Boston X Yokohama: Bridging Innovation in Robotics and Beyond

During the third week of June, representatives from Mitsubishi Estate and the City of Yokohama visited MassRobotics and Boston to share their ambitious plans for developing a cutting-edge innovation and robotics hub in Yokohama. This visit, part of the “Boston X Yokohama: Bridging Innovation” event, highlighted the similarities and synergistic potential between these two dynamic cities.

Twin Cities: Boston and Yokohama

Boston and Yokohama, both vibrant bay cities, share striking parallels. Each city is known for its seafood, world-class baseball stadiums, and international allure. Their shared spirit of innovation and thriving tech ecosystems make them natural partners for advancing robotics and technology.

Opportunities in Yokohama: Live Field Testing and Startup Support

Mitsubishi Estate offers innovation space for those looking to explore opportunities in Japan. They provide a unique platform for deploying robots in live field tests across their properties, which include office buildings and shopping centers. They are currently developing a startup hub designed to nurture and grow new ventures which will open later this year.

Event Highlights

The event was kicked off by Tom Ryden, the Executive Director of MassRobotics, who welcomed the attendees and provided an overview of MassRobotics. As the largest and most connected independent robotics hub, MassRobotics’ mission is to support and accelerate the growth of startups.

Representatives from the City of Yokohama shared information on the demographics of the city, just 30 miles from central Tokyo and close to the international Haneda airport. Yokohama also has an abundance of talented research professionals and institutions, which encourages the foundation of startups and attracts global companies as a location for their R&D facilities, another similarity to Boston.

The city provides extensive support to startups including PoCs (Proof of Concept) and business matching services allowing companies to test and gain traction locally.  They provide subsidies, including various incentives for startups establishing their first office in Yokohama.  In addition, they help with startup visas, providing startups a 6 month (max. 1 year) on-the-ground ramp time before obtaining a full Management Administration Visa.  

The city is running a new demonstration program for foreign startups that includes field demonstration space, mentoring support, business design support and post-program business development assistance. 

The city’s plans for this year are to develop a global community hub for tech startups and expand the possibility of future mobility and green transformation.  In 2027 Yokohama will host the Green Expo, and the push to drive green transformation in the city.

Mitsubishi Estate: A Strategic Business Location

Mitsubishi Estate is one of  Japan’s largest real estate companies, which offers a wide variety of asset development. In addition to office buildings and commercial facilities, they operate various asset types such as hotels, logistics, and airport management.

Daisuke Yokota from Mitsubishi Estate provided an insightful overview of the company’s projects, particularly in Marunouchi, where they own or manage a majority of the buildings in the area. This area is highlighted as a strategic business location, drawing a comparison to Boston’s thriving business landscape. The discussion also touched on the Kannai area redevelopment project, showcasing Mitsubishi Estate’s commitment to fostering innovation.

Comprehensive Support for Startups

Mitsubishi Estate manages two distinct incubation centers in Yokohama, offering a broad network of startups, large corporations, supporting organizations, and academia. Programs in these centers include accelerators, entrepreneurship programs, pitch events, consultations, and educational sessions for startups. They also host monthly events to foster community and collaboration. Notably, they offer testing spaces in Yokohama Landmark Tower and Grand Mall Park, providing ideal environments for trialing innovation.

Networking and Socializing

The event concluded with a networking and social session, allowing attendees to connect, share ideas, and explore potential collaborations. 

The “Boston X Yokohama: Bridging Innovation” event marked a significant step towards strengthening the ties between these two cities. With robust support systems, live field testing opportunities, and strategic locations, Yokohama and Mitsubishi Estate are paving the way for a new era of innovation and collaboration in robotics and beyond.

MassRobotics is collaborating with Mitsubishi Estate to host an event in November at their new startup innovation space near Landmark Tower in Yokohama. The event will highlight robotics innovation in the areas of interest to the city including mobility, green tech and assistive technology. Stay tuned.