The top 50: Nick Sugimoto, CEO, Honda Innovations

Naoki “Nick” Sugimoto has served as chief executive for Honda Innovations, the US-based open innovation and corporate venturing arm of Japan-headquartered carmaker Honda, since 2017. In this role, he manages transformative partnerships for various Honda divisions encompassing the likes of product development, manufacturing and new business creation.

Throughout his time at Honda, he has helped the corporate identify advanced information technology research and development (R&D) and corporate venture capital opportunities in Silicon Valley, as well as its cross-border strategic partnerships.

Previously known as Honda Silicon Valley Lab (HSVL), the unit focuses on forging new collaborations with innovation ecosystem builders, particularly in the automotive space.

Honda Innovations has an innovation programme called Honda Xcelerator, which supports startups with funding, workspaces and mentoring, as well as access to Honda’s test vehicles and robotics prototypes.

Among the companies supported by Xcelerator recently are driverless car developer, BlinkAI, which develops artificial intelligence (AI)-powered imaging-enhancement solutions, and Deepmap, a firm specialising in high-definition maps for self-driving vehicles.

Sugimoto had led HSVL as a senior programme director for six years from 2011, which was under the auspices of Honda R&D Americas at the time. The lab concentrated on collaborations between Honda and global technology companies to create innovative products for its customers.

Prior to joining Honda, Sugimoto was a prolific entrepreneur leading a number of technology companies in the US and Japan. He holds an automotive engineering degree from University of Tokyo and an MBA from the Haas School of Business at University of California, Berkeley.