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福岡能成為日本最具創新力的城市嗎?

Why Fukuoka is Japan's most innovative city
福岡能成為日本最具創新力的城市嗎?

Sandwiched between the mountains and the sea in Japan’s far-west corner, Fukuoka is a city trying to reinvent itself. In a land long dominated by mega-conglomerates and the inexorable pull of Tokyo, the country’s fastest growing urban centre wants to become Japan’s answer to Silicon Valley.

福岡(Fukuoka)位于日本九州,在群山與大海之間,是一座努力自我創新的城市。盡管日本一向以大型企業集團以及首都東京占主導地位,但福岡這座城市的發展速度為日本之冠,有望成為日本的硅谷(Silicon Valley)。

Despite the country’s reputation for hi-tech wizardry, Japan’s start-up scene remains surprisingly stunted. The world’s third largest economy has only one “unicorn” – a private company valued at over $1bn – compared to the United States’ 127 and China’s 78.

日本的高科技享譽世界,但創新公司的發展速度卻驚人的遲緩。這個世界第三大經濟體僅有一家“獨角獸”公司(unicorn,指估值超過10億美元的私人企業),而美國擁有127家,中國擁有78家。

Fukuoka’s charismatic young mayor is determined to change that, and he’s convinced the city has the ingredients to replicate the success of the US’s west coast innovation hubs. In 2011 he declared Fukuoka would become Japan’s start-up city, and since then it’s risen to the top of the country’s business creation league tables.

福岡的年輕市長很有領袖魅力,決意改變現狀。他認為這座城市大有潛力,能夠復制美國西岸的創新中心。2011年,他宣布福岡將成為日本的創業城市。從此,該城市便躍升至國家商業創新聯盟排行之首。

Whether it can truly rival the capital remains to be seen as funding and talent continues to concentrate in Tokyo, but the city’s leaders have a convincing pitch. A tight-knit start-up community, a young workforce and an affordable city that promises that elusive goal of a work-life balance – something they hope will appeal to a new generation of entrepreneurs keen to avoid the Tokyo rat race.

由于資本與人才仍持續向東京集中,福岡能否真正地與首都相抗衡還是未知之數,但該市市長已有一個強有力的方案:一個密集型的創業公司社群、年輕的勞動力以及便宜的物價,讓生活和工作之間的平衡成為可能——在其他地方這是遙不可及的目標。福岡市的規劃者希望這能吸引那些想要逃離東京激烈競爭的新生代創業者。

Shortly after being elected as the city’s youngest ever mayor in 2010, former TV presenter Sōichirō Takashima, 44, visited Seattle and was struck by the similarities to his hometown. Both are compact coastal cities surrounded by nature, with well-developed transport infrastructure and plentiful human resources, he says. In Seattle those ingredients support titans like Amazon and Microsoft, as well as a thriving start-up ecosystem. Takashima believes Fukuoka can replicate that success and help drag the Japanese economy out of a rut it’s been in since the early 1990s.

前電視節目主持人高島宗一郎(Sōichirō Takashima)今年44歲。2010年他成為該市歷史上最年輕市長。此后他訪問了西雅圖(Seattle),對兩座城市的相似性感到震驚,他表示:兩座城市都是被自然景觀環繞的緊湊型海濱城市,有完備的交通設施和豐富的人力資源。在西雅圖,這些要素支持著亞馬遜(Amazon)、微軟(Microsoft)等巨頭以及繁榮的創新企業生態系統。高島認為,福岡可以復制這種成功,幫助日本擺脫自20世紀90年代以來的經濟低谷。

“The presence of start-ups which create new innovation and value is necessary to break economic stagnation,” he says. “With that in mind, I positioned start-up support as our city’s growth strategy.”

“能夠引導創新并且創造價值的創業公司是打破經濟停滯的關鍵,”他說道:“明白這一點后,我把扶持創業公司納入了城市發展戰略中。”

Since then he’s been busy. In 2014 the central government granted his request to designate the city as a “national strategic special zone” for start-ups, which has allowed them to cut corporate taxes for new businesses and create a special visa for foreign entrepreneurs. It’s also allowed them to relax planning rules so they can redevelop the city centre and wireless regulations to create a faster and simpler licensing process for experiments and technology demonstrations aimed at the Internet of Things (IoT), which embeds sensors, communication and computing hardware into everyday objects.

從此,他便忙碌起來。2014年,中央政府批準了他的請求,把福岡定位為針對創業公司的“國家戰略特區”,降低新公司的企業稅,并且為外國創業者提供便利簽證。政府還允許福岡放寬規劃制度,重建市中心以及無線網絡規則,創造一個更快捷簡便的許可制度,以便進行技術試驗以及針對物聯網的技術展示,將傳感器、通訊以及計算機硬件整合到日常事務中。

Takashima has also been aggressively promoting the city at home and abroad, leading business delegations and signing cooperation deals with start-up hubs like San Francisco, Taipei and Helsinki which provide support and introductions for Fukuoka start-ups looking to expand abroad or foreign start-ups looking to enter Japan.

高島還積極地在國內外推廣福岡,帶領企業代表團與舊金山、臺北以及赫爾辛基的創業公司基地簽訂合作協議,為尋求海外擴張的福岡公司以及有意進入日本的海外企業提供支持和引薦。

Back in Fukuoka, the government has renovated an old school in the central Tenjin business district to create Fukuoka Growth Next (FGN), a one-stop shop for budding entrepreneurs which opened in 2017. “Simply put, our mission is to raise future unicorns,” says Yasunari Tanaka, director-general of the FGN secretariat.

福岡政府已在2017年將一所位于天神(Tenjin)商業區中心的老學校翻新,打造成一個面向早期創業者的一站式基地—— “福岡成長下一站”(Fukuoka Growth Next,FGN)。福岡成長下一站秘書處處長田中康成(Yasunari Tanaka)表示:“簡而言之,我們的任務是扶持未來的獨角獸公司。”

Facilities include discounted office space, a prototyping lab, a start-up cafe where consultants provide free business, legal and accounting advice, and the Global Startup Centre to help foreign founders set up in Fukuoka or local entrepreneurs expand abroad. There’s also a bar to lubricate the networking process and a regular schedule of talks, seminars and matching events to link start-ups with customers and investors.

這里有廉價的辦公空間、樣品制造實驗室,一家咖啡廳提供免費商業、法律以及會計咨詢,還有幫助外國創業者在福岡成立公司或者幫助本地創業者進行海外擴張的全球創業中心。此外,還有一家促進大家拓展業務關系的酒吧。酒吧定期舉辦座談會、研討會以及介紹會,讓創業公司與客戶、投資者建立聯系。

While the city’s first unicorn is probably still some way off, there’s been encouraging progress. The initial goal for FGN was for tenants to raise 500m yen (£3.37m) by September 2018, but they smashed that target, raising 7.1bn yen (around £50m). Fukuoka also has the highest new business creation rate (the percentage of companies newly registered in a year) in the country at 7%, well above Tokyo’s 4%.

雖然出現第一家獨角獸企業尚需時日,但這座城市已有長足的進步。福岡下一個發展目標,是2018年9月前公司融資額達到5億日元(337萬英鎊),但他們現已完全突破了這個目標,融資達71億日元(約5000萬英鎊)。同時,福岡的新企業比率(一年中新注冊公司的百分比)全國最高,達7%,遠高于東京的4%。

The city has some strong fundamentals in its favour. Japan’s ageing population and shrinking workforce are causing politicians and economists sleepless nights, but Fukuoka is the fastest growing city in the country, and has the highest proportion of young people. Rent is about 60% of that in Tokyo and the city is closer to Seoul and Shanghai than the capital, leading it to be seen as Japan’s "gateway to Asia".

這座城市的基礎也非常有利。日本老齡化以及日漸萎縮的勞動力令政客與經濟學家夜不能寐,但福岡卻是國內人口增長速度最快的城市,年輕人口比例全國最高。與首都東京相比,城市發展接近于首爾(Seoul)和上海的水平,但房屋租金僅有東京的60%,因此被視為日本“通往亞洲的大門”。

That combination is what prompted Fukuoka native Yasuhiro Ide to transfer the headquarters of his e-commerce business New World back to his hometown. He’d moved to Tokyo in 2015 in search of business opportunities, but last year he decided his goal of expanding into China would be easier from Fukuoka. “In Fukuoka it's easy to recruit engineers and designers who are low cost and office costs are less,” he says. “And if I want to go to China it’s two hours by plane. From Tokyo it’s four.”

正是這樣的組合讓福岡人井手康博(Yasuhiro Ide)將自己的電商公司新世界(New World)的總部遷回家鄉。井手康博曾在2015年移居東京尋求商機,但去年他認為從福岡進入中國市場會更為容易。他說:“在福岡,很容易就能用低成本請到工程師以及設計師,辦公室成本也更為低廉,而且如果我從這里去中國只要飛兩小時,從東京出發則要4個小時。”

The compactness of the city also means the entrepreneurial community is both tight-knit and diverse, says Hashimoto Masanori, CEO of software company Nulab and a veteran of Fukuoka’s start-up scene. That makes team building and networking much easier. “If I go drinking I will bump into someone at a related IT company,” he says. “In Tokyo I go to community events and it’s only programmers, but in Fukuoka I go to these events and I meet programmers, designers, marketers.”

城市的緊湊同時意味著創業社區的緊密和多樣性,福岡資深創業人士、軟件公司Nulab首席執行官橋本正德(Hashimoto Masanori)說道。這讓團隊建設以及建立業務聯系更加容易。“如果我去喝酒的話,我可能會遇到相關IT公司的同行。”他說:“在東京,我參加社群活動時候只會遇到程序員;但在福岡,我能遇到程序員、設計師和市場營銷人員。”

Another key plank in the government’s pitch is the city’s “liveability”. The international airport is a 15 minute metro ride from the centre and commutes are short, with walking or cycling to work common. You’re never far from nature with mountains looming at the city limits and picturesque beaches a short drive away. “Fukuoka is more laid back,” says Tanaka. “If you want to seek a good work-life balance Fukuoka is a very attractive city.”

政府宣傳中,另一個關鍵板塊是城市的“宜居程度”。國際機場距離市中心僅15分鐘地鐵車程,通勤距離短,走路或者騎自行車上班都是常見的方式。群山連綿在城市邊緣,因此你離自然很近,到如畫的海灘也只需很短的車程。田中說:“福岡更休閑。如果你想尋求工作與生活的平衡,福岡是一個非常吸引人的選擇。”

That was what drew French entrepreneurs Yasmine Djoudi and Thomas Pouplin to settle in the city.

法國創業者德橋迪(Yasmine Djoudi)和波普林(Thomas Pouplin)也因此定居福岡。

They first came as part of a student exchange program and when they decided to launch their start-up Ikkai, an online platform for students to find short-term work, they chose to stay in Fukuoka rather than move to Tokyo.

他們起初因學生交流項目而來,當他們決定推出他們的初創項目Ikkai(為學生尋找短期工作的在線平臺)時,他們決定留在福岡,而非去東京。

“The lifestyle here is really nice,” says Djoudi, adding that the lower costs were also a major boon when starting out. “We didn't regret it, because we realised that the burn rate is way lower. We couldn't have done half of the things we did in Fukuoka if we went to Tokyo.”

德橋迪表示:“這里的生活方式非常棒。”他還補充道,低廉的成本是企業創始時一項巨大福利。“我們不后悔,因為我們發現資金消耗速度慢得多。如果我們搬去東京的話,我們能完成的事情甚至不及福岡的一半。”

The pair were the first recipients of the city’s start-up visa and helped shape the application process. Pouplin admits that language barriers and inflexible regulations still make Japan a tricky place for outsiders but he says Fukuoka is ahead of the curve in making things easier for foreign founders.

他們是該城市第一批申領創業企業簽證的人,并且協助完善了申請流程。波普林承認,語言障礙以及不夠靈活的監管條例仍然讓在日本的外國人感到棘手,但他認為福岡在為外國創業者提供便利方面走在前沿。

The city’s re-branding has generated significant buzz in both the domestic and foreign press, but despite the positive coverage two key ingredients remain in short supply – talent and funding. There’s limited venture capital available in Fukuoka, says Pouplin, so when start-ups grow they generally have to head to the capital for investment and customers. “Fukuoka is a great starting place, but it's not a great growing place,” he says.

重塑福岡城市品牌引起了海內外媒體巨大關注,但除這些正面因素之外,尚有兩項重要資源短缺——人才以及資金。福岡的風險投資資金有限,波普林說道,所以當創業公司成長后,他們逐漸需要前往東京尋求投資以及客戶。“福岡是一個很好的起點,但并非一個好的成長地。”他說道。

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One of FGN’s most successful graduates is Skydisc, which uses artificial intelligence to help customers boost factory productivity and has been pegged as a “future unicorn” by financial newspaper The Nikkei. Overseas strategy officer Yoshihiko Suenaga is full of praise for the city government’s approach and says their time at FGN opened a lot of doors. “They gave us cheap rent and a lot of opportunities,” he says. “We actually met one of our partners as well as one of our big clients at a matching event there.”

Skydisc是“福岡成長下一站”最成功的“畢業”企業之一,它利用人工智能幫助客戶提升工廠效率,被日本經濟新聞(Nikkei)評為“未來的獨角獸”。該公司海外戰略官末永正雄(Yoshihiko Suenaga)對這座城市的做法贊譽有加,表示“福岡成長下一站”為他們提供了許多機會。“他們給我們低廉的租金以及許多機遇,”他說:“事實上在那里的介紹會上,我們遇到了其中一名合伙人以及許多大客戶。”

But he admits they are only staying in Fukuoka because it’s the founder’s hometown. Their operation is now split between Fukuoka and a Tokyo office that opened three years ago because most of their clients’ headquarters are located there. Talent was also a big driver – while it’s possible to find competent developers in Fukuoka, more advanced technical skills are concentrated in the capital. “AI-focused engineers are relatively difficult to find in places other than Tokyo,” he says.

但他承認,他們留在福岡僅僅因為這是創業者的家鄉。目前他們有福岡辦公室,還有三年前啟動的東京辦公室,因為他們大部分客戶的總部在東京。人才也是一個重要驅動力——雖然能夠在福岡找到有實力的開發者,但先進的技術多集中在首都。他補充說:“在東京以外的地方,較難找到人工智能專業的工程師。”

In an attempt to coax this kind of talent to the city the government recently declared itself an “engineer-friendly city” and followed up with recruiting events in Tokyo. But even Fukuoka’s brightest find it hard to resist the pull of the capital, says Suenaga, who spent 15 years in Tokyo himself. He hails from neighbouring city Kitakyushu and only returned due to family reasons. “After graduating you’ve got no choice but to go to Tokyo,” he says. “That’s the regular mindset.”

為了將這類人才吸引至福岡,政府最近宣布要將福岡變為“工程師友好型城市”,緊接著便在東京召開招聘會。但福岡的優秀人才很難抗拒首都的吸引力,曾身在東京15年的末永說道。他來自鄰近城市北九州,后因家庭原因才返回故地。他說:“畢業后你除了去東京之外別無選擇。這是最普遍的心態。”

That’s not to say perceptions of Fukuoka aren’t changing in the capital. Shun Nagao, who runs the Tokyo office of global venture capital firm White Star Capital, says in the last two years there’s been a lot more buzz around the city thanks largely to the mayor’s efforts. It’s still seen as a relatively immature ecosystem though, he adds.

但這不意味著東京人對福岡的認知沒有改變。全球風險投資公司白星資本(White Star Capital)東京辦公室的負責人長尾俊(Shun Nagao)表示,近兩年來因為福岡市長的努力,福岡周邊熱鬧了不少。但這仍是相對不成熟的生態環境,他補充道。

“I don't think there's an understanding about what Fukuoka excels in,” he says. He thinks the city needs to do a better job of branding, pointing to Kyoto, which has developed a reputation as a hotbed for hardware start-ups by building an ecosystem around the world-class Kyoto University and the city’s big electronics companies like Kyocera, Omron and Rohm.

他說:“我認為大家對福岡的長處不太了解。”他還認為,福岡需要努力進行品牌管理。他以京都為例:京都圍繞世界級大學京都大學(Kyoto University)以及京瓷集團(Kyocera)、歐姆龍(Omron)和羅姆半導體集團(Rohm)等大型電子公司打造商業生態環境,以硬件制造創業公司的孵化器而著稱。

One major opportunity for the city, says Nagao, is its proximity to Asia, which could allow it to attract talent from abroad rather than going toe-to-toe with Tokyo. But in terms of attracting more funding, he thinks there needs to be some clear success stories or big valuations before investors commit serious resources to the city.

長尾認為,福岡的主要機遇在于它靠近亞洲其他國家,這讓它得以向海外吸納人才,而非與東京正面競爭。但就吸納更多投資來說,他認為,還需要有一些更為明確的成功故事或者高估值企業,投資人才會認真地向福岡投入更多資源。

That’s something officials in Fukuoka recognise, but they’re also aware that laying the groundwork for that kind of success takes time. Their current target is to create one hundred start-ups worth 1 billion yen (£6.8m) in the next five years, says Naokatsu Matono, director of the city’s start-up department. “To make a unicorn we believe first we need many start-ups,” he adds. “In the future, our goal is to help one of those one hundred companies become a unicorn.”

福岡官員認同這些觀點,但他們同時也明白,為這類成功打下基礎需要時間。城市創業部主任野尚克(Naokatsu Matono)指出,他們當前的目標是在未來5年內建立一百家估值超10億日元(680萬英鎊)的創業公司。“我們認為,打造一家獨角獸公司的前提是要有大量的創業公司。”他還補充說:“未來,我們的目標是幫助那100家公司中的一家成為獨角獸。”

And the city isn’t resting on its laurels. FGN closed down for a revamp at the end of March and when it relaunches under new management in May it will team up with a well-known international start-up accelerator to mentor and help fund a new batch of start-ups.

這座城市并未固步自封。“福岡成長下一站”在3月末關閉,進行翻修,且將在5月份重新開業,并采用全新的管理模式。屆時,它將與知名國際創業加速器一同輔導、幫助新一批創業企業。

The government is also in the process of creating an ambitious new “smart city” – an urban area that uses technology like IoT and data analytics to enable smarter service in areas like transport, utilities and government – on a 124-acre former university campus within Fukuoka, just 2.5 miles (4km) from the centre.

同時,政府也在雄心勃勃地打造新的“智慧城市”——在城市中運用物聯網以及數據分析等技術,對交通、公共事業以及政府事務賦能。該區域前身為福岡市內一所占地124英畝的大學,距市中心僅2.5英里(4公里)。

Typically these kinds of projects end up on greenfield sites far from urban centres or layer technology on top of existing infrastructure, says Kouichi Matono, who is leading the project. This smart city will be unique because it will be built from scratch in the heart of the city with the infrastructure and technology developed in unison.

項目主管野尚克表示,通常,這類項目最終將在位于遠離市中心的未開發綠地,或者基于現有基礎設施進行技術覆蓋。然而,這座智慧城市將是獨一無二的,因為它將在市中心從零開始,基建設施將與技術共同發展。

Demolition work has already started, and the government plans to partner with a consortium of companies to create an open source test-bed for advanced technologies like 5G, driverless vehicles and telemedicine. The aim is to spur the creation of many new start-ups, says Matono, and act as a proving ground to show the rest of the country how to use technology to solve Japan’s most pressing problems.

拆除工作已經開始,而政府計劃與公司財團合作建立開源試驗臺,面向5G、無人駕駛以及遠程醫療等先進技術。野尚克表示,該計劃旨在激發成立大量創新企業,并且作為試驗場,向本國其余地區展示如何使用技術解決日本當前最為緊迫的問題。

“We are trying to create a new lifestyle not just buildings,” he says. “Japan has a lot of issues. The number of old people is growing and we have a small birth rate so we’re going to have problems with labour and healthcare. That’s why we want to use new technology like AI and IoT to solve these issues.”

他說:“我們正嘗試創造新的生活方式,而不僅僅是建造新建筑。日本面臨許多問題。因老齡人口數量增加以及低生育率,我們將面臨勞工以及醫療保健問題,因此我們想用人工智能和物聯網等新技術來解決這些問題。”

Developing the ecosystem of talent, expertise and funding required to support the kind of “living lab” the mayor has previously said he want to turn Fukuoka into will take time. But the city’s unique combination of entrepreneurial energy, quality of life and a supportive government makes it as good a place as any for those trying to build a more liveable future.

發展一個人才、專家以及融資渠道良好的生態系統,支持市長此前提出的福岡“生活實驗室”計劃,需要不少時間。但如何創造更宜居的未來,福岡對創業活力、生活質量以及政府支持的有機融合成為了一個不錯的備選模式。

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