Innovation, Policy, and Passion: How Aiko Shimizu is Making Moves

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Jul 06, 2021
by Aaisha Dadi Patel
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Innovation, Policy, and Passion: How Aiko Shimizu is Making Moves

Salzburg Global Fellow Aiko Shimizu’s engagements at Salzburg in 2017 motored the way for expansions of world-first sustainable electric trucks During her time at Daimler, Aiko Shimizu worked closely on clean transportation

Among the things Aiko Shimizu thanks her sister for, there’s one that ranks high: that she chose to become the 14th Dr. Shimizu in a dynasty of doctors – a tradition that has spanned over 300 years in their family – leaving Aiko, who was passionate about international relations and global policy, to pursue her own dynamic and interdisciplinary work.

With graduate degrees from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, a younger Shimizu saw herself carving out a career at an international organization like the United Nations or researching legal and policy issues at a policy think tank. After stints working at the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in New York and Kobe, Japan, and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg, Germany, and fellowships at policy think tanks such as the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Pacific Forum CSIS, and the East-West Center in Washington, Shimizu realized the value of her expertise.

“It wasn’t until I worked on US-Japan relations in various capacities with these think tanks that I became interested in transferring my skills and experiences in global policy that I had gained in the public sector and academic institutions to the private sector,” Shimizu told Salzburg Global Seminar. “My journey has not been linear, and I would have never thought that I would end up where I am today working at the intersection of innovation and policy.”

Growing up, she lived in cities across the US, Japan, Canada, and Germany, which harnessed a curiosity in her and an approach that transcended cultures. In 2017, she visited Schloss Leopoldskron to pursue engagements on a topic close to her heart: a clean and green Asia. Shimizu attended The Asia We Want: Building Community Through Regional Cooperation - a program that encouraged participants to envision an Asia contributing to planetary health. “I knew about the impact that Salzburg Global had on global policy and international relations and knew that I wanted to get involved and contribute to their work to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges,” said Shimizu, calling the program “a perfect fit.”

“I was really excited because it was in my area of focus, where I could bring both my academic and professional experiences to make a global impact on conversations around clean energy and smart mobility policy,” she said.

Shimizu gleaned key feedback during the program, applying takings around discussions on clean transportation to her work at automobile company Daimler. Her role required an international policy background to focus on international government relations and regulatory strategy for their new all-electric truck.

Also, in 2017, Daimler launched the world’s first electric truck onto the market. Shimizu used the knowledge she gained on urban innovation to build sustainable cities across Asia to expand the company’s opportunities in electric vehicle (EV) trucks in cities across the Asia-Pacific and globally to North America and Europe. “Since electric trucks are part of this solution as a form of clean transportation to build cleaner cities, I was able to apply what I learned at Salzburg Global Seminar,” she said.

The first global launch took place in New York at the end of 2017, and within a year, the company was able to increase EV truck sales by 5,000% through building partnerships with global cities such as Amsterdam, Tokyo, Berlin, and Lisbon.

A true global citizen, the power of international networks and knowledge of different markets has catapulted her to a place in her career where she has never been happier.

“I am who I am today because of my experience of living in so many different places, being surrounded by a diverse group of people, and working in so many different industries,” said Shimizu, who now leads global policy as the Senior Vice President of Global Affairs and Strategic Partnerships at EVA, Inc., a New York-based company that was founded by former Tesla executives that develops sustainable drone charging infrastructure.

She retains contact with her connections from Salzburg, whom she credits for reminding her that there are diverse paths to be taken to create a clean and green Asia. “The experts that were in my program are global leaders that share the same passion for global policy and sustainability,” she said. “They have been very helpful for me in bouncing around ideas as well as in giving me the opportunity to learn about what’s happening in their regions.”

And going with what she loves has always shown her success – a maxim she emphasizes to be the driver behind all she does. “Something that has been consistent, regardless of the role or industry that I’ve worked in, is that I’ve always focused on global policy and international relations,” said Shimizu. “That was where my passion was, and that never wavered regardless of what I did.”