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Demola in Japan: A New Gateway to Asia

14 Mar 2019
by Riikka Kämppi

Hokkaido University was proud to be the first Asian university to join the Demola alliance. Since autumn 2018, companies and university students in Japan now have a completely new method of working together: Demola innovation challenges.

Blockchain technology, drones, health data, care for the elderly – the first batch of Demola innovation challenges in Japan in autumn 2018 revolved around themes that are globally interesting. Experts from four different companies worked together with Hokkaido university students for eight weeks to demo future product and service concepts. 

The companies were extremely happy with the Demola model and the results. Co-creation is more and more important for Japanese companies and Demola is a great opportunity to connect their employees with highly educated students, says Itsuro Sugimura, the head of Demola Hokkaido.

Expertise flows in both directions in Demola. While Demola provides a chance for Japanese companies to work with local and international university students, Finnish corporations also have a new gateway to Asia to join forces with students from Japan. 

Students and professionals work as equals in Demola challenges, which makes Demola a tool for a truly new kind of cooperation – especially in Japan where hierarchies are known to be extremely vital in the corporate culture, says Pekka Silven, Vice President of Demola Global.

Passionate students and unique networks  

In the autumn, the Demola innovation challenges in Hokkaido encouraged the participants to try different ways of innovative thinking, while researching society and industry in connection with business ideas.

The Demola challenges have provided our students with the invaluable experience of working with professionals from the private sector. We are eager to develop our Demola program further by increasing student and cooperation involvement as a way to bolster innovation, says Jyunji Nishii, Vice President of Hokkaido University.

With Demola, students realise how to make business and ideas.

Not only the program but also the participants are the benefits from attending Demola. They have the passion to learn and it stimulated me much, explains Riko Amma, student at the Faculty of Engineering, Course of Architecture at Hokkaido University.

The head of Demola Hokkaido, Itsuro Sugimura agrees and says that the most important thing for participants is networking in a new way. 

With Demola, students realise how to make business and ideas. These students will be future leaders who might be employed to these organisations later, Itsuro says. 

The future looks bright 

Demola Global was established in Finland and has expanded over the years from the Nordic countries to Central and Southern Europe, South Africa, Mexico and now Asia. The importance of Asia is undeniable for Demola.

The entry into Japan gave us more diversity and showed that our concept stands the test of cultural differences. It works in Asia just as well as in Europe, Africa or America, Vice President Silven states.

Following the success in Japan, Demola has opened a new office in Shanghai this spring and wants to have an important role in strengthening the link between Europe and Asia.

A couple of weeks ago I had a chance to visit Finland and follow Demola events in Tampere. This gave me a bunch of new ideas and helps me to develop the Demola concept in Japan, where Demola will have an even bigger role in the future, Itsuro Sugimura smiles. 

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