“Wisdom gotten from age is better than the shell of a tortoise,” goes the Japanese proverb, the rough equivalent of “experience is the mother of wisdom.” Lack of experience can be a problem for many startups, no matter how innovative their idea or how great their enthusiasm. Last month, three Skolkovo startups got a rare opportunity to learn from the experience of the Japanese electronics giant Panasonic Corporation, when Panasonic Russia organised the New Technology Japan Trip.

Participants of the New Technology Japan Trip pictured on the steps of the Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto. Photo: Panasonic Russia.

The tech odyssey around Japan was the result of a cooperation roadmap agreement signed between the Skolkovo Foundation and its key long-term partner Panasonic Russia during a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Japan last December.   

“One of the points on the roadmap was the organization of tech tours for promising Russian startups to Panasonic Corporation’s production departments and development centres,” said German Gavrilov, head of corporate business development at Panasonic Russia.

“The main aims of the trip from March 5-12 were for the startups to study the practical experience of a global corporation in developing innovative technologies and commercializing new developments, to get acquainted with the Japanese business philosophy and business culture, and also to present the potential of budding Russian IT entrepreneurs to the corporation’s management,” he said.

The three Skolkovo startups chosen by Panasonic Russia to take part in the trip were VisionLabs, a developer of face recognition technology; LIIS, which works on smart homes and security systems; and Prosoft-Systems, which has developed a biometric identification system based on the veins in a person’s hands.  

The Russian startups visited the Panasonic Centre in Tokyo, where the latest technologies are demonstrated, as well as production facilities in Osaka and Okayama to see how manufacturing and equipment testing is organised. The Skolkovo startups presented their projects and plans for further cooperation were discussed.

The representatives of Skolkovo startups and UDAS visited the Panasonic AVC Kadoma factory in Osaka. Photo: Panasonic Russia.

“We visited different departments of Panasonic, presented our ideas to them, discussed what could be relevant for them, and we’re going to work together,” said Alexander Khanin, CEO of VisionLabs, adding that he could not disclose any details of the planned cooperation with Panasonic.

For VisionLabs, a resident of Skolkovo’s IT cluster that has been named one of the world’s top three facial recognition companies in an independent global rating, partnering with an international giant like Panasonic will provide the startup with unprecedented resources, as well as an opportunity to enter the Asian markets. VisionLabs’ face recognition technology can be integrated with CCTV, and is already in use by banks at part of fraud prevention systems.

One of the areas in which Skolkovo and Panasonic already cooperate is that of smart homes and smart cities. The brand new housing built at Skolkovo, whose first residents moved in earlier this year, uses innovative smart home technology designed by Panasonic, as well as Skolkovo resident startups. To learn more about Panasonic’s extensive home solutions, representatives of UDAS – the company overseeing the construction of the Skolkovo innovation city – also took part in the trip.

For them, the highlight was a visit to the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town, where Panasonic is providing eight smart services to create a cutting-edge, connected town for up to 1,000 families.  

Houses in the futuristic Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town, designed around a concept for a smart community lifestyle based on residential comfort and future living patterns.  Photo: Panasonic Russia.

“It was interesting to get to know about Panasonic products that aren’t for sale outside Japan: specifically, their construction and development division, PanaHome, which is implementing its ideas at the Fujisawa smart town,” said Dinara Lizunova, director of UDAS’s marketing and communications department, who took part in the trip.

“All the homes are fitted with smart systems, similar in function to the smart home systems installed in apartments inside Skolkovo,” she said. “We were also able to see several Panasonic production facilities, where new products are developed, including those designed for use in city projects, such as information kiosks, laser projectors and smart store windows. I hope these products can be used in future on the territory of the Skolkovo innovation centre.”

Skolkovo signed a strategic business cooperation agreement with Panasonic Russia during a state visit by Putin to Japan at the end of last year, building on an earlier partnership agreement. The Japanese corporation has an R&D office inside the Skolkovo innovation centre, and plans to launch a pilot agricultural project here this year.

Panasonic is already developing Russian software in collaboration with the Skolkovo resident startup RAIDIX, known as the RAIDIX RASP (RAIDIX Archive Solution for Panasonic). Together, the companies have produced RAIDIX ICE, a turnkey solution for clients dealing with large volumes of data.