Lauren Does Japan

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Enterprise Education - 3 Similarities Between Wales and Japan

At the end of September, I spent three days in Japan as part of the Enterprise Educators UK (EEUK) study visit, aimed at sharing best practice in enterprise education. I was delighted to have been selected for this exciting opportunity and also to be the only educator from a Welsh institution participating. The delegation was made up of 10 individuals from across the UK, working in various roles that encompass enterprise education.

The delegation was split into two teams, one visiting Tokyo and the other Osaka. I was in the Osaka team and though I was only there for a short time, I found it to be an incredibly vibrant and exciting city. Historically, Osaka was the centre for commerce in Japan but nowadays many of the city's brightest new start-ups tend to move to Tokyo or further afield.  Reflecting on the visit, here are the three key lessons that I took back to Cardiff Met:

1. Fear of failure is a common barrier to start-up

It was interesting to note that Japan shared many challenges with Wales, particularly around fear of failure being a key barrier to entrepreneurship. The Japanese delegates highlighted that parents would often discourage their children from entrepreneurship, preferring that they select 'safer' (more traditional) career options.

This mirrors the situation in Wales, which has a lower level of Entrepreneurial Intention than the UK as a whole, with 38% of the population being deterred from starting a business due to fear of failure (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor). The importance of positive entrepreneurial role models was highlighted as a key way of overcoming this barrier, with the Big Ideas Wales role model programme identified as good practice. 

2. 'Technovation' is key

'Technovation', i.e. innovation enabled through advancements in technology, was a clear area of focus for every university that we visited, as well as being a priority for the local governments. For example, the Osaka City Government is attempting to generate new tech start-ups through the Osaka Innovation Hub, which aims to replicate the success of Silicon Valley. The Innovation Hub is located within a busy shopping centre in which shoppers can test out beta versions of the latest technology. Again, there are clear parallels here with Wales in which the digital economy is a priority sector and innovation-driven entrepreneurship is the focus of the Welsh Government's Be the Spark initiative.

3. Tackling real problems is the focus

One thing that really struck me at each of the universities was their emphasis on using enterprise education to tackle real world problems. Japan faces many societal challenges such as an ageing population and air pollution, it was interesting to learn how these challenges are being introduced into the classroom. Again, there were parallels here with Wales, particularly in my own experience here at Cardiff Met in which events such as hackathons have helped to engage a diverse range of students in enterprise education. With the rise of social entrepreneurship, there is a growing emphasis on the wider application of entrepreneurial skills and mindsets and the benefits to society as a whole.