Q What do you consider to be Kobe’s main attractions for international investors?
A One of the key advantages Kobe has is that the RIKEN laboratory, which is equivalent to the National Institutes of Health in the US, has set up its base here. In fact, they are opening not just one facility in Kobe but three centres – one in regenerative medicine, another in molecular imaging, and the third will be the world’s fastest super computer.
The fact that this very prestigious organisation has set up its base in Kobe is very, very significant. It will conduct basic research here and it is very willing to give support to other corporations that will set up a base in the city.
This is going to provide an important network that other companies can rely on. We have already seen venture capital companies setting up shop in Kobe, growing and then being listed on the stock market. So there is a very strong culture for companies to come in and to grow in conjunction with RIKEN.
Q When will the RIKEN facilities be set up?
A The first two RIKEN facilities are already here, the super computer is yet to come. RIKEN, which focuses on regenerative medicine, is going to include IBS cell research in its scope. IBS cell research is a Nobel-prize type of discovery. Because of that, the Japanese government has specified that this research should take place in Kobe. This is very significant for us.
The RIKEN project began 10 years ago, and in that 10 years we have managed to attract 133 companies in the medical field. My aim is to increase this number of companies to 200 by 2010, and in the longer term I would like to see it grow to 500.
The idea is to build a medical cluster around our new hospital by bringing medical facilities in adjacent. We now have three universities, and three more will be set up around the supercomputer.
We have an academic zone and there is going to be synergy between this academic zone and the medical zone. The latter can rely very much on the data analysis undertaken by the supercomputer facilities.
A German company, Boehringer Ingelheim, has decided to establish itself next to the molecular imaging building – so we are witnessing a chain reaction.
And some of the venture companies are now being listed on the stock markets. Up until now it has been preparatory. Now we are actually seeing the hatching of the eggs and we are waiting for some chickens.
Q How do you think the global financial crisis will affect your city?
A Many sectors will suffer from the financial crisis but not so much the medical sector. The sector will remain relatively immune to the global slowdown. Of course, if there were funds or financial institutions involved in this project, they would be hit, but they are not really our targets.
Fund-related projects are definitely being hit. Along the waterfront of Kobe City there were plans to build seven hotels but some of the funds withdrew money, so two hotel construction plans had to be cancelled.
Of course, ventures need capital, they need money, but we work with ventures that rely not so much on venture capital funds but more on bank borrowing. It is my policy not to attract funds to our projects.
2001Kobe City government
2000Kobe City Social Welfare Council
1997Kobe City Public Health and Welfare Bureau