Fukuoka City, while compact, is rich with natural elements and bustling urban spaces. The city is appealing for many reasons, including being heralded as “The Startup City” and one of the most livable cities in the world.
However, as with many areas in Japan, the declining birthrate, aging society, decreasing population, and environmental issues are at the forefront of many peoples’ minds. Taking a proactive approach to these issues, Fukuoka Smart East aims to create a futuristic city where comfortable living and innovation intersect to make a sustainable city. As smart city initiatives are launching both in Japan and overseas, Fukuoka City is ready to take on the challenge and develop the future of urban redevelopment.
What Makes Fukuoka Perfect for Innovation?
Among the cities in Japan that hold government ordinances, Fukuoka is the most populous city with the highest population growth rate. Tourism is also booming in Fukuoka, with over 20million visitors in 2017, which was a record high for the sixth consecutive year. Fukuoka's well-established domestic and international transportation network makes tourism seamless and promotes easy business travel. At Fukuoka's International Airport, many airlines connect Fukuoka to twenty-three cities around the globe and offer as many as 800 flights each week.
Two of the main reasons for the city's steady growth are Fukuoka's history and topography. Fukuoka's Hakata Port has long made the city a hub for Asian trade and is the oldest international port in Japan. By offering an access point to the rest of Japan, Hakata flourished as an international commercial city and has continued to develop this legacy. Another interesting fact is that Fukuoka does not have any first-class rivers, and is not suitable for the manufacturing industry as it requires industrial water. As a result, Fukuoka has focused on expanding other fields such as IT and the service industry.
Due to this more creative focus, Fukuoka was able to develop into a startup city. High population growth rate, a young population, convenient transportation, a compact city, low business costs and office rent, and good positioning in the growing Asian market are just some of the factors that contribute to Fukuoka's strong startup community. Startup City Fukuoka was officially established in 2012, with the goal of becoming a startup hub within Kyushu and all of Asia. Since the movement began, the city has focused on attracting startup companies from both within Japan and from overseas and supporting their establishment within Fukuoka.
To further these startup efforts, Fukuoka City has signed memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with ten areas to provide mutual startup support. These areas include Estonia, Helsinki, Taipei, San Francisco, Bordeaux, Auckland, Singapore, Barcelona, Bangkok, and St. Petersburg. Fukuoka is a bridge that connects the world and Kyushu, and the city fosters a community of innovation.
Developing the City of the Future
After the startup city movement began in earnest nearly seven years ago, the idea for Fukuoka Smart East began to form. The primary goal of the project is to create a city of the future that is comfortable, innovative, and proactively addresses social issues that Japan is facing. By developing solutions and strategies to resolve modern challenges, especially the declining birthrate, aging population, and environmental issues, Fukuoka Smart East will become a model city.
Fukuoka Smart East is located on the former site of the Kyushu University Hakozaki Campus. This easily-accessible location is just five minutes from central areas in Fukuoka including Tenjin and Hakata. There are also three subway lines and major transportation hubs including Hakata Port and Fukuoka Airport located within a 4 km radius. The site of Fukuoka Smart East is quite vast, spanning nearly 50 hectares, which makes it perfect for conducting demonstrations and testing new technology.
As of 2018, Kyushu University’s Hakozaki Campus has been relocated to the West Ward in Fukuoka City. Now, Fukuoka Smart East is ready to create a testing ground to solve complicated challenges while also respecting Fukuoka’s rich cultural history. We will focus on the following areas:
- Create new vitality and idea exchanges
- Create a productive educational and research environment
- Create a space where everyone can live safe, comfortable, and healthy lives
- Create a sustainable city that works in harmony with the environment
- Value historical and cultural resources
In alignment with the goals above, we will attempt to create a city that our residents can be proud of in the future. We will work on innovative projects and create high-quality solutions to provide the best in comfortable urban living.
Innovating and Creating
First, elements of the Hakozaki area must be modified to accommodate the new smart city. These changes must also take local regulations and laws into account. Given that Fukuoka City has been certified as a National Strategic Special Zone, there are some ideas that can only be implemented by Fukuoka City. Our team is looking for services and ideas that fall within the following areas:
Fukuoka City, the Fukuoka Directive Council(FDC), and other teams have recruited groups from across the country to demonstrate their innovative projects that focus on solving social issues. These projects use advanced technologies such as AI and IoT and are showcased in demonstrations through the Smart East PoC Program. Some PoC Program projects include:
Case 1: Automated delivery robot driving demonstration
In November of 2018, we conducted a demonstration of a delivery robot that automatically transports luggage. The robot can avoid obstacles, navigate narrow passages, and can track leaders to follow, such as delivery people. We anticipate that these robots will help to provide smooth and safe delivery on busy roads, while also assisting those who cannot carry heavy loads.
Case 2: Disaster evacuation drill technology
In July of 2019, we conducted a disaster evacuation drill demonstration using Kotozna Chat* technology. This chat tool provides automatic translations for non-Japanese speakers and transmits messages about disasters and evacuation orders. These and crucial post-evacuation messages were automatically translated into the language selected by the user.
* Kotozna Chat is a tool that allows simultaneous multilingual translation among various social media platforms. Users can send messages in the native language of each recipient, even between different social media services (for example, Facebook and LINE).
Building the Future of Fukuoka
Just as the community needed innovative startups to turn Fukuoka into a startup city, Fukuoka Smart East’s community development requires input. To succeed, the project needs contributions from local community members, field experts, and those who are passionate about cutting-edge technology that will solve social issues. Our team strives to make Fukuoka a city where everyone can live comfortably alongside innovative ideas, and it will be a community effort to achieve this goal.
We look forward to seeing startup companies and businesses working together to bring heart and thoughtful contributions to these growing social issues. If you have any ideas or suggestions for the Fukuoka Smart East initiative, please don’t hesitate to contact us at this address firstname.lastname@example.org.