The Epson International Scholarship Foundation: Helping to build prosperity in Asia

Links with China and South-East Asia in particular strengthened considerably from 1990 onward. Today, Epson has manufacturing sites in China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Thailand. Epson’s plant expansion into Asia began in 1968 with Tenryu Precision (Singapore) Ltd., which was set up to manufacture wristwatch cases.

In 1997, after consolidating its production presence in Asia, Epson started considering how it could make some form of social contribution to the development of societies in East and Southeast Asia.

The company therefore cemented its support for Asian exchange students in Japan by establishing the Epson International Scholarship Foundation so that students could take what they had learned and apply that knowledge to the economic benefit of their home countries and regions.

It was hoped that through ongoing support, the foundation could contribute to promoting education and science, and help foster development in the region and positive relations between Japan and the rest of Asia.

In line with the economic development in the region, roles are expanding as local economic conditions develop. For instance, some Epson production affiliates in Southeast Asia have moved beyond just production to become involved in product planning, from design through to volume production. Continued economic growth in Asia is ushering in new developments for Epson’s global manufacturing framework.

Every year the scholarship foundation provides financial support for 20 students (10 new and 10 ongoing recipients) in the form of a monthly 100,000 yen stipend. Scholarships range from a single semester to a maximum of two years. The foundation identifies universities with a high proportion of outstanding exchange students from Asia and calls for applicants through those universities. To be eligible, the student must be from Asia and undertaking graduate studies. As well as excelling academically, the student must also qualify as requiring financial assistance to continue their studies and not be receiving any other scholarship. Including current recipients, the number of scholarships awarded since 1997 has risen to 128. The breakdown of recipients by nationality is 48% Chinese, 18% Korean, 9% Indonesian, 5% Malaysian, 7% Thai, 9% Vietnamese, 3% Taiwanese, 1% Myanma, and 1% from Hong Kong. This ratio roughly corresponds to the overall makeup of exchange students in Japan in FY08.

Apart from paying the scholarship, the foundation gives guidance on everyday matters to help students progress smoothly in their studies, as well as offering them all the advice it can to help students with individual issues they face. The foundation also organizes Epson company tours to both deepen understanding of Epson and foster exchange among scholarship recipients. Furthermore, the foundation holds an annual reunion of past scholarship recipients still residing in Japan to maintain established ties.

The foundation’s projects for educational, technological, and cultural exchanges between Japan and the rest of Asia include up to three annual grants of 1 million yen each, mostly through the scholarship recipient engineering universities. Research grant awardees are selected from applications submitted by fellow researchers who are Japanese, or by research supervisors or faculty advisors. For example, the foundation has supported research by helping purchase systems, equipment and materials needed by young Asian researchers for their experimental and development work in Japan. To promote international exchange, the foundation covers a certain portion of the costs involved in participating in international conferences, symposiums, and the like that are held in Japan for young researchers from around Asia.

The foundation has been working closely with local Epson affiliates in Hong Kong, Korea, and Spain to expand its activities beyond Japan. Epson Foundation Hong Kong was established in 1990 as part of Epson’s commitment to long-term contributions to local communities as a responsible corporate citizen. The establishment came during expansion of Epson’s business in Hong Kong, and coincided with the tenth and fifth anniversaries of the establishment of Epson Hong Kong Limited (EHK) and Epson Precision (Hong Kong) Limited (EPH), respectively. The foundation’s projects center on promoting scientific education in Hong Kong but also include support for education and awareness-raising programs related to culture and environmental issues, and support for charitable organizations in need. Specific projects include a scholarship program, support for schools (raising academic performance) in China, environmental conservation activities, and holding the Epson Green Carnival.

Epson Korea Co. Ltd. led the establishment of the Epson Korea Junior Development Foundation in 1999 to raise the profile of Epson as an upstanding corporate citizen through social engagement. With youth development as its goal, specific projects of the foundation include support for training and exchange programs in Korea and internationally, assistance for various health programs for young people, a young persons scholarship program, and support for other organizations helping young people.

In 1998, Epson Iberica, S.A. spearheaded the establishment of the Epson Iberica Foundation as a way of contributing to the local community and enhancing Epson’s image among younger generations and in the academic community. Major projects include a scholarship program, support for university lectures, and publication of research papers. With the public interest its primary concern, Epson will continue its regional foundation activities with the goal of contributing to the development of local communities.