Business in Asia: “Japan is the place to be” says Rolls-Royce Chairman

Written by BCCJ
November 5, 2015

Written by BCCJ
November 5, 2015

At a breakfast roundtable hosted this morning by the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ), Rolls-Royce’s global chairman, Ian Davis, spoke with BCCJ Platinum and Corporate Plus members about the firm’s long-standing operations in the Japan market. The group also discussed the potential for SMEs to drive UK-Japan business, and the power of collaboration between companies to boost trade relations.

Rolls-Royce in Japan

Davis, appointed chairman in May 2013, emphasised the importance of Rolls-Royce’s presence in Japan, which spans more than 100 years, when Vickers (now part of Rolls-Royce) built the battleship Mikasa. “There is a strong history between the two nations. We are now in the business of engines, and have people and operations located across the country, including offices in Tokyo and Kobe – and a service support office in Haneda International Airport.”

Davis went on to confirm Rolls Royce’s commitment to the Japan market, particularly in the area of civil aerospace engines. In this respect, Rolls-Royce has strong partnerships with leading Japanese companies and research institutions. Led in Japan by President Haruhiko Tsuyukubo, the firm works closely with Japanese heavy industry firms and contributes to the Rolls-Royce Trent aero engine family – specifically through the design and manufacture of modules, materials and components.

Rolls-Royce also runs a joint research project with the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) to develop next-generation superalloys for turbine blades on future engines, which will help reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

Trade and Investment

On the subject of the global economic climate, Davis, who serves on the board of the British Chambers of Commerce in the UK, touched upon the current challenge faced both by SMEs and large companies. “Right now, the focus of UK politics is on budget issues, the Europe debate, and immigration – rather than trade and export.”

To move ahead, Davis appealed to BCCJ Platinum and Corporate Plus members to focus on collaborating with each other, not only to boost trade and investment between the UK and Japan but also to foster “mentoring relationships”, to share global best practice across markets.”

Challenges and opportunities

In the subsequent open forum, Mr. Davis and BCCJ members discussed the challenges and potential for future UK-Japan trade and investment.

It was agreed that the number of job openings in foreign firms in Japan are growing rapidly, but that businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit talented employees with the appropriate profile and skills.

Differences in business culture between the UK and Japan, as well as the language barrier, were also mentioned as an ongoing challenge. “As we all know, you have to play a long game in Japan”, said BCCJ Executive Director, Lori Henderson MBE.

Participants agreed, however, that Japan continues to be a key market for their firms, with even more potential for business development opportunities in the lead-up to the World Rugby Cup in 2019 and the Olympics and Paralympics in 2020.

And there have been promising developments in Japanese politics to further support foreign investment and SMEs, such as the Tokyo One-Stop Business Establishment Center – a desk that has been jointly set up by the national government and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to support domestic and foreign companies set up businesses.

Indeed, Japan remains a highly-attractive business location for long-term investors: “It’s a hard nut to crack, but it’s a nut worth cracking” said a BCCJ member who attended the November 5 session.

Davis agreed: “Japan is the place to be”.


Rolls-Royce – Ian Davis – bio

Chairman of the Nominations and Governance Committee

Appointed to the Board in March 2013 and as Chairman in May 2013.

Skills and experience: Ian spent his early career at Bowater, moving to McKinsey & Company in 1979. He was managing partner of McKinsey’s practice in the UK and Ireland from 1996 to 2003. In 2003, he was appointed as Chairman and Worldwide Managing Director of McKinsey, serving in this capacity until 2009. During his career with McKinsey, Ian served as a consultant to a range of global organisations across the private, public and not-for-profit sectors. He retired as senior partner of McKinsey & Company on 30 July 2010.

External appointments: Ian serves, as a non-executive director, on the Boards of Johnson & Johnson Inc, BP p.l.c and is a non-executive member of the Cabinet Office Board. He is also senior adviser to Apax Partners LLP.