Japan’s sector-wide reforms in the Railway Technologies & Services sector make it incredibly attractive for railway companies worldwide.
The Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement  contributed to the creation of a safe environment where global actors can share their technologies and set up mutually attractive collaborations that push the sector forward . The railway market share is, for the most part, split between local major players, but new opportunities and collaborations with these are possible for any forward-thinking operators .
Foreign companies have more chances than ever to access  the €57 billion market, especially if they provide solutions that deal with traffic congestion, cybersecurity technologies & systems, energy efficiency, long-term sustainability and reliability, and labour shortage.
To overcome its many transportation challenges , Japan is open to new concepts and solutions created by European companies , especially Internet of Things applications, Big Data systems, high-performance energy storage and efficiency solutions, hybrid-type vehicles with lower fuel consumption, noise, and emissions, luxurious railway vehicle design and station buildings, and more.
In line with these trends, EU Gateway | Business Avenues organised two market-scoping missions , in 2017  and 2019  respectively, to support European companies in the sector to examine potential opportunities in Japan . The two missions were held in Chiba City, in the Tokyo Metropolitan area, and comprised attendance and exhibition at Mass-Trans Innovation Trade Fair Japan. Each participating company had a built-up booth to exhibit its latest innovations in the railway field, where it was able to hold pre-arranged B2B meetings.
The trade fair, held every two years, is the largest of its kind in Japan. The best of the best in the field gather to discuss business ventures and innovation partnerships. Over 30,000 visitors swarm the venue over the course of the event, including local railway companies and operators, rolling stock manufacturers, researchers and developers of new technologies, manufacturers and suppliers of railway technologies, security & information systems experts, engineers and construction agents, trading agents, administrations, local authorities and ministries, associations and institutions.
Besides the exhibition days, the market scoping missions included follow-up meetings and site visits.
Networking events were also arranged, to further help participants interact with more Japanese companies. On the first mission, the event  was organised by the Delegation of the European Union to Japan, together with the Embassies of Austria and France.
For each market-scoping mission, 40 companies were selected to attend.
Among these was IVM, an Italian company developing systems for the railway industry, related to the measurement of what occurs at the wheel-rail interface.
Thanks to the mission, the company got one of its products on the market.
During the 2017 mission, we had the chance to meet many people from the prestigious Company East Japan Railway Trading Co. ltd (EJRT). They were interested in our product and company, so they offered to start cooperation as our local partner in Japan and we accepted. From that day, EJRT has become our Japanese representative, signing an official Agency Agreement at the end of 2018. — Eng. Francesco Mannara, Co-Founder – Engineer, IVM s.r.l. (Italy), a success story  from 2017
CODIPRO, another participant, provides patented safety swivel lifting rings, now to Japanese customers too.
We had already studied the market a few years ago. But thanks to the EU Gateway | Business Avenues programme, more doors opened up for us in Japan. — Antoine Mahin, Communication Officer, CODIPRO (Luxembourg), another success story  in Japan
The feedback we received from attendants is overwhelmingly positive. Here are some more testimonials:
EU Gateway | Business Avenues has been very useful in organizing the meetings with railway operators and train builders and supporting us with the help of interpreters. — Giorgio Bagnaschi, Lucchini RS (Italy)
Without the EU Gateway | Business Avenues team, we wouldn't be able to talk to any of the potential customers in this market. — Frederic Deutzer, Deutzer Technische Kohle GmbH
The greatest part about the programme is that you can plan and decide what kind of companies you want to meet. EU Gateway | Business Avenues helps you find those relevant contacts. — Rémi Bilger, Televic (Belgium)
Successful partnerships are the common denominator of all the companies that took part in a market-scoping mission for Railway Technologies & Services. Here’s a video playlist with interviews taken during the mission:
Here’s a compiled list of some of the results generated by the market scoping missions in this sector:
- 240 expressions of interest sent by hopeful European companies in the field, from 22 out of 28 EU member states.
- 91 of the most innovative European companies were selected for either market-scoping mission, and 71 of these set foot in Japan in 2017 or 2019.
- Both market-scoping missions were highly appraised by participants and received high satisfaction scores.
- 1479 local company representatives visited the exhibitions at Mass-Trans Innovation Trade Fair Japan 2017 and 2019. Of these, 277 had already pre-registered to interact with the participants before the event, and a total of 675 business meetings were organised by the Programme before the start of the mission weeks.
- The networking events gathered 248 handpicked guests that were most compatible with the products and services offered by the European companies.
- The two missions also generated new jobs in Europe. The first mission alone created 114 jobs in the European Union.
- 87% of the companies that responded to the survey on the first Railway Technologies & Services mission found their participation very or extremely useful for improving their understanding of the Japanese market.
- With regards to the first market scoping mission, 22% of the companies established business collaborations within a year post-mission. Another 65% expected new collaborations to be formed later on.
- After one year from the 2017 mission, 17% concluded sales or signed contracts, 30% were expecting to sign deals later on, 48% stated they were expecting to engage in further detailed discussions, 52% were going to pursue further exploratory discussions, and 35% identified industry or technology trends.
- 74% of the first participating companies declared they were expecting their businesses in Japan to grow, following the mission.
All in all, the Programme revealed opportunities that would have otherwise stayed out of reach for many European companies. It helped participants understand the market better and how they can make a difference in the sector. Many new partnerships were formed, and new sales started being closed in Japan, by newcomers and established companies alike.