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July 17, 2007

Industrial Cluster Policy in Metropolitan Tokyo

Nathalie Cavasin (Visiting Researcher, Waseda University)

Dr. Cavasin is currently visiting Waseda University's Global Information and Telecommunication Institute. This article is based on the following report: Cavasin, N. (2007), "Tokyo, un modele renouvelle," Chapter 6 in Le management strategique des grandes metropoles des pays avances (edited by Jean-Claude Prager), ADIT, Paris, pp. 127-149 (

The Tokyo metropolitan area is one of the largest agglomerations of industry and research activities in the world, especially in the field of information technology. However, not so many people, in fact few foreign observers, recognize the geographical distribution and concentration of such business and research activities within the Tokyo megalopolis, except casual observations of such places as Akihabara and Roppongi Hills. In this regard, it may be interesting and useful to overview the geographical "clusters" of industrial technology and public policies to support such clusters in order to have an understanding of recent developments in Japan's R&D strategy as well as its strengths and weaknesses.

Geographical Techno-Clusters in the Tokyo Region

In the central part of Tokyo, main IT zones began to appear in the 1990s, and by now Shibuya and Minato Wards have attracted about a quarter of Tokyo's IT companies, totaling 18,857 in the Tokyo region as of 2004. Internet-related services are mostly concentrated in Roppongi Hills and central Shibuya. Multimedia companies including films, animation, games, music, sports and advertising are located in various parts of Tokyo: the digital animation clusters are found in Suginami, Nakano, Musashino, Koganei, Kokubunji, etc. along the Chuo train line, whereas the video gaming industry is concentrated in Akihabara, Ginza, Gotanda, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, etc. along the Yamanote loop. On the other hand, in the Ota neighborhood in the southern part of Tokyo, many small and medium-sized businesses are involved in the development of new products or in R&D in various manufacturing sectors.

At the same time, it is important to notice that there are several high-tech zones located in the greater Tokyo metropolitan region. The city of Kawasaki in Kanagawa Prefecture, traditionally known as Japan's major manufacturing center, is now home to more than 183 R&D institutions and 21 universities with three research parks, attracting highly qualified, well-educated human resources in the fields of IT and R&D. Also well known is Tsukuba Science City, located north of Tokyo and linked to Akihabara by the Tsukuba Express rail line. As one of the largest concentrations of basic research labs in Japan, Tsukuba is home to 33 national research institutes and the University of Tsukuba. Along the Tsukuba Express line, there is an emerging research center, Kashiwa Park, with a business incubator, a department of Chiba University, the National Center for Cancer and Tokyo University's frontier science campus.

Public Policies for Industrial Cluster Development

The Japanese government has established "framework plans" for the development of science and technology by combining academic research policy with industrial development policy since the year 2000. As a result, university spending on scientific research has been increasing rapidly and university-industry partnerships as well as regional research interactions have been growing steadily for the last few years. At the same time, METI (The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) has adopted a new policy of cluster development to reinforce the dynamics of industrial networks involving universities, businesses and governments in clusters since 2001. So far, 17 clusters have been supported, involving more than 6,100 businesses and 250 universities in Japan as a whole, and currently the second phase of the cluster plan, from 2006 to 2011, is being implemented.

In the Tokyo metropolitan area, there are two sector-based clusters and five territorial-based clusters supported by METI. Regarding the sector-based clusters, one is the cluster of IT and content industries in the greater Tokyo region, networking 290 companies, Keio University and five local government offices, where the key sectors include film production, gaming, online entertainment and publishing. The other is a biotechnology cluster, based on the "bio" network of Yokohama, Chiba, Tsukuba and central Tokyo, where the Bio Industry Association of Japan is promoting various bio businesses in collaboration with METI.

Regarding the territorial clusters in the Tokyo region, the TAMA (Technology Advanced Metropolitan Area) cluster seems to be attracting most attention, as this cluster in the western part of the Tokyo metropolitan area is targeting new technologies in such fields as biotech, optoelectronics, mechanical electronics and nanotechnologies. The Tokatsu/Kawaguchi/Tsukuba area cluster is to link research results in Tsukuba Science City with manufacturing activities in the Tokatsu and Kawaguchi areas, especially for small and medium-sized businesses. Other clusters include one along the Chuo highway, taking advantage of precision and electric machinery industries in Suwa and Yamanashi, another in the northern part of the metropolitan area in the field of transportation and electric equipment, and a cluster in the Keihin area covering Ota, Shinagawa, Kawasaki and Yokohama.

Evaluation and Conclusion

The first phase of the industrial cluster plan was evaluated by Mitsubishi Research Institute (METI, 2006), which showed that participating businesses highly appreciated the possibility of obtaining information on available government assistance, and also the possibility of creating a network with different industries. On the other hand, they seemed a little disappointed at forming networks with financial institutions, a means of obtaining credit, and the recruitment of R&D personnel, although they actually managed to employ necessary work force to grow over time, at least partly owing to various organizations in their clusters. On the other hand, the evaluation revealed the difficulty of reinforcing collaboration with such public organizations as AIST research center, JETRO, and the Small Business Agency, and also the difficulty of executing projects shared in common with large corporations and with general trading companies.

In conclusion, there seems to be much room for improvement regarding interactions and mutual trust among businesses, governments and academic institutions in each cluster, although remarkable progress has been made for the last couple of years in this respect, mainly due to favorable economic conditions in the Tokyo metropolitan region. If this cluster approach becomes a success in the Tokyo area, it could present a new model of technological development based on close links among businesses, governments and universities, a model that is somewhat similar to certain paradigms in Continental Europe in contrast to private-sector dominated Anglo-Saxon approaches.

Selected Bibliography
1) Kodama, T. (2002), "Industry-Academic and Inter-corporate Collaboration in TAMA (Technology Advanced Metropolitan Area)", RIETI Discussion Paper Series 02-E-014:
2) METI (2005), Industrial Cluster Study Report, Tokyo:

3) METI (2006), The Industrial Cluster Program 2006, Tokyo
4) Kose, T. (2006), "Second Term Medium-range Industrial Cluster Program", Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Presentation in Tokyo on 10/31/2006
5) Internet Links on METI's Cluster Project:

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