Trends in the Regional Start-up Ecosystem in Japan to promote AI Applications

The Information-technology Promotion Agency of Japan (IPA) (2019) defines a start-up ecosystem as a “community of stakeholders who support start-up businesses and, in turn, bring mutual benefits to a community.” These stakeholders include venture capital funds, universities and research institutes, non-governmental organisations, local governments, and funding agencies. 

An active start-up ecosystem is the key to scale up AI-driven business innovations and deliver benefits to local areas, such as economic growth and revitalisation of the community. This article highlights the cases of the start-up ecosystem established in cities across Japan.

Start-up Ecosystem in Fukuoka City

Located in the northern part of Kyushu Island, Fukuoka is one of the eight start-up cities to receive intensive support from the government of Japan. In 2017, the city established the public-private collaboration hub, “FUKUOKA Growth Next”, promoting open innovation among start-ups. Additionally, Fukuoka City in partnership with the Fukuoka Directive Council, the industry-academia-government-citizens joint Think & Do tank, established the “Fukuoka Smart EAST” consortium, to provide solutions to urban and social challenges through the use of innovative technology. 

Aichi Start-up Promotion Network

Established by the Aichi Prefectural government, the Aichi-Startup Promotion Network brings together local governments, businesses, commercial banks, and universities to create a start-up ecosystem to support innovations of the local industries. By 2024, the network aims to establish the international centre for open innovation, “Station Ai”. According to the Aichi-Startup strategy (2018),  Station Ai plans to support the international expansion of the start-up businesses by providing business matching opportunities, consultation sessions, and similar services. 

Sapporo City IoT Innovation Promotion Consortium

Sapporo City has been promoting information technology (IT) industries since the 1970s and became the information and communications technology (ICT) capital of the Hokkaido region. In 2016, Sapporo City established a consortium together with local universities and companies to create new businesses for the region. Sapporo AI Lab is one of the projects established under the consortium to promote AI applications in society. The lab conducts verification tests of AI products and provides trainings for  AI specialised in human resources development. Currently, the lab is working on four AI projects: AI-based creation of automatic captions from sign language, AI-based composition of Japanese poems, AI auto-response system for a call centres, and animal behaviour investigation with AI technology. 


Startup ecosystems has been jointly established by multi-stakeholders, such as local governments, academia, and businesses, are the key to accelerate innovation and facilitate AI applications in  society. Startup businesses launched from such ecosystems possibly expand to  nearby cities or to the international market and provide solutions to both local and the global social issues. To this end, The government of Japan has been providing various support programmes to strengthen and maintain local startup ecosystems. 


AI Hakusho 5.2, Chapter 5 Reginal Startup Ecosystem, 2019, IPA

Fukuoka Growth Next:

Fukuoka Smart East:

Aichi Startup Promotion Network:

Aichi-Startup strategy:

Sapporo AI Lab: