During the official visit of Mayor [Kizo] Hisamoto to the US in 2015, he met with the then CEO of 500. At the meeting, 500 expressed an interest in opening up its business in Japan. The mayor immediately offered to cooperate and the possibility of co-hosting an acceleration program in Kobe was discussed. Following that meeting, the mayor lost no time in putting together the necessary resources required for creating a program execution team, including outside talent. The 500 accelerator program jointly held with a local government was the first of its kind in the world and drew much attention.
In the past four years, 71 companies have participated and a total fund of more than USD 110 million has been raised. Last year’s accelerator program was held on the theme of Health Tech. Consequently, two of the participating companies began working with the Kobe Biomedical Innovation Cluster. Four more companies, including overseas startups, have decided to locate in Kobe as a result of the program.
Thus, global recognition is gradually increasing. In November 2020, the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) will open its third Global Innovation Center (GIC) in Kobe.(Note2) An incubation program is in the pipeline, with climate change as the main theme, thereby enabling Kobe City to contribute to the resolution of global issues.
500 Kobe Acceleration ProgramDemo Day (2019; courtesy of Kobe City)
The conclusion of the MOU for establishing the Global Innovation Center
(From left to right: Grete Faremo, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNOPS Executive Director, Kizo Hisamoto, Kobe City Mayor; November 2019; courtesy of Kobe City)