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One of Japan’s leading banks is teaming up with the research institute that created Siri to try to bring a bit of Silicon Valley innovation back to Japan

Together with Yamaha, SRI developed the Motobot, an autonomous motorcycle-riding robot. The project is one example of the kind of work SRI’s new innovation center might undertake. SRI
Research institution SRI International and investment bank Nomura are teaming up on a new innovation center.
The center, which will open early next year, is designed to better connect Japanese corporations with Silicon Valley innovation.
In addition to overseeing research projects between Japanese companies and SRI, the center will offer training sessions of Japanese startups, events for executives, and demo days where Silicon Valley startups can make presentations to the center’s members.
The relationships built by the center could lead to future investments and acquisitions.
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One of the US’s top tech research labs is teaming up with one of Japan’s largest financial institutions to try to imbue a little of Silicon Valley into Japanese corporations and startups.
SRI International and Nomura are announcing late Tuesday that they’re joining up to form a center for collaboration and research. Dubbed the Nomura-SRI Innovation Center, or NSIC, the effort — due to open early next year at SRI’s Silicon Valley campus — will be open primarily to Japanese companies.
The plan is “to bring the best of what Silicon Valley has to offer into this innovation center,” said Neeraj Hora, head of innovation and investment at Nomura Holding America. The hope, he added, is that the the center will help jumpstart the adoption of technologies that could help Japanese corporations solve some of the big problems facing Japan, including an aging population and food security. “That would be a mark of success for the innovation center,” he said.
Perhaps best known for developing the technology that became Siri, the virtual assistant built into the iPhone, SRI has worked with Japanese companies for years on various research projects. Together with Yamaha, for example, it developed an autonomous robot designed to ride motorcycles. Through the innovation center, the research institute is looking to build on those experiences.
SRI and Nomura want to better connect Silicon Valley and Japan
In some cases, NSIC will coordinate joint projects between Japanese companies and SRI, said Manish Kothari, SRI’s president. But it will also be helping establish relationships between those companies and other players in Silicon Valley, including startups working on cutting-edge technologies and venture-capital firms, he said.
Numerous startups have been spun out of research developed at SRI, and those will be part of the program. But the research institute is also reaching out to some of the premier incubators in the valley, and NSIC plans to hold a demo day on SRI’s campus for center’s members to introduce them to startups developing technology that might be of interest to them. Those relationships could eventually lead to investments or acquisitions by the Japanese companies in the NSIC program.
“It’s really a win-win for the startups, those incubators, and for those corporations,” Kothari said.
Additionally, NSIC plans to host a conference for the top executives of its member companies, giving them an overview of the latest tech trends and innovations that are ripe for commercialization. And it plans to bring in Japanese startups for a kind of Silicon Valley boot camp, where they’ll get mentoring and ideas on how to bring their technology to market.
Nomura, which advises many of the large, public Japanese companies on mergers and acquisitions and underwrites many Japanese public offerings, has committed to funding the center on an ongoing basis. The investment bank is hoping to the effort will help its clients and help it get valuable information it can use to advise them, Hora said.
“Our clients’ success is critical to our success,” he said.
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