In July, 2015, Tokyo University of Science began its search for a new scheme for expanding employment and developing the economy in Japan by joining MIT-REAP — the Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program created by the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) http://reap.mit.edu/. In the current two-year program, eight teams from around the world (Bangkok, Thailand; Tokyo, Japan; Beijing, China; South West, Norway; Santiago, Chile; Ashdod, Israel; Al Madinah, Saudi Arabia; and Wales, UK) are looking for ways to use entrepreneurship to expand employment and develop the economies in their respective regions. The MIT REAP model requires teams to bring together different stakeholders representing universities, government, corporations, venture capital, and entrepreneurs.
Tokyo University of Science has welcomed Keisuke Sasaki and Yoshiaki Ishii of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry as representatives from the government; Hideki Kurashige, CEO of SIGMAXYZ Inc. as an entrepreneur; Jun Tsukasa, CEO of Nippon Sangyo Suishin Kiko Ltd. as a risk capital representative; and Tatsuya Tanaka, CEO of Fujitsu Limited, and Dr. Terumi Chikama of Fujitsu, as the corporate representatives. In addition, current members of the Tokyo University of Science team include Akira Fujishima, University President; Soichiro Okamura, University Managing Director and Professor of Applied Physics; Michael Cusumano, Professor at MIT Sloan and Vice President at Tokyo University of Science during 2016-17; Vice President Chiaki Mukai; Seiichiro Hangai, University Director and a Professor of Electrical Engineering; and Dr. Iris Wieczorek, the University’s Director of Innovation.
The Tokyo REAP team received financial support from the Fish Family Foundation in the United States, Fujitsu Ltd., SIGMAXYZ Inc., Nippon Sangyo Suishin Kiko Ltd. , and the Tokyo University of Science Foundation.
At the first meeting on July 23, the team shared opinions regarding ways to increase the number of Japanese entrepreneurs. Because of the university’s strengths in science and engineering, the team decided to focus on technology and “innovation-driven” entrepreneurship. The team also plans to build strong ties with a newly expanded Tokyo University of Science School of Management and a newly launched Management of Technology Program in the School of Innovation.
MIT REAP Tokyo team founding members
Seated, from left: Iris Wieczorek, Michael Cusumano, Shigeru Nakane, Hideki Kurashige
Standing, from left: Hiroto Tsuge, Jun Tsusaka, Chiaki Mukai, Seiichiro Hangai, Terumi Chikama, Yoshiaki Ishii
MIT REAP Workshops
In October 21-23, 2015, MIT REAP held the first workshop for this cohort at MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, MA. In the workshop, the team discussed the differences between Entrepreneurship Capacity (E-Cap) and Innovation Capacity (I-Cap), and how to create an Innovation-Driven Entrepreneurship (IDE) Ecosystem in Tokyo. In particular, the team learned the following:
- Japan has many small firms and creates a lot of small firms but they are not necessarily “entrepreneurial start-ups” or growth-oriented .
- The key to growth is not simply to create a lot of firms, but to create firms that are innovation-driven contribute significantly to job creation.
- Tokyo has all the pieces for a vibrant ecosystem for entrepreneurs, but they do not work together so well.
- Entrepreneurship in Japan and in the U.S. are not the same. For example, in Japan there is less venture capital for early stage ventures, and much more reluctance among college students to risk creating their own ventures.
- We need much better data on entrepreneurship in Japan to really understand what is going on.
The team decided that its challenge and goal would be to create an open innovation-driven entrepreneurship center at Tokyo University of Science that would do the following:
– Foster the development of entrepreneurial ventures in partnerships with entrepreneurs, the national government, major corporations, and the venture capital community
– Initiate programs to encourage women to enter science, engineering, and entrepreneurship
– Build an open platform to distribute information on entrepreneurial ecosystem resources in Japan
During May 29-June 1 2016, the second MIT REAP workshop for this cohort took place at the MIT Sloan School of Management Executive Education Suite. The team discussed the need for evaluation measures and “Policy & Program Interventions” to promote regional ecosystem change. After the workshop, the team decided to launch the Tokyo Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center at Tokyo University of Science in December 2016.