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13 January, 2006 - 12:09 By Staff Reporter

Japanese hi-tech trio’s yen for Cambridge

Two hi-tech Japanese companies have established European bases in Cambridge and a third – a leading electronics business – is on the verge of moving in but cannot be named just yet for confidentiality reasons.East of England International, the investment powerhouse in Cambridge, has helped the Japanese develop a yen for the region.

Japanese computer games company D3Publishing and Hitachi Software Europe (UK) have already set up their Cambridge operations.

Tokyo-based D3P is using Cambridge to mount an assault on the fastest growing games market in the world – Europe. It is predominantly a publisher of computer games but is moving increasingly into the development of its own games.

D3PEurope is currently operating from serviced accommodation in Cambridge, with MD David Hope and a manager seconded from Japan in charge of getting the company up and running.

Hope plans to have grown headcount to around six by the spring, at which point D3PE plans to have moved into larger, leased offices. In the longer term, the subsidiary will employ around 15 or 16.

The move into Cambridge marks the latest phase in D3P’s worldwide expansion. It set up in Los Angeles in November 2004, recruiting top industry executives to expedite its growth plans.

Hope said: "We chose this region and Cambridge in particular, because of the communication links.

"The plan is to establish Cambridge as our European headquarters, so the proximity and ease of access of Stansted and Luton airports was very important. The quality of the IT infrastructure was also important as we wanted to get up and running very quickly.

"The strength of the software cluster in the region and increasingly the games development expertise was also attractive in terms of future recruitment.”

In Europe, games software sales grew to their highest ever level in 2004 – 5.6 billion Euros, not accounting for hardware sales.

D3P has signed a number of publishing deals with Disney and other companies with large character portfolios. It had full-year 2005 revenues of £21.5m.

Another Japanese company, Fields Corporation, became majority shareholder in D3P earlier this year, with the intention of increasing its activity in the home computer game market.

Fields is an established player in the amusement and slot-machines market and is particularly well-known as a supplier of Japanese game, Pachinko.

Hitachi Software Europe (UK), part of the Hitachi group headquartered in Japan, has based its international R&D Centre in Cambridge.

The company, which is established as a major global player in the interactive presentation technologies market primarily for the education sector, decided to move its existing R&D Centre from Tokyo to Cambridge for several key reasons.

Malcolm Wenborn, general manager of Hitachi Software Engineering (UK) Ltd, says: "The UK is at the heart of the world’s largest interactive whiteboard market, which enables our development engineers to speak to the people purchasing and using our products.

"This means we can respond rapidly to changing needs and also tap into the e-learning supply chain here.

"Another important factor was our recent establishment of a highly successful joint venture with Cambridge University Press (CUP) which we have called Cambridge-Hitachi Education Solutions plc.

"This partnership develops interactive software based on CUP’s expertise in educational books and employs modern methods to update a traditional business model.

"Cambridge also provides an excellent source of highly talented software engineers to take our business forward. A team of seven, led by one of our Japanese engineers, works at the Cambridge Development Centre, exploring and developing interactive whiteboard software, hardware and conferencing.

"The centre is also looking at the next generation of whiteboard solutions, ensuring we are at the very forefront of our field. Plans include producing increasingly intuitive, cost-effective software and integrating coursework to help teachers reach government targets.

"In addition to education, we are also looking at creating interactive communications systems to be used by other sectors such as the emergency services and the conferencing market."

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