Toyota Motor Corp. and Japan’s three megabanks have jointly set up a fund to invest in space start-ups, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.
As the leader for space development is shifting from the government to the private sector, several Japanese companies are aiming to foster home-grown technology and know-how in globally competitive Japanese space-related companies with massive cash injections.
Toyota, MUFG Bank Ltd., Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., and Mizuho Bank Ltd. among others have invested about ¥8 billion in total to launch the fund this month. The official announcement will be made soon.
The fund plans to solicit additional investment from other companies by the end of this year, aiming for a total of ¥15 billion.
A subsidiary of Tokyo-based investment advisory company SPARX Group Co. established the fund to invest in space-related start-ups mainly in Japan. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is expected to cooperate in the selection of which companies and technologies are to receive investments.
Bank of America Corp. sees the space industry growing from about ¥40 trillion in 2016 to ¥300 trillion by 2045, however space companies usually take considerable time and effort to become profitable. Seeing as the coronavirus has hit the Japanese economy hard, Toyota and the other investors have deemed the space investment fund necessary and plan to nurture start-ups that can take risks in the space industry to achieve further technological and economic growth.
Space exploration is famously called “the final frontier”, but it can benefit those living on Earth. Companies that use data from satellites to predict oil price trends and support agriculture and fisheries are steadily expanding their markets. In the automobile industry, precise positional information from satellites is indispensable for the practical application of autonomous driving technology. Furthermore, research has also begun on ways to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus by monitoring crowded areas with high risks of infections.
Space development had long been under the guidance of governmental projects, but recently there has been a notable uptick of private companies entering the field.
SpaceX — founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk who heads U.S. electric-car maker Tesla, Inc. — has developed a reusable rocket that sells for half the market price. Another example is Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos, who founded the aerospace company Blue Origin, LLC.
Toyota has been working with dozens of companies, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and JAXA, to send a rover to the moon in the 2030s. Using advanced technologies such as autonomous driving and fuel cells, the data obtained from these space missions are planned to be applied to manufacturing vehicles back on Earth.
Originally published on https://the-japan-news.com