Interview with Mr. Masayasu Ishida

Mr. Masayasu Ishida, a business consultant from A.T. Kearney, plays a unique role in Japan’s space activities. In addition to promoting the entire space industry in Japan, especially private-led space business, through the NPO “SPACETIDE”, which he leads, he also contributes the policymaking in the Japanese government as a member of various public committees. He will play an important role at this year’s APRSAF-26.  In this feature, the APRSAF secretariat introduces his passion for the space industry.

You are President and CEO of “SPACETIDE”, which is very unique organization. Could you tell us about “SPACETIDE”?

SPACETIDE is a nonprofit organization that performs cross-industry activities, aiming at the development and expansion of the space industry. Taking a neutral position, SPACETIDE cooperates with a wide range of organizations and individuals ― including governmental organizations, established companies, startups, and space-industry professionals ― to accelerate the advancement of the whole space industry.

As our main activity, we host an annual conference that gathers stakeholders concerned with space-related businesses together under one roof; this year’s conference had about 700 participants. In addition, SPACETIDE issues its own industrial report, called “COMPASS”, twice a year to provide a big-picture view of space business. Containing player maps, investment trends, and investor profiles, COMPASS analyzes the progress of the entire space business for a wide audience. On top of that, as an individual, I have supported the formulation and implementation of Japan's space policy through participation in governmental committees.

How do you find the situation of Japan's space industry, especially startups, as compared with that of other countries?

In Japan there are about 40 startups, which is about double the figure pre-2015. Although the number of startups is less than that of other countries, such as the United States, several startups have raised funding above $100 M. These Japanese space startups are engaged in a wide range of businesses, from small-satellite development and data analysis to small rockets, space debris removal, launch service to the moon, and artificial “shooting stars” ― that is, their businesses are very unique and innovative.

In addition, an important feature of the scene in Japan is that large companies in a wide range of non-space industries have shown great interest in space. The number of companies investing in startups has climbed to around 90, with investors from non-space sectors (including ICT companies, automotive OEMs, airlines, and electronics manufacturers) accounting for a large percentage of that figure. Governmental funding also plays a big role. Such a wide spread of diverse sectors participating in the space community is not seen in other countries, but is a characteristic feature of Japan.

Do you have expectations about the expansion of SPACETIDE in Asia?

From the establishment of SPACETIDE in 2015, we have attached importance to forging connections with global communities. About 60 speakers from nine countries, including Asian countries, took part in this year’s annual conference. In addition, a space-business idea contest called “S-Booster,” hosted by the Cabinet Office of Japan and co-hosted by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), held an Asia Round at the beginning of this year. Also, I am mentoring startups not only from Japan but also from Philippines.

I think that Asia/Oceania will lead next growth phase of the space industry. The number of national space agencies in Asian countries is increasing, and we estimate that 150–200 startups are in operation. SPACETIDE would like to expand its activities in the Asia-Pacific region and cooperate with people in the region. In this context, we believe that co-hosting the Industrial Forum in APRSAF-26 will be a big step forward.

This year your presence is remarkable at the annual meeting of APRSAF.  What do you want to convey to the participants in APRSAF-26?

The global space industry is undergoing a major transformation. Various factors ― such as an increase in the number of countries establishing space agencies, the expansion of nongovernmental space business, the diversification of applications using outer space, and a rising sense of crisis about sustainability ― have come into play at the same time. It is important that we make an effort to build a common understanding on the current state of affairs, build a larger ecosystem, and develop the industry overall.

I would also like to stress the increasing importance of cooperation with other industries. Industrial innovations, starting from “Industry 4.0”, have been taking place in every country of the world, and pursuit of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) has become a major trend. The space industry is being asked whether it can contribute as an enabler to resolve vital issues facing industry and society as a whole. It seems to me that the space industry alone cannot impact on the society; rather, it must make a larger impact on society by connecting with other industries.

What do you expect APRSAF can do for the space industry?

Since its establishment in 1993, APRSAF has been the largest international conference in Asia, with participants — mainly from space agencies and administrative agencies — from more than 40 countries. I think that the importance of Asia in the world's space industry will increase in coming years, and that the role of APRSAF will also grow.

In addition, new countries and private companies have been entering the space industry at an accelerated pace recently, and the number of stakeholders is increasing rapidly as well. A public‒private partnership and international cooperation will thus become more important, and the wide variety of stakeholders will have to act harmoniously with each other to achieve progress for the industry. I anticipate that APRSAF can play an international role by being a venue for such partnerships, cooperation, and harmonization.