With its wealth of knowledge in many technology areas, Japan has long been a global leader in technology and innovation. As the country’s startup scene continues to grow, Japan’s largest corporations are beginning to embrace startups. At present, between 25 and 44 large Japanese corporations are actively collaborating with startup companies — and the numbers continue to grow. Many of these startups are poised to become key players in sectors like life science, software, robotics, and more. Read on to learn about four cities in Japan that are at the forefront of innovation!
Tokyo: embracing change
Japan is a known leader in cutting-edge tech. For instance, the country was the second nation to adopt a national AI strategy in 2017. However, some may not know that Tokyo houses an up-and-coming startup ecosystem. Tokyo’s startup ecosystem is valued at over $14 million. The number of Tokyo-based startups continues to grow and the city is quickly becoming a global leader in startup formation.
In 2018, Tokyo was ranked number one in the Innovation Cities Index. The publisher of the index noted that Tokyo embraced globe-shaking trends like robotics and 3D manufacturing. The city is home to more than 1,200 software startups, with advancements building on well-known names like Mitsubishi, Denso, and Epson, just to name a few.
Tokyo has started several initiatives to advance its innovation ecosystem while expanding its ventures globally. One of its primary goals is to attract global talent by offering special visas for entrepreneurs. By practicing inclusivity, Tokyo’s startups are able to market their innovative mindset to the world.
Yokohama: old meets new
The Yokohama bay area is transforming itself into a next-generation innovation district. The bay area includes the master-planned business district Minato Mirai 21, featuring futuristic skyscrapers juxtaposed with traditional brick warehouses.
The district truly reflects the harmony of old and new. It has become home to some of the world’s most influential industries and is now a hotspot for startup companies. Due to its proximity to Tokyo, the bay area has limitless potential to emerge as the world’s next big innovation district.
In addition to hard assets, Yokohama has a wide range of soft assets that enable local innovation. Yokohama is home to several top-tier universities. Schools like Yokohama National University and Yokohama City University are equipping the next-generation workforce with skills in areas like data science, smart mobility, and cybersecurity. Many Yokohama-based universities are also planning to open satellite campuses within Minato Mirai 21 to expand their reach.
Osaka: a first-class center of life science innovation
Osaka has long been an economic hub alongside Tokyo and Yokahama. The city has a vibrant startup ecosystem, with about 1,000 early-stage companies. Furthermore, special economic zone designations from the Japanese government, tax breaks from the Osaka Government, and strengthened assistance for the development of drug discovery have made Osaka one of the most rewarding places in Japan for life science startups.
Osaka now represents the densest science cluster in Japan. The government assistance for life science companies introduced such significant advantages that there are now no vacancies at the bio clusters flagship business center in northern Osaka, the Saito Life Science Park.
Fukuoka: Japan’s answer to Silicon Valley
Although Fukuoka is often overshadowed by mega-conglomerates and the pull of Tokyo, Japan’s fastest-growing urban center wants to become Japan’s own Silicon Valley. While Japan has built a strong reputation for its technological advancements, its startup scene is sometimes challenged by long-standing traditions. Fukuoka’s young mayor, Soichiro Takashima, is trying to change that. In 2011, he declared that Fukuoka would become “Japan’s startup city.”
Since then, the city has significantly lowered corporate tax rates for startups and has implemented widespread regulatory reforms. These changes have made it easier to start a new business in Fukuoka.
In 2014, the city was designated as a national strategic special zone to test how to grow an innovation ecosystem. Due to these changes in policy from the public and private sectors, entrepreneurs are now flocking to Fukuoka.
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