionals, and has matched over 100 co-founders to its portfolio startups date.
3) Engaged in socially meaningful investments aimed at addressing global issues of humankind.
As a result of these initiatives, UTEC's portfolio companies have not only achieved certain level of success in the stock market, but also have been offered an increasing number of M&A opportunities by major global corporations who have recognized the high technological capabilities of these companies. UTEC also expects to see an increase in the number of M&A and capital alliance opportunities conducted by major Japanese corporations in the future.
Panel Discussion between Entrepreneurs and Executives of UTEC Portfolio Startups, and UTEC Professionals
We invited co-founders/executives of our portfolio startups and hosted panel discussions with UTEC professionals on the following topics:
Knowledge Sharing #1 Team Building
Ei Hirai / CEO, estie Inc.
Amane Kimura / President and CEO, Algal Bio Inc.
Keisuke Ide / Partner, UTEC
Hirofumi Oki / Senior Manager, HR, UTEC (Moderator)
The speakers discussed the various stages of team building that their companies have gone through since their inception and shared their personal experiences. They also spoke about their involvement with UTEC to date and shared their vision for the future of their companies.
Life Science/Health Tech
Takuya Miyazaki / CEO, Red Arrow Therapeutics Inc.
Yukiko Nakai / CEO, ARCH Inc.
Maiko Katadae / Partner, UTEC
Hiroaki Kobayashi / Principal, UTEC (Moderator)
The panelists, who represented the two companies at similar stages of development, had a conversation about the reasons that motivated them to start their businesses, the challenges they have faced, the key milestones they have reached so far, and their future prospects.
Knowledge Sharing #2 Patent Strategy
Kento Nakao / President and CEO, Gaianixx Inc.
Nobuyuki Arakawa / President and CEO, Celeid Therapeutics Inc.
Naonori Kurokawa / Partner, UTEC
Atsushi Shimada / Principal, UTEC (Moderator)
The participants discussed the importance of Intellectual Property (IP) for startups and delved into the IP management frameworks of the two companies. They also discussed the unique characteristics of the patent strategies of each of their companies.
Knowledge Sharing #3 Globalization（English session）
Ilana Wisby / Founding CEO and Director, Oxford Quantum Circuits Limited
Pham Quang Cuong / Co-founder & CEO, Eureka Robotics Pte.
Lenny Chin / Principal, UTEC
Kiran Mysore/ Principal, UTEC (Moderator)
The panelists exchanged views on the attractiveness and significance of the Japanese market for overseas deep-tech startups, Go-to-market strategies for commercializing breakthrough innovations, subtleties of navigating and managing a global team, and lessons learned through fundraising from global investors.
De-Carbonization Startup Initiatives
Hirokazu Aoi / President, boost technologies Inc.
Kazuhiko Nishioka / CEO & Co-founder, SUN METALON Inc.
Naohiko Sugita / Professor, Graduate School of Engineering, The University of Tokyo
Noriaki Sakamoto / Partner & Managing Director, COO, UTEC (Moderator)
The participants discussed the topic of collaboration between startups and labs. They also exchanged opinions on the differences in characteristics between startups and large corporations from the perspective of labs, the significance of cross-disciplinary activities for both startups and labs, as well as global strategies.
Knowledge Sharing #4 Exit
Masuo Ichikawa / President, Repertoire Genesis Inc.
Tomohito Ihara / CEO, Green Earth Institute Inc.
Tomotaka Goji / Managing Partner, CEO and President, UTEC
Sho Morita / Principal, UTEC (Moderator)
The participants reflected on the history of their companies, from their inception to their IPO or M&A. They discussed the importance of preparing for these opportunities early on, the benefits that can be gained through an IPO or M&A, and how the process has evolved over time.
The event featured networking hours after the discussion, which were lively and well-attended by a diverse group of delegates from universities and research institutes, startups, financial institutions, media, operating companies (including large manufacturers, IT companies, and big pharmaceutical companies), as well as VCs and angel investors.
UTEC Managing Partner Dr. Goji (left) and President Teruo Fujii of UTokyo (right)