UIJ: Urban Innovation Japan

Kobe City is always being reborn and revitalized. With the help of initiatives like Urban Innovation Japan, we're making sure Kobe can continue to achieve our goals by allowing entrepreneurship and startups to lead the way.

Collaboration between the public and private sectors is essential to solving these problems and to better serve the people of Kobe, and it’s our mission to set the stage.

What has UIJ accomplished since 2018?

City Topics Presented to Innovators
Company Applications Received
Problem Resolution Rate
Solutions Implemented

What is Urban Innovation Japan?

Incubating Innovation: Not Your Typical Government Contract

Urban Innovation Japan is Kobe City’s initiative to partner with startups and collaboratively solve real issues. UIJ teams up with startups that have innovative ideas for solutions, then helps make those solution into realities, and once established, works to launch the startup nationally and around the globe.

Governments are responsible for solving many kinds of local, societal, and administrative issues. Given such wide purview, government officials don’t always have the expertise to solve the problems they’re tasked with solving. When the people responsible for creating solutions don’t understand the root causes of an issue, their solutions will inevitably be temporary fixes and stop-gap measures.


But many people in the private sector do have the ability to solve these problems in a lasting way. With the help of modern innovative technologies, the solutions dreamed up by innovative entrepreneurs can become a reality. That’s the spirit with which Urban Innovation Japan was conceived.

The innovators who participate in this program enjoy joint development support over the course of four months. That includes field of proof evidence, information sharing, team building, and mentoring. All in the interest of solving local, societal, and administrative issues.

Urban Innovation Japan is Japan’s first program for collaborative development between local government and start-ups. What does that look like in practice?

Collaborations – Not Contracts

Unlike traditional partnerships between businesses and cities, UIJ is ultimately a philosophy for supporting grassroots initiative. From planning methodology to implementation, startups can work alongside the city, mutually collaborating to plan the way to success.

Prioritizing usable systems, not business scale or performance

Until now, the government system has only been accessible to corporations with a great magnitude of achieved results. With Urban Innovation Japan, the door is open to anyone who can produce truly important work. In other words, things that people can actually use, or systems that can bring people happiness.

Based on proof-of-concept, not specifications

Hearings and customer verification are based on proof-of-concept, rather than specifications. Projects selected for Urban Innovation Japan are implemented for the general population, as well as the city hall. After months of experimental success, we immediately begin moving towards practical application.

UIJ + Private Sector Partnerships

Kobe Gives You

● Funding
$ 5,000 in financial assistance
  • ● Mentoring
  • Advice from business project planning and administrative mentors
  • ● Collaboration
  • Proof-of-concept implementation through collaboration with government agencies
  • ● Expansion to other urban areas
  • If it works in Kobe, you can spread through Japan, and then the world.

UIJ Project Topics

UIJ Collaboration Themes

2019 UIJ Project Themes: Team up with Kobe to solve real city issues.

  • Traffic safety verification:

    Traffic safety verificationWe've built simulations for the most heavily trafficked city streets, modeling everything from parking lots to exits and entrances. These models have allowed for a data-driven evaluation on how to further improve the safety and convenience of traffic in Kobe.

  • Auto matching:

    Auto matchingBy using auto-matching technologies on a populated database of business issues, sourced from small-to-medium businesses. The goal is to develop a plan for work optimization and rapid problem solving for SMEs, making communicating and networking in Kobe even smoother.

  • Fire prevention automation and management:

    Fire prevention automation and managementWith the development of an app which helps communicate legally obligatory fire-fighting duties, (like reports, inspections, and training period requirements) Kobe aims to make fire prevention management systems as increasingly automated. By reducing the number of legal violations, Kobe can become an even safer place to live.

  • Improving safety in urban planning:

    Improving safety in urban planningUsing mathematical modeling and annual data from public building inspections, Kobe can better plan a variety of future safety improvements. Initial experiments in automating accident prevention have produced results that speak for themselves.

  • Simpler Park Rentals:

    Simpler Park RentalsKobe is making parks more accessible to as many organizations and groups as possible. The park rentals project explored park-use research to help determine what people want and need for creating their park activities. This can help our numerous parks to become even more valuable community spaces.

“Urban Innovation Japan can revolutionize governmental systems of support.”

-Kobe City Chief Innovation Officer Yoshiharu Seki