Innovations Achieved by Collaborations between Fujitsu and Startups

[Fujitsu Forum 2016 Event Report]

Open innovation and collaboration initiatives are becoming hot topics in a wide range of industries.
At Fujitsu Forum 2016, which took place on May 19 and 20 at the Tokyo International Forum in Yurakucho, Tokyo, a seminar entitled "Innovations Achieved by Collaborations between Fujitsu and Startups―New Value Creation with MetaArc" was held by inviting Shunsuke Aoki, CEO of Yukai Engineering Inc., and Kazuhiro Ito, General Manager, Sales Management Division, QUANTUM Inc. In the exhibition hall, startups demonstrated their solutions at their exhibition booths.

Advantages of Collaborations between Enterprises and Startups

Fujitsu established MetaArc Venture Community (MVC) to accelerate its collaborations with startup companies using the MetaArc FUJITSU Digital Business Platform, which provides four support programs: matching service, development support, product promotion/sales support, and funding.

Yukai Engineering developed the "BOCCO" communications robot. This startup worked to achieve functional enhancement of BOCCO by means of a collaboration involving the use of Fujitsu's voice recognition and keyword recognition technologies through the "Fujitsu Accelerator Program," which is part of the MetaArc matching service. As a result, BOCCO robots are now able to recognize users' voices and to turn on the room lights in response to a user saying "I'm home."

"BOCCO can control home electrical appliances if you ask it to do so, or it can find answers to your questions by communicating with web application services―I wanted to build such a world where robots do various things in your life, but Yukai Engineering did not have any voice recognition technology," said Mr. Aoki, CEO of Yukai Engineering.
Mr. Aoki continued: "By participating in the Fujitsu Accelerator Program, we had the opportunity to take advantage of a wide variety of technologies that a startup company like Yukai Engineering normally would not have, which enabled us to add new functions to BOCCO. In addition to technical support, Fujitsu offered us manufacturing support, which was a significant advantage."

Naomi Tokunaga, Senior Director (in charge of venture programs), Marketing Strategy Office, Fujitsu Limited, who served as facilitator, noted, "Fujitsu also aimed to create new businesses through collaborations. Fujitsu is developing a variety of solutions to realize smart homes. The existence of a unique device such as BOCCO enables us to make more attractive proposals to customers."

Naomi Tokunaga
Senior Director, Marketing Strategy Office,
Fujitsu Limited

Left: Shunsuke Aoki, CEO, Yukai Engineering Inc.
Right: Kazuhiro Ito, General Manager, QUANTUM Inc.

Achieving innovation by accelerating collaborations with start-up companies

As a program to promote collaborations with start-up companies, Fujitsu provides the following four major support programs: free-of-charge cloud environments to support development, a matching service with Fujitsu's various business departments, product promotion and sales support, and funding for startups. With regard to funding, Naomi Tokunaga explained: "Fujitsu has managed a 10-billion-yen corporate venture fund over a 10-year period in order to invest in companies which Fujitsu believes relationships with can lead to synergy effects."

Based on her 15 plus years of experience in collaborating with startups, she noted that when working on collaboration projects with startups, enterprises must keep in mind that they tend to be "slow in decision making, put too much focus on risks, and are reluctant to adopt external seeds."

In response to Tokunaga's comment, Kazuhiro Ito of QUANTUM stated, "I think enterprises have their own advantages, such as rich human resources, technologies, financial power, services, platforms, brands, and sales channels. Startups do not have these advantages. So, I think it is important for enterprises to find extra value by seeking new ways of making use of such advantages without locking them in to their own business. The true value of collaboration lies therein, which is where I believe innovation can be realized."

Naomi Tokunaga concluded the seminar by summarizing collaboration activities between enterprises and startup companies as follows: "Collaboration is attractive because both sides complement each other. I expect that the number of business opportunities will expand further if a community that includes enterprises is created, not just one enterprise and one startup facing each other on a one-to-one basis."

Guest speakers
  • Shunsuke AokiCEO, Yukai Engineering Inc.

  • Kazuhiro ItoGeneral Manager,
    QUANTUM Inc.

  • Naomi TokunagaSenior Director (in charge of venture programs)
    Marketing Strategy
    Fujitsu Limited

Product Demonstrations by Startups at the Fujitsu Forum Booth

In the exhibition hall, startup companies who are members of the MetaArc venture community set up booths to showcase the services and solutions they have developed.

A cloud-based test environment provides access to hundreds of smartphones

At the booth of Sonix Co., Ltd., the company exhibited Scirocco Cloud, a cloud-based testing platform for smartphone apps and services. Testing and verification of self-developed mobile apps and services can be a headache for startup companies. Scirocco Cloud provides a testing environment that provides access to hundreds of smartphones through a cloud environment.
Sonix emphasized the advantages of this program: "Thanks to MetaArc Venture Community, we were able to accelerate the launch of our platform business. Our platform is now available to many customer companies, including major corporations."

When combined with a door sensor, this technology can also be used in a monitoring system to track family movements (children's returning to and leaving home, etc.)

Yukai Engineering's booth demonstrated BOCCO, a communication robot equipped with voice recognition technology that was the result of a collaboration with Fujitsu. Equipped with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, BOCCO connects to door sensors, motion sensors, key sensors, and temperature/humidity sensors. "Our goal is to create a BOCCO platform where people can enjoy speaking to, interacting with, or otherwise communicating with BOCCO"―this is the vision the company presented at its booth.

LeapMind, Inc. is a startup company that specializes in artificial intelligence (AI) deep learning technology. Its technology, which was developed in collaboration with Fujitsu, automatically analyzes about 20,000 photos of meals and processes them into marketing data.
Regarding collaboration with Fujitsu, LeapMind stated, "In deep learning technology, the larger the amount of data, the more accurate the analysis will be. It was a great advantage that we could use data collected by Fujitsu that is directly connected to people's lives."
LeapMind expressed its future vision about analysis of data directly connected to people's lives by saying: "We would like to create a future in which people can use deep learning technology in a familiar way to further enrich their lives."

Analyzing meal photos by age group allows for proposals using different approaches, such as making meals appropriate for each age group.

Bus Tour to TechShop Tokyo to Experience Fujitsu Collaboration Facilities

Fujitsu Forum 2016 also provided a bus tour to TechShop Tokyo to enable customers to experience Fujitsu's collaboration facilities at TechShop Tokyo, a membership-based open-access DIY studio that was established in April 2016, and at the FUJITSU Digital Transformation Center, a collaboration workshop space for digital transformation that was renovated and re-opened in May.

A large campaign bus took participants from the Fujitsu Forum venue to collaboration facilities

TechShop Tokyo is a collaboration space that brings together people from various backgrounds, such as office workers, entrepreneurs, investors, artists, creators, students, and housewives. It aims to create a new ecosystem, and it has already attracted more than 200 members.
This open space with no partitions is well equipped with the latest tools to give shape to members' ideas, including 3D printers and laser cutters, as well as dream consultants, who assist members in combining their expertise and know-how. The tour participants experienced a "space that can realize innovation" through explanations about hackathon and other events.

Comments of visitors who took the bus tour included the following: "I want to use this space to shape ideas and to prototype original sales promotion goods," "I'd like to see other users' rich ideas for creating things," "I haven't decided what to make yet, but I feel like I can create something interesting," and "This space encourages us to have open discussions with other users in order to give shape to our ideas."

TechShop Tokyo aims to realize a creative community for innovation, not just manufacturing. The visitors inspired by seeing actual machine tools had lively conversations with each other on what they want to make and how to use TechShop Tokyo. Thus, the bus tour provided the participants with a hands-on opportunity.