Japan, MIT to Open Research Hub in Tokyo, as Country’s Startups See Few Investors

AP file photo
Students walk past the “Great Dome” atop Building 10 on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus in Cambridge, Mass., in April 2017.

The government will set up a new hub for joint research as early as fiscal 2028 with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on government-owned land in Tokyo’s Meguro and Shibuya wards, near facilities for the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency. By boosting collaboration in fields where Japan and the United States share strengths, such as biotechnology, decarbonization and robotics, the government hopes to foster promising startups.

Hothouse for startups

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced the “Global Startup Campus Initiative” to set up a research hub with MIT during the Japan-U.S. summit in May. The plan is to create successful startups that will patent and profit from the results of joint study by Japanese researchers and talented researchers from the U.S.

Besides creating a research hub, the plan also envisions future collaboration with several other leading overseas universities. The government included ¥1 billion to design the center and ¥57 billion for joint research over about 10 years in the supplementary budget approved by the Cabinet on Nov. 10.

A panel of experts established on Monday will discuss specifics.

Coaxing a 10-fold investment

Investment in startups has been sluggish in Japan. According to the Cabinet Office and other sources, domestic investment in emerging companies in Japan comes to 0.08% of GDP, far below 0.64% in the United States, 0.47% in the United Kingdom, and 0.23% in China.

As it seeks to boost investment in startups to ¥10 trillion over the next five years, more than 10 times the current level, the government sees the MIT partnership as a driving force to promote such growth.

“The hub will be the foundation for [Japanese startups] to go global,” said Yoshitaka Shindo, state minister for economic revitalization, at the first meeting of the expert panel on Monday.

The Yomiuri Shimbun