JETRO Global Connection -Accelerate Innovation with Japan-

Interview
Open innovation field set up by Mitsubishi Estate in "Marunouchi" in front of Tokyo Station

(Japan)
July 14 2021

Otemachi, Marunouchi, and Yurakucho stretching out over 1.2 square kilometers from Tokyo Station to the Imperial Palace (hereinafter collectively called “Marunouchi”) is Japan’s leading business district where major companies are concentrated including gross sales revenue of companies headquartered in the said area accounts for 10%*.

Mitsubishi Estate has been developing the area for over 120 years. To further revitalize the area, the company is proceeding with various initiatives to make the area an “Open Innovation Field” to achieve innovation through exchanges not only among large corporations but also between diverse human resources and companies.

Mitsubishi Estate and Tokyo Marunouchi Innovation Platform (TMIP) talked about their activities to facilitate open innovation (Interviewed on March 1, 2021).

*From “The Council for Area Development and Management of Otemachi, Marunouchi, and Yurakucho 2016 “


Interviewees from Mitsubishi Estate (Photo provided by Mitsubishi Estate)

Mitsubishi Estate Develops Marunouchi in Front of Tokyo Station

Q: First, please tell us about the overall picture of the development of Marunouchi by Mitsubishi Estate.
Mitsubishi Estate: The whole of Marunouchi has an area of 120 hectares and 106 buildings with 4,300 business offices. The company manages some 30 office buildings there. 280,000 people work in the area and 16* of top global companies on the ranking of Fortune Global are located here. So, Marunouchi is a hub for business in Japan.
The company has been developing Marunouchi since the 1890s. In 2020 and onward, we advanced the area development envisioning not only offices but also commercial prosperity wishing to make this business district more open. And we have been working toward making “Open Innovation Field” aiming for an area of continuous creative atmosphere, making Marunouchi a place where people or companies attracted to innovation accumulate and exchange with one another.
*Fortune Global 500, 2015
Achieving Open Innovation Field going forward. For the past 20 years:Marunouchi area transformed into an “open area” by restructuring Marunouchi. 20 years into the future:Toward ”Open Innovation Field”fostering a creative atmosphere. OPEN INNOVATION FIELD:?Pursue an area where creative atmosphere continuously happens through accumulation of/exchange among people or companies attracted to innovation? Create a place of accumulation/intercommunion (Tangible). Facilitate exchanges (Intangible).

Startup Support by Mitsubishi Estate

Q: What initiatives do you take to achieve Open Innovation Field?
Mitsubishi Estate: We have developed four incubation creation bases to create a place where open innovation-related players are invited for exchange: ”EGG JAPANExternal site: a new window will open” in Shin-Marunouchi Building adjacent to Tokyo Station, ”Global Business Hub TokyoExternal site: a new window will open” where many overseas startups are tenants, “FINOLABExternal site: a new window will open” where FinTech firms concentrate, and “Inspired.LabExternal site: a new window will open” where AI or IoT enterprises from academia and robotics growing companies are concentrated.
We provide support in intangible aspects as well. Of course, we provide business development support services such as a regular business situation hearing, professional referral, and introduction of prospective client companies. Additionally, we offer PR/hiring support and hold exchange events.
Furthermore, VCs or CVCs are piling up in Marunouchi. Mitsubishi Estate set up FINOLAB Inc., as an operation of “FINOLAB” and formed funds in July 2020. We support entrepreneurs who have just started from fundraising to setting up a business by using resources of the entire area.

FINOLAB and Inspired.Lab (Photo provided by Mitsubishi Estate)

Q: What are the strengths of Mitsubishi Estate in initiatives for open innovation?
Mitsubishi Estate: Besides offering offices, Mitsubishi Estate is characterized by the comprehensive provision of such services as business development support such as PoC, as well as investments, accelerator programs, hiring support, PR support, and facility support. Moreover, since we have been managing this area for several years, we think our biggest strength is our connection with large corporations.
Q: Overseas startups including Slack and LinkedIn selected Marunouchi area as a first point to enter into Japan. Is support for overseas startups available?
Reference (EGG JAPAN tenant companiesExternal site: a new window will open)
Reference (Global Business Hub Tokyo tenant companiesExternal site: a new window will open)
Mitsubishi Estate: LinkedIn’s entry into Japan began with EGGJAPAN.  Slack first launched the business of its Japanese arm with a one-person fixed desk at GBHT and subsequently keeps expanding its base in Marunouchi.
We, of course, provide tenant overseas clients with companies that can be partner candidates, experts, or client networks. We give PR support to them through websites as well. We also operate our own media “xTECHExternal site: a new window will open” to help tenant companies with PR.
Marunouchi and Otemachi are areas where there are a great many financial institutions as well. We also engage in helping many overseas financial companies penetrate the Japanese market. At FINOLAB, where FinTech startups gather, we give those startups mentoring and work to form a financial business ecosystem through “FINOVATORS,” a FinTech expert body that gives recommendations to public sectors (governmental administration, local governments, and parliament).
Q: Please tell us about examples of Mitsubishi Estate collaborating with overseas startups.
Mitsubishi Estate: We made a capital partnership with Hmlet, Singapore’s Co-Living operator, and established Hmlet Japan, a joint venture in the Japanese market in 2019. Co-Living is a form of a new share house with an emphasis on forming a community among tenants. It was still an unfamiliar service in Japan back then. However, a speedy and robust rollout of the service was enabled by combining Hmlet’s brand know-how with our resources.
Additionally, we work with b8ta from Silicon Valley. It is a retail tech startup that runs new showroom-type stores and made inroads into Japan for the first time in the summer of 2020. Besides investments, Mitsubishi Estate goes ahead with collaboration such as preferentially offering b8ta store areas, helping them with the rollout of their products after entering into Japan.

What Is TMIP That Launches Open Innovation in Marunouchi?

Q: What is TMIP like?
TMIP: TMIP is an organization set up by Mitsubishi Estate that manages Otemachi, Marunouchi, and Yurakucho areas to advance open innovation using city capabilities of the areas where leading companies are concentrated. Utilizing Marunouchi’s assets including people andbuildings, we make new innovations and businesses arise.
Purpose for establishing TMIP. Using city capabilities, create innovations Large corporation × Large corporation, Startups, Academia, Governmental administration. Create global innovations and businesses that solve social issues that cannot be solved by one company alone.
Large corporations are listed as TMIP members, and startups and academia also participate in TMIP as partners. There are no restrictions on the type of industry, and there is no condition that the members should be tenants either. We expect that diverse players meet here and proceed with projects to solve social issues that are hard to be eliminated by one company alone. Since major companies are concentrated here, we haveactivities putting up a theme of open innovation by “Large corporation × Large corporation” but would like to create global innovation or new businesses connecting with startups or academia.
TMIP is not intended to create its own business because it is not a business corporation. Its utmost role is to be a platform that gives support to corporations aiming for the creation of innovation. TMIP helps create innovation such as corporate matching or referral of business creation partners within the community, information dissemination to achieve deregulations relating to PoC or implementation, and procedural support.
Q: Are there any areas TMIP pays particular attention to?
TMIP: “Circular Economy,” “Wellbeing,” and ”Smart Mobility”: There are a great many companies that have a high interest in these three themes. Thus, we invite those companies interested in the themes to a meeting for an exchange of information regularly.
We hope that they will generate various projects making use of a framework of TMIP, and if they come up with other themes besides these, TMIP would like to give them support.

Future of Open Innovation Revolving Around Marunouchi

Q: I hear that Marunouchi is grabbing attention from the central and local governments as an important area and “key city of startups ecosystem”.
Mitsubishi Estate: We figure that the reason for grabbing attention would be the fact that we established a startup support body called “Marunouchi Frontier” in 2000 and have been providing resources to solve a variety of problems that startups face. Compared with other ecosystems, our strength is that we have been supporting startups in both tangible and intangible aspects.
One of the characteristics of Marunouchi is that not only the assets of Mitsubishi Estate but also the entire area serves as a field for PoC.
For instance, we conducted a PoC for an electric scooter the other day. When you run a PoC, it is hard to discuss and coordinate with the police or the relevant authorities. But Mitsubishi Estate or TMIP takes care of such discussion and coordination. Hence, it can be said that this is an easy environment to run a PoC.
Q: Is Marunouchi a suitable area for open innovation?
Mitsubishi Estate: Mitsubishi Estate built an office building called “Mitsubishi No. 1 Building” in Marunouchi in 1894. Since then, we have been engaged in city development here for over 120 years. Although this area has always remained as Japan’s leading business district, it is an evolving area that constantly repeats redevelopment. Marunouchi can be said to be an area that keeps creating innovation all the time with some companies being replaced by others and enterprises themselves constantly changing their business models.
In times when global top companies or players change, Japanese companies also keep changing. Mitsubishi Estate is determined to provide Japanese companies in pursuit of change with an opportunity of exchange with Japanese and non-Japanese startups with new potentials and keep helping them with the creation of new businesses. We will continue to put in place a mechanism to produce successful companies that will lead the next generation and open innovation.

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