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Taking Newcastle to the world at BioJapan 2019

November 19, 2019

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Invest Newcastle recently attended BioJapan as part of a UK delegation led by MedCity and supported by the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA). Held in Pacifico Yokohoma between 9 and 11 October, BioJapan is Asia’s premier partnering event for the global biotechnology industry with more than 1,000 organisations from 34 countries in attendance.

Senior Investment Manager Matt Bratton reflects on his time in Japan and the thriving life sciences sector in the North East of England.

As a city we have recently reviewed our strategy to focus on key international markets that share the strengths that we have here in Newcastle. These include the east and west coasts of the United States, Japan and Australia. With that in mind, BioJapan, a global event for the biotechnology industry, was a perfect place to promote Newcastle’s growing life science sector.

Newcastle, and the wider region, is developing a global reputation for research excellence into healthy ageing and clinical trials. The recent opening of The Biosphere on Newcastle Helix shows our ambition to home tech and science driven businesses in the region. The new specialist lab facility is dedicated to the commercialisation of life sciences and is the perfect location for ambitious companies and entrepreneurs. Newcastle Helix is a unique asset and, along with strengths in life sciences and credentials as a smart city, makes us an attractive place for business.

This is by no means our first interaction with the Japanese market, back in 1976 we welcomed our first Japanese investor, NSK Bearing, who opened a car parts factory in Peterlee. This was followed by significant investment by Nissan in 1986 and ASK in 1989.

More recently the Japanese Ambassador visited the region, and we have been working closely with Masao Kumori OBE who supported us in putting together our meeting programme with businesses interested in exploring the UK as a location. Masao previously worked for One North East’s Japan office, bringing more than 3,500 jobs to the region.

Invest Newcastle was part of a delegation including NHSA and Leeds University that was raising the profile of the Northern Powerhouse. The UK ‘golden triangle’ of Cambridge, London and Oxford is well known throughout the world for its technology and life sciences expertise but the North has plenty to shout about too!

The North of England is a world leader in health research and our health science economy accounts for £17bn of the region’s output, with this figure forecast to grow by almost 50% by 2030*. The sector employs over 7% of the North’s workforce (equating to approximately 49,800 jobs*), showing its importance in the region.

The Northern Powerhouse hosts over 1,270 businesses in the life and health science sector with a significant number of these in Newcastle and the surrounding area. We are lucky to have some incredibly innovative businesses in the sector, to name but a few; biosignatures, Iksuda Therapeutics, Alcyomics and Newcells Biotech in Newcastle, Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies in Billingham and Arcinova in Northumberland.

During my time in Japan, I had 16 meetings in 5 days with a range of businesses. I spoke to a variety of companies – some of them had a UK presence or were looking to expand, others had no UK presence, and a few had very little knowledge of the UK outside of London and the surrounding area. The trip was about building long-term business relationships, raising the profile of the Northern Powerhouse and more specifically of Newcastle as a leading location for life sciences.

As well as meeting local businesses, while in Japan I met with representatives from the Japanese External Trade Organisation (JETRO) to find out more about how they support trade and investment between Japan and the rest of the world. It was also brilliant to talk to the British Embassy’s head of trade about our work and he was particularly interested in the city’s expertise in ageing.

BioJapan was a great opportunity to collaborate with colleagues across the Northern Powerhouse to raise our profile. As a region, and specifically as a city, we have plenty to shout about in the life science sector and it was a brilliant platform to do this. Some very positive conversations were had and I’m sure the close relationship we have with the Japanese will continue moving forward.

Matt is part of the Newcastle Ambassador Programme which works to encourage inward investment, stimulate local pride and attract and retain talent in Newcastle. Ambassadors use specially created content to raise the profile of the city region in their own national and international activity. For more information and to get involved, visit

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