With high reliability, safety and customer service being a must, entering the Japanese rail supply market is undoubtedly demanding - matched only by the potential rewards of becoming successful in this €70 billion market.
Japanese railways, including suburban rail and metro systems, are facing multiple challenges: the number of international tourists more than tripled to 24 million in the last five years, and while the population is ageing and shrinking in rural areas, congestion is a persistent issue for many commuter lines around the great metropoles. Also in preparation of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, there is renewed focus to guarantee the physical and cyber-security of operations. Improving the efficiency of operations to tackle potential labour shortages and reducing energy use for more environmentally friendly transportation are among the priorities.
These challenges for Japanese operators offer growing opportunities for European products and services. There is demand for innovative technologies and information systems, and creative concepts and solutions are needed to improve commuter experience for all passenger cohorts, such as tourists, wheelchair users, the vision and hearing impaired, and the elderly.
Internet of Things applications are being explored for continuous monitoring, maintenance and problem resolution in this highly complex system. Operators are looking for ways to integrate big data into information systems to relieve commuter congestion in urban areas for its over 9 billion annual passenger transactions.
High-performance energy storage and efficiency solutions are also in demand, including for hybrid-type vehicles with lower fuel consumption, noise, and emissions.
Luxurious railway sightseeing as a means to raise brand image has spurred growth in vehicle design and construction of concept-driven station buildings.
What’s more, ongoing diversification of railway operators’ businesses further presents demand for partnerships which can catalyse new business fields and opportunities in non-core revenue streams from auxiliary services.
It is in this context that the EU is offering 40 European companies the chance to participate in a market scoping mission to Japan in order to help them access the railway market. The participating companies – which will be selected through the EU Green Gateway to Japan programme – will receive market intelligence on the railway sector, including on the regulatory and cultural environment, to assist them develop appropriate market entry strategies.
During the mission, the selected companies will exhibit their products and services in Greater Tokyo at the end of November 2017 at the Mass-Trans Innovation trade fair , the principal railway exhibition in Japan with an expected 30,000 participants.
Meetings will be organized for the European companies with potential business partners. Furthermore, companies will have the opportunity to directly engage with leading Japanese railway stakeholders and relevant business organisations with linguistic support and all the reputational benefits of coming to Japan under the banner of a long standing and successful European-funded programme.
The application period for the EU Green Gateway to Japan Railway Technologies and Services Market Scoping Mission is still open. Interested European companies should apply here  by 28 July 2017.