The concept of “knowledge district” as a key element of urban planning for the knowledge industry
I have been conducting multidisciplinary research on urban planning in the current era of post-industrialization. Most recently, my research activities are focused on regional economic development centered around the knowledge industry and the way the urban environment can support such development. I also work with private companies to analyze the development potential of specific geographic regions, using micro data on industrial activity, towards the resolution of specific issues in urban business areas.
Industrial activity has long been a defining factor for urban configuration. As the nature of industry changes, so does the shape of the city. With regard to regional development in Japan, industrialization has been a central topic since WWII, and the national landscape has been shaped to reflect that concept. However, in recent years, post-industrialization and “knowledgization” have emerged and advanced, and the knowledge industry, which specializes in the production of knowledge, has become a driving force of urban development. Under those circumstances, more and more cities are advocating the creation of the Knowledge City (KC) as an embodiment of the knowledge society. Nevertheless, planning theory that specifies how KCs should be realized is not yet fully in place. In my opinion, city scale is too large for concrete planning, so we should proceed with the planning on a smaller scale, working with the concept of Knowledge District (KD).
Understanding the mechanism of location in the knowledge industry
From the perspective of strategic formation of KDs, attracting the knowledge industry to a location and promoting clustering there are important keys; but for that purpose, it is necessary to understand the mechanism of location in the knowledge industry at the intra-metropolitan scale. Therefore, I defined the knowledge industry using the Japan Standard Industry Classification (JSIC) and analyzed its tendency to cluster in the Tokyo metropolitan area, and compared it with the location of general service industries. The results showed that the knowledge industry has a very strong tendency to be clustered in city centers. In order to acquire more detailed results, I conducted a questionnaire survey to determine the reasons for selection of a location. I found that the main factors that caused the knowledge industry to be clustered in city centers were: the economy of urbanization (profit generated by the accumulation of heterogeneous companies); food amenity; and nightlife amenity. Since these three elements are thought to be formed interdependently in highly urbanized spaces, I saw the need for an integrated concept, which I named Urbanity Capital (Figure 1).
Exploring planning approaches: A KD case study
A good example of KD in Japan is the Tennozu district in Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo. Tennozu is a redeveloped business area on a seaside landfill adjacent to the city center. Many office buildings were built there, peaking around 1990. The main street in the area is Bond Street, where landowners and leaseholders created a lively atmosphere by promoting town development under the art town theme. They eliminated the run-down atmosphere of the former commercial street lined with old warehouses and fashioned an attractive streetscape, full of urban capital that could attract the knowledge industry.
This atmosphere has succeeded in attracting knowledge related companies with a high degree of creativity and design capability, in sectors such as information and communications; Internet-related, advertising, design, and apparel and fashion. The district has evolved from a distribution and wholesale town into a knowledge industry town. As a result, food amenities and nightlife amenities, such as brewery restaurants and bakery cafes, have improved greatly. I text mined and analyzed keywords in newspaper articles about the area, and found that “art” and “gallery” have been in heavy use in the past decade. This indicates that the development of the theme, “town of art,” has successfully revitalized the regional image (Figure. 2).
I am currently conducting further analysis on location as a key factor of the knowledge industry. For example, I analyzed the location determinants of X-tech businesses, which provide new value by combining technology and traditional business. A well-known example of X-tech is “Fin-tech”, which combines “finance” and “technology” in services such as smartphone payments and virtual currencies. Other rapidly growing areas of X-tech include “Fashion-tech”, which combines technology and fashion, and “Ad-tech”, which combines advertising and technology. According to my analysis thus far, some X-techs serve as catalysts, activating existing industries, and have “local stickiness”: once they locate in a district, they stay for a long time. By elucidating in detail the location mechanism of X-tech, I hope to identify KD and KC plans that maximize the individuality of a region, and construct theory on the basis of those observations.
Interview and composition: Keiko Aimono
In cooperation with: Waseda University Graduate School of Political Science J-School