Sakana AI, a Tokyo-based startup founded by former Google researchers, is capitalizing on a surge in interest among Japanese firms seeking to catch up in artificial intelligence (AI).

Japan has given an outsized welcome to the nine-month-old venture, led by David Ha, who helped set up the Google Brain research team in Tokyo, and Llion Jones, one of the authors of the seminal paper that launched the current AI wave.

The 10-person startup has won a government grant of supercomputer time and is exploring projects with heavyweights Nippon Telegraph and Telephone and Sony Group to build out Japan’s AI ecosystem. Sakana is also targeting government agency work as well as subcontracts in Japan’s small but growing defense industry.