It is time for the famed British diplomacy and not the wrecking ball: Hitachi Chairman

Hitachi does not want to be handicapped by complications with its supply chain or selling into Europe, Hitachi Chairman Hiroaki Nakanishi said in his acceptance speech at the Asian Business Leraders Award dinner. Photo by Miles Willis

Hitachi does not want to be handicapped by complications with its supply chain or selling into Europe, Hitachi Chairman Hiroaki Nakanishi said in his acceptance speech at the Asian Business Leaders Award dinner. Photo by Miles Willis

It is time for the famed British diplomacy and not the wrecking ball: Hitachi Chairman


By Naomi Canton

Hitachi Chairman Hiroaki Nakanishi says it is “time for the famed British diplomacy and not the wrecking ball” in the UK’s crucial Brexit negotiations.

Mr Nakanishi, Chairman of the Board, Representative Executive Officer, Hitachi, Ltd., made the remarks in his acceptance speech after being handed the Asian Business Leaders Award for 2016 at a glittering gala ceremony at Banqueting House in London on Tuesday.

Mr Nakanishi was selected as the recipient of this year’s Asia House Asian Business Leaders Award in recognition of his achievements over his five-year tenure at the helm of Hitachi, a Japanese multinational conglomerate company headquartered in Tokyo.

The Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, presented the accolade to Mr Nakanishi.

Speaking to more than 300 guests at the gala dinner, Mr Nakanishi commented on Japanese business concerns about the prospect of Britain losing access to the European single market after Brexit.

Mr Nakanishi directed his remarks at Mr Clark saying: “I know, Secretary of State that you are very sensitive to the concerns of Japanese business about how Brexit will now be handled, not least because of the direct read-across from foreign investment to Britain’s industrial strategy.

“We hope that when the dust settles, Britain will be still be part of an open Europe, helping to set new standards, and a secure base for the further expansion of our business,” he added, in reference to Britain’s negotiations with Brussels about its terms of leaving the EU.

In 2014 Hitachi moved the global headquarters of its rail business to the UK and in 2015 Mr Nakanishi visited the UK to celebrate the opening of its new rail manufacturing facility in in Newton Aycliffe in the North East.

The facility is where the British Government’s new InterCity Express (IEP) trains for the East Coast Main Line and Great Western Main Line, and commuter trains for Scotland, will be manufactured.

Mr Nakanishi said he was determined that Britain would be very proud of what British workers would produce in that plant the first trains will be rolled out next year. “But we don’t want it to be handicapped by complications with its supply chain or selling into Europe,” he stated.

He said that since Hitachi also had very important business in the rest of the EU, Hitachi cared about the future of Europe – as a geopolitical unit, an economic partner for Japan, and an area of economic growth.

“In 2012 when Hitachi acquired Horizon Nuclear Power, I made a 100-year commitment to the UK,” he explained.

He said he was glad that the Hinkley Point project in Somerset was going ahead and that thanks to the efforts of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Hitachi was making progress towards establishing a good legal and financial framework for Horizon’s project in Anglesey.

Hiroaki Nakanishi chats to guests at the dinner. Photo by Miles Willis

Hiroaki Nakanishi chats to guests at the gala event. Photo by Miles Willis

Hitachi was also intently focused on the pace of development and growth in Asia as a driver of its business, he said, and given “the new circumstances which the UK now finds itself” that Japan and Asia, in general, will “benefit from a new surge of attention by the UK’s technology and service industries,” he said.

He added he was sure that the “vital role” that Asia House plays in bringing Britain and Asia together, particularly in trade, would be ever more necessary and relevant.

“It is a great honour to be here in this very international gathering accepting such a prestigious award from Asia House,” he said.

“I am particularly grateful that Japan has joined the list of recipients of this award, because our countries have such a deep history of trade and mutually supportive political relations,” he added.

Japan-UK ties

Japan is currently the second biggest investor in the UK with more than 1,300 Japanese companies employing over 140,000 people. By the end of 2014, Japanese investment in the UK totalled £38 billion.

Britain’s industrial strategy

Mr Nakanishi, who was awarded an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) by Her Majesty The Queen in 2015 in recognition of his services to business relations between the UK and Japan, also commented on the Conservative Government’s new focus on delivering a comprehensive industrial strategy for Britain.

Mr Nakanishi said he was impressed with the British Government’s “re-emphasising of the concept of industrial strategy” and by doing so the Government had recognised that the role of business is not only economic but social.

Mr Nakanishi said he felt that providing an environment in which the right kinds of business can prosper, and innovation can flourish, is an important way for governments to deliver their policies and social benefit to the population.

Social Innovation

Under Mr Nakanishi’s leadership, Hitachi has continued to reinvent itself, placing Social Innovation at the core of its future development.

“Hitachi’s founding creed was to put technology to the benefit of society, and that is why today we put Social Innovation at the heart of our business,” Mr Nakanishi explained.

“Social Innovation is the recognition that as a business we have the ability and the responsibility to improve the lives of people. By bringing together IT, infrastructure and engineering with human ingenuity, we can build a safer, smarter more sustainable world,” he said.

He said Social Innovation was not an exclusive enterprise but involves partnership, sharing ideas, developing talent and bringing thinkers and doers to accelerate change.

It deliberately uses an open architecture which allows collaboration with the best research and other players, he explained.

As cities become more urban and as populations grow and age, he said there was a need for reliable and stable energy supplies, improved transportation networks, transformed healthcare systems and better access to clean water.

He said it was not, in his view, state ownership, but partnership between business and government which could best deliver infrastructure and improvements in transport, healthcare, energy and other public services.

“I am totally at home in a world where government, with input from experts and industry, sets the broad objectives for the next phase of social infrastructure development, and creates a business ecosystem in which private sector companies can invest to deliver it,” he said.

Mr Nakanishi joined Hitachi in 1970 as an engineer and worked his way up the ladder before assuming the presidency in 2010, followed by Chairman and CEO in 2014, and then his current position in April 2016.

He concluded his speech by thanking Asia House again for “this very special and treasured honour” and he reaffirmed his personal commitment to “promote Japanese-British cooperation in all areas.”

To read the speech in full that Mr Nakanishi made at the Asian Business Leaders Award dinner click here.