Innovation Abroad: A Look at Japan’s Strategy for Innovation

By: Shamini Sellvaratnam

Who’s leading the innovation race? The answer may surprise you…

Recently, Bloomberg L.P. ranked 200 countries to determine which are leading the pack in terms of innovation. Based on seven criteria including “R&D intensity, productivity, high-tech density, researcher concentration, manufacturing capability, education levels and patent activity”, Bloomberg researchers were able to determine the Top 50 Most Innovative Countries. With a number of countries striving to become leaders in the innovative-driven race, we at Altitude Accelerator wanted to highlight several unique innovation hubs around the world that will inspire you.  Headlining this blog series is Japan, which while placing #6 overall in the Bloomberg ranking, is still one of the most innovative countries that comes to mind.

Japan’s Strategy for innovation Known world-wide for their innovation in the advanced manufacturing and green tech industries, Japan credits having high goals, talented employees and determined entrepreneurs as the main factors to achieving successful innovations in the past.  In 2007, seeing how crucial the innovative environment was for Japan’s economy, their government established several long term and short term policies to help Japan become an innovative-driven nation by the year 2025. In their goals, the Japanese government focused on increasing innovation in three areas:

  1.  Science and Technology: In order to increase innovation in the science and technology sector, the government plans to create research bases and programs that would attract prime talent to their regional innovation hubs. Improving research capabilities through partnerships with universities and research organizations will also help improve the global competitiveness of Japan’s education and R&D resources.
  2.  Social Systems:  Plans to improve innovation in Japan’s social systems include building much-needed infrastructure that encourages collaboration as well as providing funding to support the establishment of new ventures.  Systems that encourage innovation will also be established by creating specially designated areas free from regulation.
  3.  Human Resources: In order to develop a nation-wide mentality that encourages innovation and creativity, the Japanese government plans to expose students early on to real world experiences through diverse experiential learning programs. To help promote entrepreneurship, students will be exposed to diverse careers via guided internship programs with industry employers.

Innovation Hub in Osaka City

As part of the Japanese government’s initiative to promote innovation, the Osaka City Government recently launched a start-up incubation facility in April 2013. This Innovation hub provides entrepreneurs with the latest technologies; such as 3D printing devices and android storytelling, which is an android created to participate in rakugo, a form of humorous storytelling in Japan. The regional hub also offers programs on starting a business and provides opportunities to visit startups and incubation facilities in San Francisco. This type of exposure helps Japanese entrepreneurs gain insight on innovation happening globally.

Because many of Japan’s innovation hubs are located around the Tokyo metropolitan area, municipal governments are looking at ways of attracting entrepreneurs to other regions in order to boost local economies. The Osaka City Government is planning to provide a start-up fund of 50 to 100 billion yen ($50 million-$100 million US) to help entrepreneurs collaborate and form partnerships with private venture companies. The aim of this fund is to help develop more than 100 businesses in the Osaka region over the next three years.

For Japan, it is crucial that innovation is encouraged throughout the nation as the country faces energy and environmental problems and global competition. Innovation is necessary to boost economic development and transform the lives of its Japanese citizens. To read more about Japan’s initiative of the ‘Innovation 25’ strategy, please click here.

Shamini is completing her final year at the University of Toronto Mississauga and is pursuing an undergraduate specialist degree in Business Administration and a major in Communication, Culture & Information Technology. Shamini is joining the RIC team this summer as a Communications Intern bringing with her a passion in marketing and various experiences in online marketing.


The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal and professional experiences. Visit Altitude Accelerator for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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