OBE grows connections in Japan

  • OBE Managing Director John Garnetti was invited to Japan in September to present UW–Madison offerings to Japanese businesses and government and research organizations.
  • Connections made through visits like this build relationships that can evolve into mutually beneficial research partnerships, strategic investments and more.

Building connections to industry often begins with meeting companies where they are – even if that is halfway around the world.

In September, Office of Business Engagement Managing Director John Garnetti attended the Midwest Ecosystem Builders Meet-Up in Tokyo, Japan, where he presented University of Wisconsin–Madison offerings to representatives from Japanese businesses, as well as government and research organizations.

A classroom setting pictured from the back of the room. You can see attendees seated at tables in rows, with papers and notepads out on the table in front of them. At the front of the room facing the camera, John Garnetti is seated next to another person. To his left is a screen with a presentation slide feature U W Madison information.
John Garnetti presented multiple sessions to full rooms during the one-day Meet-Up. UW–Madison was the only Wisconsin-based organization represented at the event.

“This opportunity to connect directly with business leaders and stakeholders in Japan was the culmination of connection and partnership that started right here in Wisconsin,” said Mr. Garnetti.

The event was hosted by JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization), a government organization that promotes innovation collaboration and is now making more efforts to create partnerships between Japanese companies and U.S. universities. UW–Madison’s connection to JETRO Chicago grew from last year’s Wisconsin-Japan Biohealth Symposium. Subsequently, then-Consul-General of Japan in Chicago, Mr. Hiroshi Tajima, hosted a dinner with leaders from Japanese government and business. UW–Madison leadership including Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin and Assistant Vice Chancellor for Industry Engagement Christopher Kozina attended the event hosted at Mr. Tajima’s home.

A group of individuals in business attire pose together for a photo.
In March 2023, Mr. Hiroshi Tajima, then-Consul General of Japan in Chicago, hosted a small group from the UW–Madison for dinner and conversation.

In addition to presenting at well-attended sessions during the Midwest Ecosystem Builders Meet-Up, Mr. Garnetti spent a day visiting Gunma Prefecture, which is located an hour north of Tokyo by train. His visit came at the invitation of JETRO Gunma and the Gunma Additive Manufacturing Platform, or GAM.

Gunma is home to major manufacturing sites for Subaru and many auto parts suppliers, as well as facilities for several famous Japanese food and beverage brands, such as Kirin and Suntory. The day included tours of Kyowa Industrial Company, Ltd led by President & CEO Ms. Hiroko Suzuki, whose grandfather founded the company in 1946 and who proudly serves as the Representative Director of GAM.

Mr. Garnetti also toured Nihon Michelin Tire Co., Ltd.—or Michelin Japan—in Ota, Japan. Throughout the tour, representatives highlighted Michelin’s history of innovation from the first Michelin guidebook at the turn of the last century to their more recent work in the additive manufacturing equipment business.

Mr. Garnetti capped the day with a meeting with leading members of GAM – two senior representatives from Michelin Japan, Ms. Suzuki from Kyowa, the President of TOA Industries Co., Ltd. and the President of Yajima Industry Co., Ltd. In addition to learning about each of the companies, Mr. Garnetti presented an overview of UW–Madison’s research in the field of additive manufacturing and discussed company-specific opportunities for research collaboration as well as partnership opportunities between GAM and UW–Madison.

During his stay in Japan, Mr. Garnetti also met with current UW–Madison partner, Kureha Corporation.

“It was an honor to connect with such a wide range of excellent Japanese companies to share the capabilities of UW–Madison and explore the mutually beneficial opportunities partnering could afford,” said Mr. Garnetti. “I’m looking forward to developing these connections into new partnerships and hopefully repaying their great hospitality with visits to Wisconsin and campus before long.”