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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Start-ups in Asia – the role of agglomerations and international linkages

The rise of the internet-economy and the advancement of computer, life science and new material technologies have multiplied the potential of new business solutions. High-tech start-ups are seen as an important vehicle for exploiting this potential. They have close links to respective scientific knowledge bases. Their initially relatively small size allows for many parallel trial-and-error ventures. At the same time, they possess a strong growth potential due to their high knowledge intensity and/or to the digital character of their product or service, so that the winning idea can can quickly be scaled to a global market size generating high returns to investors, but also creating new and often well paid employment. The strategic importance of start-ups for innovation and growth has made them not only an interesting object of research, but also a target of economic policy at the national as well as regional and local level.

From a functional perspective it is well known what start-ups need – availability and access to high-class research, a financing infrastructure well-tuned to the specific needs of different development stages, including exit options via IPO, access to qualified personnel, open markets, a regulatory and tax environment favourable to the risk profile of start-ups, and last but not least a culture that nurtures and supports entrepreneurial spirit. What is less known is the importance of the geographic dimension regarding the functional prerequisites. There are in fact two opposing strands of literature – one stressing the importance of regional or local clusters in providing the essential eco-system for start-ups, the other pointing to the need for strong international linkages to tap global research, global investors, global talent and global markets.

Our research project will look at both geographic aspects, namely the local conditions and the international connections. Empirically we will focus on some of the largest agglomerations in Asia, mainly Tokyo, Seoul, Suzhou and Chongqing. Leading research questions are

  • How important are local conditions and international linkages with respect to the functional prerequisites?
  • How do local and international conditions relate? Do they complement each other or can they be substituted?
  • How does the importance of local and international conditions as well as their interaction vary across the different agglomerations?

The comparative character allows us to see how regulatory, economic, social and cultural factors shape the relative importance and interaction of local conditions and international linkages. Last, but not least the focus on agglomerations in China, Japan and Korea contributes to better understanding of countries that, especially in the case of Japan and Korea, have so far not been considered as providing start-up friendly eco-systems and have therefore attracted less research interest. Besides compensating for this lack of interest, we will update and if necessary correct the traditional image.

Time frame: 2015 to 2017 


フランツ・ヴァルデンベルガー フランツ・ヴァルデンベルガー


日本におけるリスクとチャンス ー 不確実性の増す将来に向けた課題



[Cheng, Ying; Kotosaka, Masahiro; Loh, Chang-Ti; Waldenberger, Franz; マーティン・ヘンマート; フローリアン・コールバッハ] High-tech Start-up Ecosystems in East Asian Agglomerations: Are They Different From the West? . Tokyo: Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien. 32 p.


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