Entrepreneurial Engines of Economic Growth around the World
Edited by Jerome S. Engel
Chapter 8: Japan: the university as a driver for innovation in response to two decades of economic depression
This chapter examines the challenges facing Japan in recovering from two decades of economic depression, the correlation of this economic malaise to the decline of Japanese entrepreneurial innovation, the recent role of the national universities in addressing the entrepreneurial gap and in fostering technology commercialization and innovation, and the challenges that remain. After World War II, the Japanese economy experienced an unprecedented time of rapid economic growth, known as the ‘economic miracle years’, characterized by the birth of innovative companies such as Panasonic, Toyota, Canon, Sony and Honda that rapidly became world leaders. In the late 1980s the economic boom led to aggressive speculation and subsequent crisis, from which Japan has not yet recovered. Among other factors contributing to this sustained decline, the dearth of entrepreneurship in these decades plays a significant role. Cultural, societal, educational, legal, and financial factors lie at the root of this entrepreneurial gap. In the early 2000s government policy makers acknowledged the importance of innovation in restarting the economy and identified the national universities as a driver for increasing entrepreneurship and innovation. The universities, leaders in Nobel Prize-winning research, were made independent from the national government and given the mandate to disseminate and utilize their research for the benefit of society. The University of Tokyo provides an example of how these goals have been implemented over the last ten years through entrepreneurship education, university-industry collaborations, startup support, and seed funding.
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