Ernest M. Higa of Higa Industries Co. Ltd. presents Dr. Kazuo Matsuura of NanoMist Technologies with the first-place prize at the 2012 U.S.-Japan Council Annual Conference on Oct. 5.

SEATTLE – The winner of the TOMODACHI Tohoku Challenge (TTC), a business plan focused on identifying a venture business that will bring innovation and employment to the post-quake Tohoku region of Japan and accelerate the rebuilding of the area, was revealed at the 2012 U.S.-Japan Council Annual Conference in Seattle.

During a luncheon session on U.S.-Japan business and innovation, NanoMist Technologies was awarded the top prize in front of an audience of more than 350 people invested in the future of U.S.-Japan relations. The NanoMist Technologies team was led by Dr. Kazuo Matsuura, who put forth a plan for the commercialization of a game-changing desalination technology.

NanoMist Technologies is the owner of a patented process to separate solutions by a method called atomization separation (AS). Compared to conventional methods of distillation and reverse osmosis, AS is more energy-efficient and offers other competitive advantages.

Current applications include waste water treatment at hospitals, but the company seeks to expand its business to provide fresh water for food and agricultural processes and other commercial applications. Kessennuma will be the first test market, and the founder is currently also reaching out to businesses in the Middle East.

The top three finalists presented at an earlier session in front of a panel of judges made up of the U.S.-Japan Council Entrepreneur Advisory Board (UE-LAB), an exclusive group of leading Japanese and American entrepreneurs, investors and analysts with extensive experience in innovation, business start-ups and knowledge of Japan, who are active in promoting entrepreneurship in Japan.

The NanoMist Technologies team receives a mentorship package from Global Venture Habitat, supported by the SunBridge Foundation. With facilities in Silicon Valley, Tokyo, and Osaka, this program supports startup companies and international market entry teams with a range of professional services from office space to globalization support.

NanoMist Technologies will benefit from access to professional services, a network of professionals, potential venture capital and a variety of assistance and consultation in maximizing their global market potential.

YOAKE Rice Burger was awarded second prize at the conference for its plan to franchise a “smile-of-yum” that builds awareness about Tohoku in the U.S. through rice burger restaurants. They receive a mentorship package from Venture Generation, a venture community in Tokyo that supports entrepreneurs in Japan by offering a platform for companies to achieve their growth goals much faster than they would independently.

UE-LAB member Ernest M. Higa, president and CEO of Higa Industries Co. Ltd. and Wendy’s Japan LLC, has offered consultation to this team. He is credited with bringing the concept of delivery pizza to Japan along with other entrepreneurial and culturally creative food ventures.

Both the NanoMist Technologies and YOAKE teams have been invited to the awards ceremony at U.S. Ambassador John V. Roos’ residence during the Global Entrepreneurship Week in Tokyo in November.

The TOMODACHI Tohoku Challenge was coordinated by the U.S.-Japan Council Entrepreneurship Task Force, led by council members Kathryn Ibata-Arens and Yumi Kuwana; mentor leads and emerging leaders Kei Ashizawa and Dana Heatherton; and U.S.-Japan Council staff.

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