Interview
2019.10.18

New stage of space development Work with JAXA to set off towards the “Path to Space” from Nihonbashi. – the starting point of Go-kaido

New stage of space development Work with JAXA to set off towards the “Path to Space” from Nihonbashi. – the starting point of Go-kaido

“JAXA (national exploration legal person Aerospace Exploration Agency)”, the only national Aerospace Exploration Agency in Japan, cooperated with Mitsui Fudosan to set up Japan’s first space business co-creation base -- “X-NIHONBASHI” in Nihonbashimuromachi. Recently, the private enterprises have accelerated the pace of involving in space business and the topics of space travel, etc. have been heard more frequently. In this context, what vision does JAXA have for the future space development? And why was the new base set up in Nihonbashi? JAXA’s New Business Promotion Department has cooperated with creators to make the quilted door curtain. At present, Mr. Shunsaku Uemura from this department accepted an interview from the writer on “Tour Exhibition of Quilted Door Curtain” of “NIHONBASHI MEGURU FES” being held currently.

JAXA’s main responsibilities of new business promotion department.

—Could you introduce JAXA’s New Business Promotion Department where you work?

The aim of New Business Promotion Department is to double the scale of Japan’s space industry (it is currently 1200 billion YEN) in the early stage of 2030, promote the space business of private enterprises and intensify the industrial basis. We cooperate with the private enterprises to start the future core projects of JAXA. In order to widely feed the technology, intellectual property and assets accumulated by JAXA back to society, JAXA’s venture enterprise is also set up energetically to transfer the space technology into derivative commodities, etc. Nowadays, there are about 30 employees in our department and our goal is to become the cutting-edge existence of technical innovation activity like a “Dejima” in JAXA, where the talents having the unique experience within and outside the company gather.

—What kind of work were you responsible for before?

After joining JAXA, I am always being engaged in the work of establishing relationship with social or private enterprises to create new value constantly. In fact, I ever left JAXA for 3 times because I was dispatched to work in the central government ministries and agencies, public interest incorporated foundation engaged in space education and advertising agency company. Also, I ever acted as the secretary for nearly 3 years (secretary of chairman and have obtained the valuable opportunity of personally experiencing the business idea and understanding the latest trend at home and abroad. In addition to me, many other members in the department were also ever dispatched to work in expatriate staff office, NASA and private enterprises. With the experience in overseas business, I have learned various different consciousnesses of problems. During this process, New Business Promotion Department has continuously strengthened the cooperation with private enterprises to actively implement the space development from the perspective of “co-creation”.

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Mr. Shunsaku Uemura, Leader and producer of business development team in JAXA New Business Promotion Department

Changes in the environment where space development is located.

—In recent years, it seems that the environment where the space development is located has been changed greatly.

Yes. In the past, the rocket and Artificial Satellite were basically produced by the specific private enterprises having the related experience. For many enterprises, space business has the higher threshold. However, in recent 5 to 10 years, the start-ups have also begun to launch and operate the small satellite and rocket and more and more new enterprises have participated in this business. This trend is particularly obvious. But the Japanese government also released “2030 Vision of Space Industry” in 2017 to positively support the venture enterprises and the supporting system in law and capital is also being improved. Now, there are 30-40 Japanese domestic venture enterprises in space business and there will be more and more big enterprises involving space industry.

—AI, robot, IoT and other technology innovation also seem to have promoted the scope of space business to expand continuously.

That’s right. In space industry, the trend of the big data analysis based on AI, 5G communication environment and new technologies has been accelerated. The robot technology that Japan is good at producing should also be applied to space station and detection fields. There has appeared an obvious trend, namely the satellite data are applied to carry out business in various fields such as agriculture and finance. Some unexpected innovative ideas were born in the folk society.

グリー

The goal of JAXA’s co-creation-oriented R&D program J-SPARC is to cooperate with GREE Inc. and apply the relevant space data to carry out VR and education and recreation services. (c GREE)

—Recently, the topics on in the folk are often heard.

Yes. Accordingly, we have started a co-creation activity and its theme is that what kind of necessities is required in the environment different from the earth. However, one feature of space business is that the lead time of development before the service offering is long and the greatest emphasis is put on the operational performance on the orbit. Therefore, JAXA also provides the service verification and operation opportunity for private enterprises vigorously in paid or unpaid manner. For instance, we have established “sharing satellite” mechanism to apply the residual force of shooting a rocket to shoot the small satellite. Besides, the system that the paid use of Japanese Experiment Module “Hope” in astrospace station is allowed has been established.

—According to the traditional impression, space development is national significant program and if private enterprises participate more frequently, what changes will the future space industry undergo?

In the past, people always believed that the space is exclusive to special groups. However, various participants have participated in it in recent years and a new ecosystem is forming. One responsibility of JAXA is to provide a perfect environment for the public to continuously increase the earnings in the international market. On the other hand, there are still some fields such as detection, science, etc. which must be in the charge of the nation. It is hoped that the government and the public can harbor the idea of sharing responsibility to achieve the deeper space development in the future.

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Space business co-creation base -- “X-NIHONBASHI” jointly set up by JAXA and Mitsui Fudosan. Not only the enterprises and NPOs engaged in space business settle in this base, but also the space- related activities are often held there; meanwhile, it can be also used as the Coworking Space.

—With the continuous expansion of space development field, what will benefit the consumers?

Estimates show that there will be 1,000 people going to the moon in 2040. Compared with global population, this figure is insignificant. As a result, in addition to the space business, the related earth business should also be considered. The technologies and services born during the process of aiming at the space business will make the earth become more plentiful. Show a simple and easy example, there is a kind of underwear developed under the premise that the astronaut stays in a confined space. Nowadays, this kind of underwear, as “an underwear without the peculiar smell” has been sold on the market. With the restricted space having the harsh environment as the starting point, the new industrial fields such as disaster prevention, etc. were born and some technologies have been applied to education field. The space is really an innovative treasure house which will make human life become richer.

J-SPARC” jointly researched and developed by multi-field enterprises.

—Please introduce co-creation R&D program - “J-SPARC” started by JAXA in 2018.

In the 7-year medium and long term program started in 2018, JAXA puts forward a program to give great impetus to industry revitalization and positively cooperate with private enterprises to achieve the commercialization. In this case, the technology development and verification project completed by the cooperation between JAXA and private enterprises can be realized, which is the J-SPARC. In the first year, we received about 150 consultations and now about 20 projects are being promoted simultaneously.

—To be specific, what projects are being promoted now?

We have cooperated with the enterprises in different fields and the business involves small satellite, transportation services, business applying Avatar (remote control technology), new-generation education using astronaut training method, new food in the field of disaster prevention, etc. One feature of J-SPARC is that under the promise of private enterprise, both parties share the risk mutually and they jointly promote the projects from the planning stage. The commerce has the business risk and technology risk. As the R&D institution, it is difficult for JAXA to bear the business risk and the application of cooperation method is beneficial to reduce the technology risk or increase the technical maturity. The promotion methods vary with different projects. Sometimes we participate in the presentation or financing meeting held by collaborator. Someone ever said to us: “Is it necessary for JAXA to participate in such low meeting?” (laughing). We hope to work hand in hand with private enterprises to establish the trust relationship.

AVATAR X

Avatar (remote control technology) is adopted in the business promoted by the cooperation between “J-SPARC” and All Nippon Airways (ANA). The aim is to gain the extensive use, including construction work in the space, the maintenance of extensive use, space hotel, etc. and the recreation in space. (c AVATAR X Program / ANA HOLDINGS INC. / JAXA)

—Are there any difficulties during the process that you deal with the private enterprises?

We did not involve these businesses in the past. Through the cooperation, we have found that it is worthwhile for us to learn from private enterprises. For instance, looking at the problem from the perspective of market and earnings and fast speed in decision making and execution. In fact, at the time of starting J-SPARC, we insisted to add the sentence “JAXA also needs to change” in the slogan. As a department, we really hope to break people’s traditional view on national public institutions. In J-SPARC program, as long as it is required to make an adjustment, we will change ourselves in the process and positively accept the successful ideas of private enterprises. It is hoped that this project can make us study and grow.

—Are there big directions and themes in the project vigorously implemented in J-SPARC?

By and large, 3 themes have been proposed, including “expanding human activity scope”, “enjoying the space” and “solving the social problems on the earth”, respectively. Previously, the public believed that JAXA is an institution basically having no links with consumers. According to the business, it has little to do with BtoC. However, the theme “enjoying the space” has various demands and possibilities. As mentioned before, there are lots of enlightenments hidden in the space which can make the life on the earth become plentiful. We hope that they can get close to the consumers to provide new values or solve some related issues and contribute the efforts to these aspects.

テーマ

Major business methods in J-SPARC

—This program has been implemented for 1 year and is there any good effect on JAXA?

There were about 150 employees participating in J-SPARC’s co-creation business last year. Although the number of employees is only one tenth of all the employees, some employees reflected that they could participate in the work which cannot be challenged due to the restriction of the traditional working methods and meanwhile they could feel the synergy with their own work to acquire various knowledge and experience. The researchers and technicians seldom have the chance to consider things from the angle of business. We have really felt that our cooperation with the private enterprises can produce good effects in many aspects.

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Space business started by Nihonbashi.

—The role definition of X-NIHONBASHI is the co-creation base of J-SPARC. Please introduce the background for the birth of this base.

The business plan started in 2018 has included “Operated jointly by the officers and the public and creating a platform for communication and pairing” and the platform created jointly by us and Mitsui Fudosan is the space business base --- X-NIHONBASHI. Mitsui Fudosan has opened up the relevant industries in life science field and the co-creation projects such as investing in venture enterprises, etc. have been implemented vigorously. We cooperated with this company to make the first attempt in Japan. Now, the headquarters of space venture enterprises and the open and innovative bases of foreign-funded enterprises have settled in this base and we also hold the brief meeting there together with J-SPARC project cooperation enterprises. Besides, recently lots of sponsors have held the space-related activities here.

—What do you think about the base after its operation?

Various kinds of people engaging in space business come here and they can meet many people every day. There are no strong ties between them like friends, but the slow weak ties established on the basis of will and activity will quickly construct social networks in a wide range and the innovation will be produced easily. It is hoped that this base will become the holy land of space business in the future.

05
06

The cute and interesting indoor design is adopted in space business base X-NIHONBASHI.

—What impression will Nihonbashi where X-NIHONBASHI is located leave on the people?

Firstly, in terms of the impression left by the block on people, the diverse culture is intertwined closely and the tradition and innovation are complementary to each other. For this reason, people can perceive the new beginning. In particular, Nihonbashi is the starting point of Go-kaido from and to which all kinds of people came long time ago. The people in different times and ages live here and it seems that its tolerance different from Marunouchi or Shibuya. Due to the revitalization plan implemented recently, the image of Nihonbashi has undergone great changes. There are more and more scientific and technological start-ups and creators and it has accepted the innovative talents to support and protect them. It is a vital block filled with energies generating new things.

—For the field of space, what’s the fitness of Nihonbashi?

Nihonbashi is the starting point of many things and it is a place suitable for people to tell the stories about the cradle of new industries. Besides, because of all kinds of people here, it is more suitable to conduct the verification of new technologies and services here. For example, Nihonbashi owns rich food culture and space food can be considered according to the environment here or sampling is significant. Besides, there are many enterprises about the field of life science and these enterprises are the potential users of space station; Nihonbashi is the gathering place of financial enterprises and the financing industry has the trend of using satellite data. Based on the above-mentioned 2 points, Nihonbashi is extremely suitable for the users to establish links. And it is most important that the space development from idea generation to business formation has the long lead time and Nihonbashi has the long construction history. So, it seems that the two items have the certain compatibility. We hope that a solid foundation can be laid in Nihonbashi to achieve the cross cooperation in different industries and fields, so as to make a bit contribution to the future 30 years later.

SFX⑦_月面の食卓2040イメージ

In order to solve the problem related to the production and supply of space food and earth food and exploit the relevant market earlier, more than 30 enterprises, universities and experts jointly set up “Space Food X”. This organization has also held relevant activities in X-NIHONBASHI

—Please introduce the projects currently implemented in Nihonbashi and the future work direction.

As a link of J-SPARC program, we worked with about 50 companies to set up “Space Food X”, with the aim of researching and developing emergency food and space food similar to space environment to open up the world’s first space food market. Some days ago, the general membership meeting was held in X-NIHONBAHSHI. It seems that this block easily accepts urban reserve and disaster-prevention food idea and the Space Food X has put forward the sustainability vision such as self-sufficiency and resource recycle. It is hoped that Nihonbashi can be used as the platform to carry out verification experiment.

Work with creators to think about space.

—Is it also one of the jobs conducted in this block to participate in “Tour Exhibition of Quilted Door Curtain” currently being held?

Yes. I think that this interview is a good chance to tell everyone that we have set up the base and conducted the co-creation activities in this block for 1 year. For many people, the space is reachless and strange to them and with Nihonbashi’s particular “quilted door curtain” as the medium, the distance between people and space can be shortened. As a result, with this aspect as the theme, we apply the actual dimension to reproduce the window of ISS Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) “Hope” in Japan and regard it as the decorative design of the quilted door curtain. In this way, we hope to provide people with a viewpoint of observing the earth from the space. In addition, it also means that Nihonbashi, as the starting point of Go-kaido connecting with the 6th Avenue in the space. In view of this meaning, 1 line of words are added in the mileage sign in the end of Nihonbashi: “400 kilometers away from Hope” .

JAXAのれん表

“Window of Hope (actual dimension)” (right side)

JAXAのれん裏

“Window of Hope (actual dimension)” (back side) Creator: Shirogane Kanami / UnitOne (Bascule Inc.)

—It is said that the quilted door curtain is really hung on ISS JEM “Hope”.

Yes. It was hung by astronaut Hoshide Akihiko in June 2018 when the inboard Experiment Module of “Hope” was installed. A total of 15 countries ever participated in the construction of ISS and it is a very good creativity to hang a “quilted door curtain” symbolizing Japan. We hope that the making of quilted door curtain can make more and more people know that there is also Japanese house in space.

きぼう暖簾

Astronaut Norishige Kanai took a photo at the entry of inboard experiment module of the “Hope”. ©JAXA/NASA

—This planning scheme is created by the cooperation with the creators and is there any new finding in the co-creation?

We always tend to think about problems with the narrow focus and when some information is conveyed, we are often outspoken in our remarks (laughing). However, the creators always treat the problem from multiple angles, their viewpoints are required by us and we are often enlightened by them. Besides, we have cooperated with Bascule company to jointly promote the space media business. Until recently, we have really felt that for those business participants not contacted frequently before including the creators in the art and digital fields, we have contacted with them more and more frequently.

—The space not only involves development and commerce fields but also stimulates the imagination of creators, artists, etc.

Yes. Although our slogan is “Turn the Space Dream into Reality” to put emphasis on space business, we should also consider “why people go to the space”, “what is human on” and other philosophical problems or harbor the great dream. The space originally has the versatility relating all the people. Moreover, in 2009 when global economic downturn occurs, total solar eclipse appeared in Japan and the space has a magic power to attract people to look up to the sky unconsciously. From then on, the Japanese astronauts stay in space every year and Japan has launched Hayabusa No. 1 and Hayabusa No. 2 probe. After the popularization of SNS, solar eclipse, supermoon, meteoric stream and other astronomical phenomena have received more and more global attention. In recent 10 years, it seems that people’s view on space has undergone the earth-shaking changes. Under such changes, we hope that we can do things within our power to help those people desiring to produce links with the space, especially those treating the space as the commerce.

暖簾集合写真

All the producers from the business development team in JAXA New Business Promotion Department and astronaut Naoko Yamazaki (in the middle of the upper row) took group photos. Ms. Yamazaki works as representative director of general incorporated association and Spaceport Japan (SPJ) also settled in X-NIHONBASHI

Interviewer and author: Yuki Harada (Qonversations) Photo by: Daisuke Okamura

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