Central Japan Startup Ecosystem Holds Symposium on “Homeland of Mobility 5.0 – Leading Society to the Next Generation”

NAGOYA, Japan, March 1, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — The Central Japan Startup Ecosystem held a symposium and panel discussion under the theme, “Homeland of Mobility 5.0 – Leading Society to the Next Generation” at NAGOYA INNOVATOR’S GARAGE, a dynamic facility where entrepreneurs and enterprises come together to create new ideas, businesses and industries.

Central Japan Startup Ecosystem Panel Discussion
Central Japan Startup Ecosystem Panel Discussion

Thanks to Central Japan’s longstanding focus on ‘Monozukuri’, which focuses on the pride, skill, and pursuit of excellence through innovation and improvement, the region is leveraging this to create a manufacturing integrated ecosystem with mobility at its core.

The symposium was a hybrid event focusing on Central Japan’s commitment to being the “Homeland of Mobility 5.0 – Leading Society to the Next Generation.” This was followed by a panel discussion, where suggestions and perspectives on how Central Japan can fulfill the role of “Homeland of Mobility 5.0 – Leading Society to the Next Generation” were shared with the audience and how it will play a powerful role in encouraging and supporting entrepreneurs and startups to further develop and succeed. The event successfully introduced what Central Japan is doing in the rapidly evolving field of mobility and was an excellent platform opportunity to discuss the future of mobility in this region.  

Event Highlights

The event opened with a speech by Shuichi Hirano from JETRO Nagoya (Director-General for Chubu, Chief Director, JETRO Nagoya). JETRO Nagoya and JETRO Hamamatsu have been carrying out projects to promote the Central Japan Startup Ecosystem overseas and one of their pillars is regional branding. For instance, an exchange with foreign media was held in December 2023 with five startups based in Central Japan. The event effectively communicated the strength of the Central Japan Ecosystem to overseas media and successfully achieved coverage in key media.

Toshio Sumi (Director, Economic Affairs Bureau Startup Support Office, Innovation Department, Nagoya City Economic Affairs Bureau) provided an overview of Central Japan, its history of innovation and manufacturing, and initiatives from the Central Japan Startup Ecosystem. Its mission is to be the Homeland of Mobility 5.0, making a positive impact on society by bringing the future of mobility to our doorsteps and is actively encouraging like-minded entrepreneurs and startups to the area. He also introduced two unicorn startups working towards Mobility 5.0 – Tier IV which is focused on autonomous driving and SkyDrive Inc. which is developing flying cars and will be featured in the upcoming Osaka World Expo 2025.    

This was followed by a presentation by Katsuya Kawaji (Director, Startup Promotion Division, Industry Department, Hamamatsu City) who provided an overview of the startup ecosystem in Hamamatsu City, which has long held a strategic location for transportation, logistics, and culture in Japan. It is leveraging these assets, including its concentration of companies, mainly in the manufacturing industry, and has been developing various actions to “co-create” innovation and ecosystems with various stakeholders, including companies, startups, and entrepreneurs, both within and outside the region.

Mobility Designer Kazuhiko Makimura made a key note speech about the “Revolution Mobility 5.0 and Transportation Re-Design.” New mobility services rapidly accelerated during the pandemic, and his speech examined the current situation and future prospects for transportation that builds communities in the age of carbon neutrality. A key takeaway was to not only think of mobility as simply a movement, but as a service. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is a concept offering a more integrated approach to urban mobility as a service, creating an environment where this movement can be done easy, through various modes of transportation and requires ease of connectivity. In an era where the value of mobility is changing, the possibilities of MaaS and automated driving will expand the shape of cities and the nature of society.

Panel Discussion Highlights

The event was followed by a panel discussion, “Homeland of Mobility 5.0 – Leading Society to the Next Generation” moderated by Naohiro Nishiguchi. Panelists shared their suggestions and perspectives on how Central Japan can fulfill the role of “Homeland of Mobility 5.0 – Leading Society to the Next Generation” that will play a powerful role in encouraging and supporting entrepreneurs and startups to further develop and succeed. Some key takeaways include the following:

When discussing what is Homeland of Mobility 5.0, Akira Odoi (General Manager, Innovation Promotion Department, Value Creation Division of the Central Japan Economic Federation) explained what this concept means to Central Japan Ecosystem and said, “Central Japan will be a hub for mobility change.” There are numerous companies including Toyota and its group companies – industries in aerospace, machinery, manufacturing products concentrated here, making us the industrial center of Japan. We can create a unique ecosystem by combining our strength in these areas of manufacturing and technology with startups to create open innovation and further this region as the Homeland of Mobility 5.0, while providing a range of mobility services that support society in the next ten years and beyond.  

Mr. Nishiguchi commented that entrepreneurship is not just making a startup, it is also about the awareness that a change needs to be made and highlighted a point from Mr. Sumi’s earlier presentation that “We don’t have Mobility 5.0 yet. We are going to make it. We have problems and we are going to make something that solves them. That is what entrepreneurship is.”

Regarding the startup ecosystem framework and its strengths, Hans Greimel, an automobile journalist, provided an international perspective. Japan’s startups can be seen in a similar way to Toyota – reliable and safe, but this takes more time understandably, less risk taking and conservative, and this translates into the foreign perception of startup culture in Japan – not at the same pace, but at the same time, Hans said, “I would say there are big benefits – the focus on technology and reliability. Startups in Japan are not here today, gone tomorrow, but are more practical and pragmatic and with a long term view, which means they are more reliable in the long term.” The Chubu region startups are focused on mobility. He said, “If we think of Japan as an ecosystem, we should think about Central Japan as the incubator for mobility startups here thanks to the strength of Japanese motor and aerospace companies, along with their suppliers- it is an amazing concentration of this kind of engineering talent and a huge resource that should be utilized.”     

From a female entrepreneur perspective, Kyoko Yokota has been providing support to female entrepreneurs for more than 20 years, and the number is steadily increasing. She felt that this was an exciting moment for Chubu region and for up and coming female entrepreneurs and researchers working in mobility. “I feel the enthusiasm of Central Japan through this event, and believe it is important for Central Japan to lead the efforts of each region for Japan as a whole,” she commented.

The completion of the Maglev train in the next few years will bring a trip between Tokyo and Nagoya to around 40 minutes and that will show the region’s strength in mobility. Though this region is rich in internationally recognized companies and have been world leaders for decades, there are some weaknesses that were addressed. Though many global companies are based in Central Japan, they tend to look beyond their borders. Sometimes it would help if these companies looked at their doorstep and in their own backyard. Some of the panelists mentioned that startups in this region need more support and there needs to be greater cross fertilization with these global companies. It was also stressed that startups in the region need to foster a global mindset, ensuring that English materials and a website are available. It is also important to raise the international profile of Central Japan and highlight strengths of this region, so events such as this are vital.

Each panelist offered a unique perspective because each comes from different areas of expertise.

This discussion was an excellent opportunity for all participants to deepen their understanding of the future of mobility and Central Japan’s role in it

Keynote speech/Panelist:


Kazuhiko Makimura is a Mobility designer with a PhD in Engineering from the University of Tokyo. He is also a guest Professor at the University of Tsukuba and Kobe University as well as a part-time lecturer at Nanzan University. He is actively engaged in urban/transportation think tanks as a specialist in developing visions of mobility for the future.



Naohiro Nishiguchi is a serial entrepreneur and holds many roles including Managing Director of Global Entrepreneurship Network Japan, President of Startup Genome Japan K.K., Professor at Sophia University. He is also a Certified Innovation Management Professional by the Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE).



Hans Greimel is an award-winning American business journalist and book author who covers Asian automakers as the Asia Editor at Automotive News. He attended Carlos Ghosn’s first press conference in Beirut, Lebanon after his escape from Japan in January 2020. Greimel’s coverage led to the book Collision Course: Carlos Ghosn and the Culture Wars that Upended an Auto Empire, published by Harvard Business Review Press in 2021.


Kyoko Yokota is Chief Executive Officer of Colabolabo Co., Ltd, Tokyo. In 2006, Kyoko Yokota started Colabolabo which provides business support for female entrepreneurs. It also manages website, “Women Presidents.net“, where a database of female entrepreneurs is made available to whoever is interested in their businesses. Yokota was selected as one of Forbes Japan’s “10 Japanese Women Who Will Create the Future! She has served as a member of the JST Startup Ecosystem Formation Support Committee and other committees in the fields of gender equality and local government.

Akira ODOI

Akira Odoi is the General Manager, Innovation Promotion Department, Value Creation Division of the Central Japan Economic Federation. Before taking this position, he worked for the Marubeni Corporation. Since taking the post, he has actively been engaging in activities that contribute to the economic development of the Chubu region, such as stimulating innovation and promoting start-ups.

Background on Central Japan

Located in the Chubu region, also known as Central Japan – right in the middle of Japan’s main island, Honshu, this region is proud of playing a vital role in the history of Japan’s manufacturing craftsmanship. It was where Toyota first began, and as a tech pioneer, it is now the home to a wide range of sectors such as automobiles, photonics, and aerospace, using advanced, cutting-edge technologies.

Central Japan continues to invite entrepreneurs and capitalists from all corners of the world to facilitate state‐of‐the‐art open innovation by infusing new ideas with local craftsmanship. And as a result, take part in playing a crucial role in paving the path towards the Homeland of Mobility 5.0 –the future of mobility.

Central Japan Startup Ecosystem provides everything a startup needs – from highly trained workers in many specialized fields to opportunities to conduct feasibility studies with leading companies in various industries including the mobility sector. There are also accelerator programs, financial support systems, innovative university seeds, and collaborative partnerships with ecosystems outside of Japan and also attract a wide range of entrepreneurs to this region.   

About the Central Japan Startup Ecosystem  

In July 2020, Aichi prefecture, Nagoya City and Hamamatsu City in Shizuoka-prefecture became one of the four regional Startup Ecosystem Global Base Cities groups designated nationwide by the Japanese Cabinet Office.  

There are 371 startups in Central Japan, of which 150 are university-launched. An estimated 18,615 billion yen (as of July 2022) of funds have been raised, in addition to accelerator programs, financial support systems, and innovative university seeds.  

Collaborative partnerships with Station F, INSEAD, BLOCK71, Paris &Co, Bpifrance, Venture Café, Plug and Play, Israel Innovation Authority, Tsinghua University, China Medical University, National University of Singapore, the University of Texas at Austin, Stanford University, North Carolina State University, University of Nebraska and the Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad attract a diverse range of entrepreneurs to the region.  

For more information, please visit https://central-startup.jp/en/