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Helping EU enterprises seize opportunities in Japan and Korea

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If you are considering entering these markets or expanding your activities there, the European Commission offers two valuable programmes to help you to do so. Previous participants explain how their companies benefited from the Executive Training Programme (ETP) and the EU Gateway Programme.

The stakes are high when dealing with Japan and South Korea, two of the leading world economic powers and important partners of the EU. In 2011, a report estimated that new export opportunities of between €20 billion and €40 billion a year could emerge for European companies trading with Japan and Korea by 2020.

However, in both countries the languages, the way they are written, and the culture in relation to doing business, are very different to those in Europe. All this can create significant obstacles for European companies wishing to seize these opportunities, and especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

To help overcome these barriers, the European Commission is funding two initiatives, the Executive Training Programme (ETP) and the EU Gateway Programme, both of which have proven to be particularly successful.

Rewarding business missions

The EU Gateway Programme organises and funds business missions for European companies to develop their activities in Japan and Korea. It focuses on industrial sectors considered to have a high potential in Japan and South Korea such as healthcare and medical technologies, construction and building technologies, information and communication technologies, environmental and energy-related technologies, interior design and fashion design.

The Programme offers participating EU companies a number of advantages: financial and logistical support, strategic preparation by a professional team based in Europe, Japan and Korea, promotion of their company to potential business partners and a tailored search for business contacts to meet in Japan or Korea.

Since 1994, more than 3 000 European companies have participated in an EU Gateway Business Mission, reaping the rewards of entry into the Japanese and Korean markets.

Robotina, a Slovenian company that develops systems for building automation, took part in a mission to Japan. Its President, Devid Palcic, explains: "A unique advantage of the Programme is that it is easier logistically for an SME to access Japan and enter this market as the Programme organises meetings and, most importantly, the publicity for the product display events, which would be very difficult for a company to do on its own."

Thanks to a Gateway mission, the Belgian firm Ankersmid Sampling, which is active in environment and energy technologies, was able to find a business partner to distribute its products in South Korea. The plan is now for a further expansion into Asian markets.

Training collaboration with renowned partners

The way business is conducted in Japan and Korea can substantially differ from the European philosophies and thus companies and executives doing business there need specialist skills and insights to succeed.

The Executive Training Programme (ETP) provides European executives from EU companies with a year of support for the development of their companies’ business plan for Japan or Korea, as well as for the business, language and cultural training necessary for success in the Japanese and Korean markets.

Different teaching methods, site visits, guest speakers and networking events, as well as internships enable participants to apply knowledge that they can immediately transfer to their companies. By the end of the ETP, participants will have developed a credible business plan for their companies to establish or expand their business in the East Asian markets.

The ETP collaborates with internationally renowned universities: the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, Waseda University in Tokyo and Yonsei University in Seoul. The programme begins with a 3-week introductory course about the culture, history and civil society of Japan or Korea, conducted in London. This is followed by a 30-week language and business training course in Tokyo or Seoul, and then by a 12-week internship with a Japan or Korea-based company, which provides the opportunity to apply the newly acquired skills and knowledge in practice.

Building success

By providing European companies with the business, language and cultural training necessary for success in Japanese and Korean markets, the ETP strengthens EU company presence and also underpins cultural and business links between the two countries and the EU.

To date, more than 1 000 European executives from over 20 different sectors have completed the programme and now hold prominent positions in EU companies that are active in Japan and Korea. Therefore, the ETP has been instrumental in building trade and investment between the EU and two of the strongest Asian markets.

"The ETP opened the doors of Asia and a whole new world of opportunities to my company," explains Alessandro Canova, Vice President at "I didn’t believe this would be possible till I actually lived it. […] I started to plan and prepare for the presence in Korea during my ETP internship. It took nearly a year after completing ETP to prepare everything and obtain the necessary authorisations. The preparation during ETP meant, however, that when it came to launching the company in Korea I was able to proceed very quickly and things ran smoothly as I’d already become acquainted with life in Korea and the Korean way of doing business."

Who is eligible for the programmes

To apply for participation in an EU Gateway Business Mission, a company needs to have been operating for at least five years, be fully or majority-owned by EU capital, and be located and have its main activities in the European Union.

It should have a proven international business cooperation track record with a solid strategy for entering the Japanese or Korean markets and sufficient turnover and human resources to support the implementation of this strategy.

Interested companies can now apply online for the Business Missions in 2013 at

The ETP is open to EU business executives working for European companies (with a turnover above €500 000 and more than 5 employees) that are interested in launching or expanding their activities in Japanese or Korean markets.

The European Commission supports ETP participants by funding the entire training course and providing a scholarship (€2 200 a month for Japan and €2 000 a month for Korea).

The enrolment for the next ETP training cycle (2013-2014) is already open; candidates can apply online at


For more details and information about the ETP application and selection process, contact the Central Management Unit

For more information about the Gateway Programme, contact the Central Management Unit

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