Dec 10, 2018


Event Description

On 16 November 2018, Japan’s External Trade Organization (JETRO) hosted the forum with a view to advancing innovation opportunities to the mutual benefit of Canada and Japan. It was an opportunity to learn from a panel of Canadian businesses that have either established operations in Japan or formed partnerships with Japanese companies. The keynote speaker was Naoko Yoshizawa, CEO of Fujitsu Intelligence Technology, which had established its Artificial Intelligence (AI) headquarters in Vancouver a month earlier.     

Host: Simon Fraser University Harbour Centre


Canada and Japan have enjoyed diplomatic relations for 90 years. In addition to a long history of bilateral cooperation on economic, cultural, and security issues, Canada and Japan are both members of the G7, G20, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Asian Development Bank, International Monetary Fund, Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).   

VSIR Thinking Points

  • Fujitsu’s decision to select Vancouver as its artificial intelligence and quantum computing headquarters strengthens the Canada-Japan bilateral relationship and reinforces Vancouver’s “locational advantage” in the global knowledge economy. In addition to a  global reputation as a start-up hub, Vancouver is quickly becoming an AI innovation centre, with more than 100 advanced technology companies. The establishment of the Artificial Intelligence network of British Columbia (AInBC) may further enhance Vancouver’s attractiveness to global talent and foreign investors, sustaining Canada’s “first mover” advantage in AI.   
  • AI superclusters are social enterprises as much as they are technical platforms. Fujitsu’s human-centric, or Zenrai, brand of artificial intelligence offers the promise of novel knowledge creation possibilities and customer-driven solutions. With any transformational infrastructure project, dynamic synergies are created when different institutional, commercial, and regulatory partners – none of which have a monopoly on the requisite knowledge and expertise – become functionally integrated. When properly designed, multi-layered knowledge infrastructures can accelerate creative innovation and regional spill-over effects that generate enduring sources of social and economic value.
  • The Japan-Canada Innovation Forum reflects the growing importance of informal trans-Pacific arrangements between middle-sized global powers. In the current environment of geopolitical uncertainty and the resurgence of great-power rivalry, para-diplomacy networks function as critical knowledge portals. Whereas Japan coordinates its municipal and cultural diplomatic relations through the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations  (CLAIR), Canada lacks a central coordinating body to “internationalize” its urban “soft-power” advantage.     

Concluding Remarks

In a hyper-connected world, Canadian metropolitan regions and forward-looking middle-sized cities that receive adequate federal and provincial support building the next-generation of “hard” and “soft” infrastructures will have a strategic advantage over their global peers. But a successful transition to a qualitatively different stage of economic and social development is contingent on sustained diplomatic, capital, and infrastructure investments, both locally and nationally.  

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