Introducing YOXO and the Yokohama Future Organization, Yokohama City’s newest initiatives to foster innovation, build a strong startup ecosystem, and promote inter-company collaboration.
Since Yokohama City’s “Innovation City” declaration in January 2019, the city has been aiming to establish itself as one of Japan’s major hubs of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit through establishing a community-focused environment that connects large businesses, universities, SMEs, and government, and allows for open collaboration. The Yokohama Future Organization is the newest such initiative, and uses the recent “YOXO” brand developed to promote open innovation and exchange within Yokohama.
The newly-formed Yokohama Future Organization describes itself as an “Innovation Development Organization” that assists challengers who are tackling new innovations both in Yokohama and around the world; a “Network Support Organization” that coordinates collaboration between organizations and institutions; and an “Innovation Area Management Organization” open to the world, which aims to build a “City of the Future”. While initially created from the idea of supporting innovation and tackling local issues within the city of Yokohama, membership within the network is open to parties from all across Japan and internationally, and a number of the organizations’ goals specifically focus on its international partners.
The Organization intends to tackle these goals through an initial series of 10 initiatives. These initiatives largely focus on the sharing of information and opportunity, and are organized under the label “X-VISION” into three major “Visions:” “City of the Future Experience,” “City for Challengers,” and “Cross-border City.” The organization describes these three Visions as respectively focusing on: creating a city where the future can be experienced, becoming a city that thoroughly supports those who challenge, and building a city beyond the boundaries of businesses, regions, and nations. To be more specific, the goals and initiatives within these Visions break down as follows:
- City of the Future Experience: initiatives creating local public support and connecting consumers with the newest products, ideas, and test projects proposed and implemented by member organizations.
- City for Challengers: initiatives that grow and nurture Yokohama’s startup ecosystem by connecting entrepreneurs with education and training, equipment, and research options.
- Cross-border City: initiatives that leverage Yokohama’s vast base of international corporations and organizations as well as international members of the Yokohama Future Organization to incorporate global needs and experience into the innovation pipeline.
The full list of the 10 initiatives and their explanations is available in English on the Yokohama Future Organization’s handout.
The Yokohama Future Organization is the first organization to officially utilize the city’s new “YOXO” brand and motto since the startup support center “YOXO BOX” which opened in October 2019. YOXO is pronounced “yoku-zo” and is a homophone of a Japanese exclamation which means “great job.” The term is an acronym meaning “Yokohama Cross-Over,” which as a motto symbolizes the city’s dedication to creating an environment of corporate and individual collaboration, business development, and open innovation. The official description on the Yokohama Future Organization’s page reads, “YOXO is a movement and an ecosystem among a variety of business operators who engage in activities to create innovation in the experiment field of Yokohama.”
“YOXO” initiatives have already facilitated exciting collaboration since the motto’s conception and implementation. The YOXO BOX startup center is located in Yokohama’s Kannai district, known for its creativity and artistic population. The center has been supporting startup growth through various initiatives such as an in-house accelerator program, an “innovation school” program, shared office space, and free consultations. YOXO BOX has also been collaborating with Yokohama National University, offering select university startups one year of free shared office space, and has worked with the US-based technical school Galvanize to offer informational sessions on digitalization for Yokohama-based companies.
Yokohama Future Organization joins the other inter-organizational networks within the Yokohama, including “LIP. Yokohama” for the life sciences, and “ITOP Yokohama” for the tech and IoT sectors. Applications to become a member of the Yokohama Future Organization are currently being accepted on their website (link: https://yoxo.city.yokohama.lg.jp/en/join-en/)