Hub for Startups: Cutting-Edge Technologies Must Be Led to Commercialization

The era has come in which startups with cutting-edge technologies are opening up new markets and driving the economy. Other countries are making efforts to nurture startups, and Japan should also strengthen its support measures.

The government will establish a “Global Startup Campus,” a research hub in central Tokyo, in cooperation with prominent overseas universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced this policy at the Japan-U.S. summit in May last year. The campus will bring in outstanding researchers from Japan and abroad to work with experts in corporate management and intellectual property to create startup companies that will develop groundbreaking businesses.

Systems in which researchers and businesspeople freely exchange ideas and work on the entire process from research to commercialization have become a global trend. Japan needs to establish such a research center and set a successful example.

The area surrounding MIT has become a global hub for drug discovery startups. University researchers, investors and businesspeople have gathered to create a highly collaborative ecosystem of innovation.

In these startup clusters in the United States, commercialization specialists work with the startups and help them raise funds and find management personnel to launch their businesses.

In Japan, however, such a system has not yet been fully developed. Researchers who are thinking of starting a business cannot find anyone around them to give them advice, and they have difficulties raising funds.

Under the current circumstances, it is not easy to implement the same kind of initiatives as in the United States. The government must quickly solidify the top management and operational organization of the new campus and create a system suitable for a diverse range of people to work together.

The number of startups is growing in Japan. However, the rate of increase is greater overseas, and the gap between Japan and overseas is widening. In particular, there are few breakthrough businesses such as generative AI and new vaccine production in Japan.

It is said that cutting-edge technologies at universities are difficult to develop into a business and this is one of the reasons for the sluggish economy. It is essential to change this situation and enhance Japan’s competitiveness.

Measures should be considered to strengthen the entire nation in this regard, while taking advantage of the measures already implemented by ministries and local governments to support startup companies.

The Global Startup Campus will start with government funding, but the government said the aim for it is to operate independently in the future with a variety of financial resources, including investments, donations and government research funds.

It is important to take this opportunity to change the corporate culture of large companies, which are reluctant to take risks, and the culture of universities, which are averse to business.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 17, 2024)