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Integration & Revitalisation seminar

Integration & Revitalisation seminar

On 13 September 2018 Gideon Franklin Ltd hosted a seminar in collaboration with Japan House London on the theme of Integration and Revitalisation. This was on the occasion of the grand opening of Japan House; earlier in the day a ceremony took place to celebrate with Prince William and Deputy Prime Minister Aso in attendance.

Gideon Franklin opened the seminar by thanking Japan House London and explaining the themes. Japan is in everyone’s daily lives following investments and M&A by Japanese companies. The difficult thing is then the integration. The theme of revitalisation links with the Tsubame Sanjo exhibition at Japan House telling the story of how this region has been revitalised (see our article Visit to Tsubame Sanjo).

Our seminar speakers were from Asahi Europe, Hitachi Rail and Nissan, companies which have successfully invested strongly in the UK and Europe. They shared their experience of integration and the revitalisation theme. Anna Dingley was the moderator of this session, which drew a lively discussion from the audience of over 100 guests from Japanese and European companies; legal and financial advisors; representatives of both the UK and Japanese governments, and academia.

Asahi Group has acquired a number of brands in Europe including Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime. The company, as a result of its acquisitions, has become the third largest beer company in the world and now has more employees outside Japan than in its domestic market. Management of Asahi Europe is led by local staff and the organisation is also now being revitalised through the relaunch of the Asahi Super Dry brand in Europe.

The Hitachi Rail presentation had a focus on its manufacturing integration with two core topics – the strong organic growth in the UK rail activities, sales for which are around 2.5 times the rail sales in Japan, and the acquisition in Italy of Breda, which has been turned around from a company with cumulative losses of £2bn (2000-15) at the time of acquisition to being profitable since.

Nissan featured the company’s employee engagement, as exemplified by their recently introduced share incentive plan (SIP), a highly innovative initiative which is the first of its kind for a Japanese company. The average take-up for such a scheme is 8%, in Nissan’s case it was 25% with 2,100 employees. There was also an explanation of how the company celebrated its 30th anniversary in the UK in 2016 with a popular competition to name a beer.

Minister Okada from the Embassy of Japan spoke about the importance of the UK as an investment destination for Japanese companies, pointing out that it is the second biggest non-EU investor. There are over 1,000 companies in the UK widely spread with manufacturing, services and R&D.

Michael Houlihan, Director General of Japan House London told the audience about how this is the third Japan House to be opened this year after Los Angeles and Sao Paolo. Doors opened in June, since when there have been many visitors. He explained about the care that had been taken to research what would be appropriate for London to provide a clear product and legacy. Key areas of interest were discovered to be food, art, design, history and technology.

Viscount Trenchard introduced the session on revitalisation, explaining also the symbol used for the seminar, designed by Euphemia Franklin. Mizuhiki, Japanese knots, are symbolic of togetherness. The knot brings together the two strands of integration and revitalisation, also suggesting the strength through the coming together of Japan and the UK. The knot has also been in use in the UK for centuries and is known as the Wake knot, having been used in the family’s heraldic badge.

Guests could enjoy privately the Tsubame Sanjo exhibition during the subsequent reception. Curator Simon Wright described the themes around which the exhibition had been conceived. The symbol is the pink flame of the furnace and visitors are welcomed in with a quote from Gustav Mahler: “Tradition is not the veneration of the ashes, but the passing of the flame”. The flame motif at the entrance leads visitors to an image of the local Yahiko shrine, devoted to Ameno Kaguyama no Mikoto,  the Shinto god of manufacturing.