Region/Countries: Asia, Japan Industry: Other Date: April 2017

Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Opportunities for Wisconsin companies to participate as the mountainous nation assesses the condition of its roads, bridges, tunnels and other infrastructure and prepares to make any needed repairs to ensure the infrastructure is prepared for earthquakes, volcanoes, storms and floods

In Japan, maintenance of the infrastructure developed since the 1960s—roads, bridges, tunnels, riverbanks, dams, harbors, water supply, sewerage, etc.—is a pressing issue. The Japanese are concerned with preparing this older infrastructure for natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanoes, as well as the storms and floods that frequently occur in this small, mountainous country.

The typical service period for infrastructure is said to be around 100 years when appropriate maintenance has been implemented, but the 2012 collapse of a highway tunnel that had been built in 1977, resulting in nine deaths, has sparked concerns about the risk of similar accidents. This accident caused the government to undertake an exhaustive examination of the country’s infrastructure and a process of planning for how to maintain it, and Japan is in need of new technologies that Wisconsin companies may be able to play a role in providing.

In particular, there is a need for companies that have the technology to diagnose infrastructure deterioration using drones, and to collect, transmit, process, analyze and evaluate the resulting data, as well as the data that comes in from sensors that are embedded in roads, bridges or tunnels in the forms of optical fibers.

Due to the rising level of concern about the country’s infrastructure, the budget required for monitoring and maintenance is also rising, and the local and national governments are being burdened with these rising expenditures. The annual maintenance and management budget of the Ministry of MLIT, which has jurisdiction over the major infrastructure categories, is projected to increase from about 3.6 trillion yen in FY 2013 to between 4.6 and 5.5 trillion yen in 20 years. If the cost of maintaining infrastructure over which local governments have jurisdiction was added, the cost would be several times that amount.

Since U.S. companies have an abundance of technology used in the transmission, collection, processing and analysis of data from sensors and drones, as well as artificial intelligence, Japan expects that U.S. companies will play a major role in its efforts to get a better handle on the condition of its infrastructure and provide the needed repairs, and there are plentiful opportunities for Wisconsin companies to take part.