Case Study: Veneto Nanotech: An Italian Cluster

VENETO NANOTECH – from IT

Veneto Nanotech is an Italian Cluster created in 2003 after careful valuation and analysis of the Italian business climate regarding innovation and technology transfer, and has grown to coordinate the activities of the hi-tech cluster of nanotechnology applied to materials.

Cluster Activities: Build international excellence in research, to foster the application of nanotechnology, and to support the development of start-ups in the focus sector.

Size: 65 companies, universities and research centres.

Interests in Japan: Establishing new business and scientific relationships.

ABOUT VENETO NANOTECH

Veneto Nanotech coordinates the activities of the Hi-Tech Cluster of Nanotechnology applied to materials in the region of Veneto, Italy. This region is the centre of the technological cluster, with strong scientific and productive competences, along with great application potentials in its industrial environment. Veneto Nanotech aims to build international excellence in research, to foster the application of nanotechnology, and to support the development of start-ups in its targeted sector. It has a strong relationship with numerous Italian companies as well as established knowledge on coating, new materials and sensors application.

WHY JAPAN?

Japan is one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world, and has without any doubt a huge potential for R&D and industrial cooperation. With this in mind, Veneto Nanotech decided to explore opportunities to initiate contacts and engage in the search for partnerships with Japan. A major interest for Veneto Nanotech is to create a well-established relationship with a Japanese partner in order to jointly participate in EU Project calls. Other possible areas of cooperation could include technological services on nanotech research and development.

In 2010 Veneto Nanotech already had limited contacts with the Nagano Techno Foundation and Shinshu University. Nagano Techno Foundation visited Veneto Nanotech in 2010, and there was a return visit in 2011 on the cluster’s own initiative. In 2012 Veneto Nanotech participated in the EU-Japan Centre’s EU Cluster Support Mission on the fringes of the Green Innovation Expo 2012 (http://www.jma.or.jp/green/en/). The 2012 mission proved instrumental in helping reinforce these pre-existing relations, and to sign a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ with these Japanese partners.

The Cluster Support Mission, furthermore, provided the cluster with a lot of insight in doing business with Japan, it gave an introduction to the Japanese culture and Japanese relationships, and offered other Japan-specific information. It was also a great opportunity to establish contacts with other (European) clusters that participated in the mission. During the Cluster Support Mission, it was recognised that the support the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation can offer is substantial and very helpful. Veneto Nanotech will definitely consider taking advantage of the EU-Japan Centre’s services in the future when there are further plans to establish relations in Japan.

CHALLENGES

It is not easy to establish business relationships in Japan, especially not when your sector of activity is nanotechnology or related to other high level technologies. First of all, after the Fukushima disaster, the Japanese government shifted its investment efforts away from nanotechnology towards the energy sector. This had as the consequence that a common project with the Nagano Techno Foundation was aborted due to a lack of funding on the Japanese side. Furthermore it is in general not easy to develop relationships with Japanese companies, due to the specific business culture, language issues, legal environment, and the main interests of potential partners. In the case of Veneto Nanotech, being a cluster trying to sell its high level technology in Japan, it is even more complicated because of the fact that Japan is a high level producer of technology itself, and Japanese companies mainly want to sell their own technology.

CURRENT STATUS – NEXT STEPS

Although it has not yet managed to successfully launch technical and practical activities with its Japanese partners, the cluster does hope to eventually develop a profitable relationship with them. Veneto Nanotech is confident this will be the case and it is felt that the partnership is very much appreciated, as evidenced by the specific request from the Japanese Minister of Economy to visit the cluster on 2 August 2014 during his visit to Italy.

Interview made with Enzo Sisti