How to strengthen an ecosystem: A conversation with Kyoto City Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa

3 min read
03 Aug 2020

yoto is a city of innovation, fusing tradition, culture and technology into hardworking harmony. Startups and scaleups have much to draw on here, from talented graduates of the city’s excellent universities to the many tech-based companies. Kyoto City Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa shares some insights into strengthening an ecosystem.

Companies such as Kyocera, Shimadzu, NIDEC, Nintendo, Omron, Horiba and NISSHA have their roots in Kyoto, and their presence on the global stage links new entrepreneurs based here to the business world outside the city. Kyocera and Shimadzu have also partnered with the open-innovation platform Plug and Play to bring a chapter to Kyoto, and Kyoto University has established Innovation Hub Kyoto and the VC Kyoto iCAP to help entrepreneurs learn and connect with larger international firms.

“It is ideal to promote the fusion of science, technology, art and culture in Kyoto, and it is easy to imagine that their fusion will lead to the creation of innovation,” says Mr. Kadokawa. “I believe that the sustainable development of industry, economy and society is the direction that Kyoto aims for. In the time of post–COVID-19, Kyoto City Office will continuously contribute to solving all kinds of social issues with the principles of the SDGs, especially those related to resilient cities.”

Kyoto City Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa

Initiatives to welcome international talent

The Kyoto City Office has implemented a plan to continue building and strengthening its promising startup ecosystem. This includes creating an environment that is welcoming to capable talent from all over the world, supportive of their development and better positioned for locals to launch international businesses. 

Another side of the process is to create startups that leverage Kyoto’s leading position as a manufacturing hub, incorporating the region’s expertise on robotics and deep tech, and to build support for expanding these startups into global markets.

It is ideal to promote the fusion of science, technology, art and culture in Kyoto, and it is easy to imagine that their fusion will lead to the creation of innovation.

Unlocking the region's potential

Mr. Kadokawa, his team and the organizations that collaborate with the local government work together to inspire the ecosystem, promote the idea of globalization and leverage the ecosystem’s strengths to bolster industries such as life sciences and manufacturing materials. 

To help further unlock the region’s potential, the Kyoto Startup Ecosystem Promotion Council was formed at the end of 2019. Its plan involves players from within the ecosystem and from other pillars of business and cultural development. The Kyoto Economic Center brings many of the city’s economic organizations together into one location, and the Open Innovation Café encourages people to collaborate.

Kyoto City Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa

Collaboration to strengthen the ecosystem

As Kyoto is a student city, the Kyoto City Office offers seminars for students on how to start businesses and collaborate with bigger industry players. 

Mr. Kadokawa explains that it has also worked with stakeholders from the Kyoto Prefecture and the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) to create the Startup Capital Scheme, enabling foreign entrepreneurs to open businesses in Kyoto under a special visa program. This initiative includes specialized support such as expert advice on Kyoto’s industries and markets, one year of free coworking space and consultations on official business filings.

In July 2020, Kyoto was selected by the Japanese government as a potential startup global hub city in collaboration with Osaka and Kobe area (collectively called “Keihanshin”). Mr. Kadokawa says, “We are continuously aiming to become a startup capital that attracts new startups and global attention in cooperation with Osaka and Kobe. I am very enthusiastic about this project.”

The City of Kyoto also recently collaborated with the city’s startups to create the Kyoto Startup Map, which makes it even easier for newcomers to navigate the startup scene. Mr. Yuki Kanayama is responsible for the project and he explains that the map highlights key players and a diverse range of startups from industries including life sciences, hardware, IT and SDG-friendly ventures. “Even if you can't come to Kyoto because of COVID-19, we hope you will enjoy exploring the map online,” he says.

All photos provided by Kyoto City