You may have heard of the term ‘Smart Cities’ as a new term for the emerging approach to innovation and technologically based solutions in creating and modernising integrated cities and interconnected networks between core systems within these cities. Hendry Group CEO Emma Hendry visited Japan in early July as part of  the “Future Leaders, Future Cities” delegation; led by The Hon. Steven Ciobo and Aus Trade Commission, this delegation brought together Australia’s industry leaders with our Japan counterparts to develop technology-based partnerships and influence change to build future-ready cities.

Read Emma’s thoughts and insights on the conference, as she joined forces with Zoe Eather of The Smart City Podcast.

Listen along:



Why did you decide to come on this trip?

EH: The first reason why (we participated) was to gain knowledge (of technology and innovation for smart cities.) The opportunity came up and I thought it was an immensely timely opportunity… as we are in such a highly technologically involved field at the moment, and I wanted to see the way [technology] was being used in Japan. Secondly, I wanted to look at how to enter the Japanese market; from my perspective of [expanding]  business, it was a fantastic opportunity to go in and find out how to do that, and inversely to gain funding. To be able to go into these organisations and observe their culture; what they are wanting to do, where they’re heading, their strategy and to also see the differences in the varying companies that are currently operating in the same space, and be able to say ‘How do they do that as opposed to the way we do? What can we take away from that?’ For me it’s really been a bit of a fact-finding mission that I’ve been absolutely thrilled about.

What’s your main highlight from this trip?

EH: Meeting people from a diverse range of backgrounds. The delegates themselves were absolutely fantastic and I enjoyed my time with each of them. The Austrade representatives, The Hon. Steven Ciobo, the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment] and ambassadors were [equally] amazing. The opportunities to go into these companies and be face to face with their decision makers and people ‘on the ground’ who actually do all of the things which we talk about daily in Australia, to have that real-time and practical knowledge in seeing the way [these concepts] are applied is fantastic, not just speaking theoretically.

What is the key takeaway (practices or knowledge) you will take with you?

EH: The way [Japanese organisations] approach innovation as it’s very different to the way we do it [in Australia]. There is so much talk about how ‘big-business’ doesn’t create innovation but from my perspective, especially in a disaster and emergency recovery space, the way [these people] have been able to overcome such devastation as the 2011 earthquake to be able to reorganise and rebuild to become a ‘powerhouse’, really is astounding. As a collective, we are really able to ‘move the dial’ if we’re all working with a common purpose, and especially with the issues that are prevalent in our market with issues surrounding wall cladding, to take that inspiration from what Japan has done with their disasters we can say ‘If we all move in that one common direction, what could we achieve?’

We talked a lot about the smart city space, was there anything that really stood out to you regarding their technology or concepts like the ‘human centric’ approach. Is there anything that [particularly] surprised you?

EH: The extent of the application. I was given an example of the IoT (internet of things), we talk about that for smart cities but also [considering] the wellness factor and the human factor, interacting with the built-form and to build across that; to share data and information so we can [examine] it practically from real life experiences. That has been one of the most remarkable ways we are able to pull these [ideas] together and see how they operate on multiple spectrums, not just the linear approach, but the way this technology actually enables an entire ‘eco-system’ from that same data set.

Will you be returning to Japan?

EH: As soon as I can, I cannot wait to [invite] the Japanese Delegation to come to Australia and see what we’re doing. At the end of the day, what I’m really proud about in our sector, and in Australia I feel is being able to ‘bat above our average’ pushing the market and pushing the line. I believe that they can learn a lot from us in how we approach problem solving and innovation.

I think that’s a key point which we’ve all [noted], that we can learn from each other and the importance of that. Australia is not out of this global conversation and I’m really looking forward to that.

EH: One point on that regarding the diversity factor. I really think that having different industries, perspectives and life experiences we [still] share some commonality in population and urbanisation and other issues which we share. We also have vastly different factors which, in Australia, I think we should be proud of in the way we are able to look at [issues] and problem solve because of our diverse workforce.

To listen to the full version of the podcast, visit the articles section of our website or through

Further information on the World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology can be found on their website at