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福冈能成为日本最具创新力的城市吗?_纽约时报中英文版_纽约时报中英文网

更新时间:2019/6/28 16:00:42 来源: 作者:佚名

Why Fukuoka is Japan's most innovative city
福冈能成为日本最具创新力的城市吗?_纽约时报中英文版_纽约时报中英文网

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.

福冈(Fukuoka)位于日本九州,在群山与大海之间,是一座努力自我创新的城市。尽管日本一向以大型企业集团以及首都东京占主导地位,但福冈这座城市的发展速度为日本之冠,有望成为日本的硅谷(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.

日本的高科技享誉世界,但创新公司的发展速度却惊人的迟缓。这个世界第三大经济体仅有一家“独角兽”公司(unicorn,指估值超过10亿美元的私人企业),而美国拥有127家,中国拥有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。

福冈的年轻市长很有领导魅力,决意改变现状。他认为这座城市大有潜力,能够复制美国西岸的创新中心。2011年,他宣布福冈将成为日本的创业城市。从此,该城市便跃升至国家商业创新联盟排行之首。

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.

由于资本与人才仍连续向东京集中,福冈能否真正地与首都相抗衡还是未晓之数,但该市市长已有一个强有力的方案:一个密集型的创业公司社群、年轻的劳动力以及便宜的物价,让生活和工作之间的平稳成为可能——在其他地方这是遥不可及的目标。福冈市的计划者期望这能吸引那些想要逃离东京强烈竞争的新生代创业者。

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。

前电视节目主持人高岛宗一郎(Sōichirō Takashima)今年44岁。2010年他成为该市历史上最年轻市长。此后他访问了西雅图(Seattle),对两座城市的相似性感来震动,他表示:两座城市都是被自然景观环绕的紧凑型海边城市,有完备的交通设施和丰富的人力资源。在西雅图,这些要素支持着亚马逊(Amazon)、微软(Microsoft)等巨头以及繁荣的创新企业生态系统。高岛认为,福冈可以复制这种成功,帮助日本摆脱自20世纪90年代以来的经济低谷。

“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.”

“能够引导创新并且创造价值的创业公司是打破经济停滞的关键,”他说道:“明白这一点后,我把扶持创业公司纳入了城市发展战略中。”

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.

从此,他便忙碌起来。2014年,中央政府批准了他的请求,把福冈定位为针对创业公司的“国家战略特区”,降低新公司的企业税,并且为外国创业者提供便利签证。政府还答应福冈放宽计划制度,复建市中心以及无线网络规则,创造一个更快捷简便的许可制度,以便进行技术试验以及针对物联网的技术展现,将传感器、通讯以及运算机硬件整合来日常事务中。

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.

高岛还积极地在国内外推广福冈,带领企业代表团与旧金山、台北以及赫尔辛基的创业公司基地签订合作协议,为觅求海外扩张的福冈公司以及有意进入日本的海外企业提供支持和引荐。

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。

福冈政府已在2017年将一所位于天神(Tenjin)商业区中心的老学校翻新,打造成一个面向早期创业者的一站式基地—— “福冈成长下一站”(Fukuoka Growth Next,FGN)。福冈成长下一站秘书处处长田中康成(Yasunari Tanaka)表示:“简而言之,我们的任务是扶持未来的独角兽公司。”

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.

这里有廉价的办公空间、样品制造实验室,一家咖啡厅提供免费商业、法律以及会计咨询,还有帮助外国创业者在福冈成立公司或者帮助本地创业者进行海外扩张的全球创业中心。此外,还有一家促进大家拓展业务关系的酒吧。酒吧定期举办座谈会、研讨会以及介绍会,让创业公司与客户、投资者建立联系。

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%.

虽然出现第一家独角兽企业尚需时日,但这座城市已有长足的进步。福冈下一个发展目标,是2018年9月前公司融资额达来5亿日元(337万英镑),但他们现已完全突破了这个目标,融资达71亿日元(约5000万英镑)。同时,福冈的新企业比率(一年中新注册公司的百分比)全国最高,达7%,远高于东京的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"。

这座城市的基础也非常有利。日本老龄化以及日渐萎缩的劳动力令政客与经济学家夜不能寐,但福冈却是国内人口增长速度最快的城市,年轻人口比例全国最高。与首都东京相比,城市发展接近于首尔(Seoul)和上海的水平,但房屋租金仅有东京的60%,因此被视为日本“通往亚洲的大门”。

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.”

正是这样的组合让福冈人井手康博(Yasuhiro Ide)将自己的电商公司新世界(New World)的总部迁回家乡。井手康博曾在2015年移居东京觅求商机,但去年他认为从福冈进入中国市场会更为容易。他说:“在福冈,很容易就能用低成本请来工程师以及设计师,办公室成本也更为低廉,而且如果我从这里去中国只要飞两小时,从东京出发则要4个小时。”

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。”

城市的紧凑同时意味着创业社区的紧密和多样性,福冈资深创业人士、软件公司Nulab首席执行官桥本正德(Hashimoto Masanori)说道。这让团队建设以及建立业务联系更加容易。“如果我去饮酒的话,我可能会遇来相关IT公司的同行。”他说:“在东京,我参加社群活动时候只会遇来程序员;但在福冈,我能遇来程序员、设计师和市场营销人员。”

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.”

政府宣传中,另一个关键板块是城市的“宜居程度”。国际机场距离市中心仅15分钟地铁车程,通勤距离短,走路或者骑自行车上班都是常见的方式。群山连绵在城市边缘,因此你离自然很近,来如画的海滩也只需很短的车程。田中说:“福冈更休闲。如果你想觅求工作与生活的平稳,福冈是一个非常吸引人的挑选。”

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

法国创业者德桥迪(Yasmine Djoudi)和波普林(Thomas Pouplin)也因此定居福冈。

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.

他们起初因学生交流项目而来,当他们决定推出他们的初创项目Ikkai(为学生觅找短期工作的在线平台)时,他们决定留在福冈,而非去东京。

“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。”

德桥迪表示:“这里的生活方式非常棒。”他还补充道,低廉的成本是企业创始时一项巨大福利。“我们不后悔,因为我们发觉资金消耗速度慢得多。如果我们移去东京的话,我们能完成的事情甚至不及福冈的一半。”

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.

他们是该城市第一批申领创业企业签证的人,并且协助完善了申请流程。波普林承认,语言障碍以及不够灵活的监管条例仍旧让在日本的外国人感来棘手,但他认为福冈在为外国创业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.

复塑福冈城市品牌引起了海内外媒体巨大关注,但除这些正面因素之外,尚有两项复要资源短缺——人才以及资金。福冈的风险投资资金有限,波普林说道,所以当创业公司成长后,他们逐步需要前往东京觅求投资以及客户。“福冈是一个很好的起点,但并非一个好的成长地。”他说道。

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“福冈成长下一站”最成功的“毕业”企业之一,它利用人工智能帮助客户提升工厂效率,被日本经济新闻(Nikkei)评为“未来的独角兽”。该公司海外战略官末永正雄(Yoshihiko Suenaga)对这座城市的做法赞誉有加,表示“福冈成长下一站”为他们提供了许多机会。“他们给我们低廉的租金以及许多机遇,”他说:“事实上在那里的介绍会上,我们遇来了其中一名合伙人以及许多大客户。”

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.

但他承认,他们留在福冈仅仅因为这是创业者的家乡。目前他们有福冈办公室,还有三年前启动的东京办公室,因为他们大部分客户的总部在东京。人才也是一个复要驱动力——虽然能够在福冈找来有实力的开发者,但先进的技术多集中在首都。他补充说:“在东京以外的地方,较难找来人工智能专业的工程师。”

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.”

为了将这类人才吸引至福冈,政府最近宣布要将福冈变为“工程师友好型城市”,紧接着便在东京召开招聘会。但福冈的优秀人才很难抗拒首都的吸引力,曾身在东京15年的末永说道。他来自邻近城市北九州,后因家庭原因才返回故地。他说:“毕业后你除了去东京之外别无挑选。这是最普通的心态。”

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。

但这不意味着东京人对福冈的认晓没有改变。全球风险投资公司白星资本(White Star Capital)东京办公室的负责人长尾俊(Shun Nagao)表示,近两年来因为福冈市长的努力,福冈周边喧哗了不少。但这仍是相对不成熟的生态环境,他补充道。

“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。

他说:“我认为大家对福冈的长处不太了解。”他还认为,福冈需要努力进行品牌治理。他以京都为例:京都环绕世界级大学京都大学(Kyoto University)以及京瓷集团(Kyocera)、欧姆龙(Omron)和罗姆半导体集团(Rohm)等大型电子公司打造商业生态环境,以硬件制造创业公司的孵化器而著称。

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.

长尾认为,福冈的主要机遇在于它靠近亚洲其他国家,这让它得以向海外吸纳人才,而非与东京正面竞争。但就吸纳更多投资来说,他认为,还需要有一些更为明确的成功故事或者高估值企业,投资人才会认真地向福冈投入更多资源。

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.”

福冈官员认同这些观点,但他们同时也明白,为这类成功打下基础需要时间。城市创业部主任野尚克(Naokatsu Matono)指出,他们当前的目标是在未来5年内建立一百家估值超10亿日元(680万英镑)的创业公司。“我们认为,打造一家独角兽公司的前提是要有大量的创业公司。”他还补充说:“未来,我们的目标是帮助那100家公司中的一家成为独角兽。”

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.

这座城市并未固步自封。“福冈成长下一站”在3月末关闭,进行翻修,且将在5月份复新开业,并摘用全新的治理模式。届时,它将与晓名国际创业加速器一同辅导、帮助新一批创业企业。

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.

同时,政府也在雄心勃勃地打造新的“聪明城市”——在城市中运用物联网以及数据分析等技术,对交通、公共事业以及政府事务赋能。该区域前身为福冈市内一所占地124英亩的大学,距市中心仅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。

项目主管野尚克表示,通常,这类项目最终将在位于远离市中心的未开发绿地,或者基于现有基础设施进行技术覆盖。然而,这座聪明城市将是独一无二的,因为它将在市中心从零开始,基建设施将与技术共同发展。

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。

拆除工作已经开始,而政府计划与公司财团合作建立开源试验台,面向5G、无人驾驶以及远程医疗等先进技术。野尚克表示,该计划旨在激发成立大量创新企业,并且作为试验场,向本国其余地区展现如何使用技术解决日本当前最为紧迫的问题。

“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.”

他说:“我们正尝试创造新的生活方式,而不仅仅是建造新建筑。日本面临许多问题。因老龄人口数量增加以及低生育率,我们将面临劳工以及医疗保健问题,因此我们想用人工智能和物联网等新技术来解决这些问题。”

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。

发展一个人才、专家以及融资渠道优良的生态系统,支持市长此前提出的福冈“生活实验室”计划,需要不少时间。但如何创造更宜居的未来,福冈对创业活力、生活质量以及政府支持的有机融合成为了一个不错的备选模式。

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