AcumenIST, Dr Steffi Friedrichs, had the honour to participate in the Belgian Economic Mission to Japan, presided by HRH Princess Astrid of Belgium: from the 5th until the 9th December 2022, nearly 600 representatives from over 200 Belgian businesses, academic institutions and governmental organisations travelled around Japan, accompanies by the Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs, HE Hadja Lahbib, the Minister-president of the Government of Flanders, HE Jan Jambon, and the Secretary of State of the Brussels Capital Region Pascal Smet.
The delegation sought to prospect and establish new trade opportunities with Belgium’s 2nd largest trading partner in Asia, and the 7th largest export market of the European Union.
Following on the good traditions of previous Belgian economic missions to Japan (the last one had taken place in 2012) and Japan’s keen interest in Belgian food and beverage, the delegation took plenty of chocolate, beer and fries to Japan. For the first time, however, the Belgian academic sector participated in the delegation, aiming to initiate collaborations in research and innovation (R&I) with some of the leading Japanese universities and national institutes.
On Tuesday, 6th December, Steffi Friedrichs chaired a regulatory panel discussion on the topic ‘Transition towards energetic autonomy, sustainable economy and decarbonized environment’ with HE Willy Borsus, Vice-Minister President of Wallonia, Professor Aurore Richel Biomass and Green Technologies Laboratory, University of Liege, and Professor Guy De Weireld, School of Engineering, University of Mons.
The panel discussed the decarbonisation strategies in both Japan and Europe (and Belgium in particular), as well as the role that specific technologies, such as hydrogen- and biomass-based innovations, played in reaching the corresponding targets of those strategies.
“Les complémentarités économiques et académiques avec le Japon sont nombreuses. Mêmes enjeux économiques et mêmes enjeux sociétaux, le Japon est plus proche de nous que l’on ne le pense. Pour nos entreprises, c’est un ‘gateway’ vers le reste de l’Asie.”[Claire Ghyselen, represnetative for Japan at Wallonia Foreign Trage and Investment Agency]
The topic of female entrepreneurship and women in business more generally also played a large role during the mission; both hub.brussels and AWEX organised discussion fora, and the Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs joined a discussion on gender equality in the business world at Doshisha University in Kyoto.