Japan: Clust-ER Health and the hospitals on mission with the Emilia-Romagna Region

A mission with a very large delegation representing the Emilia-Romagna Region had the opportunity, from 13 to 18 November, to visit three Japanese cities to get to know the actors of local ecosystems in different innovation sectors. A decidedly substantial mission, therefore, which allowed our members to meet highly valuable realities in Japan, establish valuable collaborations and initiate useful discussions to build future projects jointly.

Among the participants, also the manager of the Clust -ER Health Sauro Vicini and some members of the IRCCS Policlinico di Sant’Orsola, such as the Director Marco Seri, our advisor Luigi Ricciardiello and Dr. Giovanni Brandi, and of the Romagnolo Institute for study of tumors “Dino Amadori” , with Dr. Paola Burioli.

The mission had the objective of promoting the regional ecosystem of innovation, research and higher education, with representatives of regional universities and ClustERs, as well as the entrepreneurial system , with companies and trade associations. Added to this is the objective of strengthening the development of collaborations on strategic themes for the region such as AI and big data, digitalisation, frontier research, robotics, aerospace, healthcare and welfare, with an important focus on the active aging of the population, given the current situation in Japan which has one of the highest percentages of elderly people in the world. And, last but not least, set a path towards EXPO 2025 OSAKA.

Discover more about the mission with us!


A necessary and very useful welcome on the first day, with an overview of the economic situation in Japan, by the organizers of the Embassy, ICE, IIC, Italian Chamber of Commerce in Japan, representatives of the Bank of Italy, accompanied by greetings by the President of the Region Stefano Bonaccini and by the reflections of the Councilors for Economic Development Vincenzo Colla and Agriculture Alessio Mammi.

The world’s third largest economy, Japan is one of the most modern and advanced economic systems in the world . Strengthened by its geographical position in one of the most economically dynamic quadrants on a global scale – that of Asia-Pacific – and a traditional global projection, the Country of the Rising Sun, with which Italy boasts a solid bond with important prospects of growth, represents one of the main global players in industrial manufacturing, innovative technologies and international trade.

Clust-ER Health meets the National Cancer Center Hospital

The delegation dedicated to Health then participated, in the afternoon, in an organized visit to the National Cancer Center Hospital in Tokyo , where we met some representatives including, Dr Hitomi OKUMA, Head of Department of International Clinical Development, Dr Chigusa MORIZANE Assistant Chief of the Department of Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Oncology, and Dr Masaru KATO, Department of Clinical Genomics.

The meeting with the National Cancer Center Hospital, the first Japanese hospital and research institute specialized in the management of cancer patients and in basic and translational cancer research, was an opportunity for a valuable exchange of collaborative ideas with the representatives of the two regional IRCCS participating in the mission.

The day ended with the launch event of the week of Italian cuisine in the world “The Italian Food Valley meets Japan” at the Italian Embassy in Tokyo.

Also in Tokyo, we participated in the NTT Data Forum and a visit to the group’s demonstration activities on the topic of digital technologies.

The Clust-ER meets the Link-J

The meeting with LINK J, the Japanese health network from Tokyo , as well as the main national network in the life sciences sector, was important and highly anticipated. Founded in 2016, it has more than 700 members, including major Japanese pharmaceutical companies, research universities and local governments, as well as life sciences startups. LINK-J organizes various community activities such as networking events, seminars/conferences, workshops and tutoring services and has several collaborations with European life science clusters such as One Nucleus and Medcity in the UK and Medicen Paris Region in France.

Clust-ER Health has been in contact with Link-J since 2019 and the prospect is to establish a stable relationship in order to bring the respective associates together on topics such as pharmaceuticals , regenerative medicine and advanced therapies. After the greetings of President Bonaccini, presentations were made by the CEO of Link-J, Mr. Akihiko Soyama, of Clust -ER Health by the Cluster Manager and the final conclusions by the General Director Morena Diazzi.


Meeting with Artificial Intelligence Research Center

The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) is a Japanese research facility with headquarters in Tokyo, while most of the workers are located in Tsukuba Science City (in Ibaraki Prefecture), and in several cities in the Japan. The institute works to integrate scientific and engineering knowledge to respond to socio-economic needs. In 2001 it became an independent administrative institution, which depends on the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Inside it is the AIRC Artificial Intelligence Research Center, whose goal is to promote large-scale research and facilitate collaboration between industry, academia and government, as well as provide ongoing support for the implementation of technologies AI in society.

Meeting with the University of Tsukuba

On this occasion we met the Rector, the Vice Rector responsible for international relations and some managers of the research section, including Mr. Nishiyama , Research and Development Project Leader Tsukuba Digital- Bio International Center, Professor, Faculty of Medicine, Mr. Sakurai , Director, Center for Artificial Intelligence Research (C-AIR), Professor, Department of Computer Science and Mr. Kameda , Institute of Systems and Information Engineering.

Since 2020, the University of Tsukuba has been a “designated national university”, a designation issued by the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan to universities that achieve important results in high-level education and research activities world, and which contribute to the goal of accelerating the improvement of education and research standards and the creation of innovations in Japanese universities.

The Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the University of Tsukuba conducts a variety of research and developments in key technologies and systems for machine learning, robotic vision, music technology, media engineering and robotics. This laboratory is engaged in interdisciplinary research in the field of artificial intelligence and robotics; which include assistive robots, social robots, wearable robots, wearable devices, bio -signal processing, human-robot interaction and affective computing .


Meeting with the Department of Trade, Industry and Labor of Osaka Prefecture

European IURC project was first of all recalled, thanks to which relations with the Emilia-Romagna Region began in the last year.

biomedical district of the Kento area was illustrated , which represents the basis for the development of advanced medical technologies. The topic of regenerative medicine is of particular importance in this context. Evidence of this is the annual presence of BioJapan ( ), an event in which the regional ClustER Health also participated in 2023 .

The experimentation of advanced technologies often takes place through a subsidiary system but also through open innovation , through the support of matching between small and large companies, as well as startups.

In this regard, it should be noted that the Japanese national government has, for some years, launched a national plan to increase investments for the benefit of innovative startups. Consistent with national policy, Osaka Prefecture seeks to accelerate the birth and growth of startups.

Meeting with Kindai University Faculty of Medicine

The Health delegation met with representatives of Kindai University, coming from various departments with strong relevance to the topics our IRCCS deal with, including solid tumors, gastroenterology and pancreatic tumors. The meeting led to a discussion between the Japanese university and the representatives of Sant’Orsola and the IRST of Meldola, in particular on oncological issues. The idea that emerged thanks to this fruitful discussion is to formalize a Memorandum of Understanding and start new technical-scientific collaborations.

Meeting at HPC Fugaku at the RIKEN research center

A very interesting visit to the Fugaku supercomputer, where we met the deputy director general of the center, Mr. Yasumasa WATANABE.

It is a petascale supercomputer installed at the Riken Center for Computational Science in Kobe. Fugaku is one of the results of the Flagship 2020 project (commonly known as Post-K development), initiated by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) since 2014. It has become the most fastest in the world in the TOP500 ranking of June 2020 (subsequently surpassed by Frontier in Tennessee, USA in May 2022) and was the first computer based on ARM architecture to achieve this result. Fugaku has been used for mask research related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last May (2023) the Tokyo Institute of Technology and other organizations announced the start of development of “homemade” AI using the Fugaku supercomputer.

Meeting with Kobe Biomedical Innovation Cluster

KBIC, Japan’s largest biomedical cluster, is the innovation arm of Kobe City to promote innovation and collaboration among its members and to ensure the development of the local biomedical industry. Founded in 1998 following a devastating 6.9 magnitude earthquake, in just 20 years KBIC has become a successful global biocluster and a model for other clusters in Asia and elsewhere.

KBIC’s primary mission is to revitalize the healthcare industry through collaboration in the industrial, academic, government and healthcare sectors. KBIC currently boasts the participation of approximately 370 companies, universities, research institutes and specialized hospitals. KBIC’s leading institutes include the Riken Center for Biosystems Dynamics Research , Japan’s largest research organization. Furthermore, it offers a networking platform for companies and research institutes in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors, including medical devices and regenerative medicine .

The meeting with the Kobe Biomedical Innovation Cluster (KBIC) gave the Japanese Cluster the opportunity to present its local ecosystem and the role of the cluster in the development of the Kobe area to the regional delegation. Also on this occasion the Clust -ER Manager presented the regional ecosystem in the life sciences sector, giving particular emphasis to the quality of the regional healthcare system, to the presence of important industrial districts such as the biomedical one of Mirandola or automation and packaging, to the presence of large companies such as Chiesi and Alfasigma and to excellence in the field of regenerative medicine, orthopaedics, oncology and neuroscience.

The collaboration between the two clusters therefore finds fertile ground in strategic sectors such as advanced therapies and precision medicine , in nutraceuticals, but also in technological applications such as surgical robotics.

Now that all this potential for scientific collaboration and a great power of joint innovation have emerged, all that remains is to get to work: Expo 2025 is upon us and Japan will continue to represent a destination of great importance and interest for us.

The Clust-ERs are financed by the European Funds of the Emilia-Romagna Region - ERDF ROP 2014-2020