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Campus Now

New Year Issue (Jan.)

SPECIAL REPORT

Giving university wisdom back to society

Research Collaboration and Promotion Center, supporting creative innovation

The Research Collaboration and Promotion Center was established in 1999 in order to utilize the results of university research and attempt creative innovation, opening up a new generation.
We asked Center Head, Professor Kuniki Kino, to reflect on those activities and to elaborate on the significance of industry, government and academia cooperation and developments for the future.

Our mission should be to become a university which gives wisdom back to society

Kuniki Kino
Head of the Research Collaboration and Promotion Center
Head of the Research Institute for Science and Engineering

――First of all, please tell us about the background of the Research Collaboration and Promotion Center.

In order to promote Japanese Science and Technology, the government began promoting the technology transfer of university education research results. In 1999, based upon the 1998 Technology Licensing Organization Promotion Law (TLO Law), our university established an approved TLO to manage intellectual property (*1). After numerous reorganizing, it took on its current form as an incubation promotion laboratory where student and faculty venture business development takes place.

An approved TLO has three major roles to play. They are, "intellectual property management", procuring rights as intellectual property of results garnered from university education research and sending them overseas, "technology transfer", guiding technology transfer of those results and new industry creation, and contributing it to society, and "industry, government and academia cooperation creation", backing revitalization of society and cooperation with businesses.

Currently, operations are conducted by 23 faculty and staff, including 10 technical coordinators and three legal coordinators. The coordinators, as professionals, coordinate the discovery of intellectual property and trademark procedures, contract negotiations, and the linking of business needs and research seeds from our university.

At the university we have a mission to return wisdom to the community. It can be said that the center's activities bear the burden of carrying out that mission as well as leading to one of Waseda's educational aims, "application of knowledge".

――Please tell us the results you have gained looking back on the path you have taking since the launch.

The procuring of rights as a patent of research results has spread widely throughout the university. As a result of these 11 years, we have applied for more than 1400 patents, and the number of registered patent cases has reached around 250. Furthermore, the cases related to license use and practical implementation number approximately 190, resulting in 172.7 million yen income for the university.

The Basic Intellectual Property Law was enacted in 2003 and Waseda University was commissioned for the "University Intellectual Property Headquarters Development Project" by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, securing a total of over 300 million yen in activity funds by 2007, and developing industry, government and academia activities.

From patent application to registration takes four to five years, and a few more years are required for practical implementation. More than 10 years have passed since we started out, so I am hoping to see practical results appearing in the future.

――What strengths does Waseda University have that other universities don't?

Technology and legal coordinators belonging to the same organization, the rare sight of an approved TLO set up at a university, and close communication between the inventors, being the staff and students, are our strengths. Additionally, optimum support can be received due to technical coordinators being placed in each field. I think that with more than half the applications being joint projects with businesses is an indicator of promoting cooperation with businesses and practical implementation. I hope that we continue to put to use the merit of scale of a university possessing researchers and research results in a diverse range of fields.

――If that is the case, in which areas do you think issues lie?

Substantial manpower is required to ensure the discovery and use of the university's intellectual property. The majority of our current coordinators are part-time workers, making it an extremely difficult position to cover all areas of research.

We have also received feedback from companies saying, "It is hard to know what university department we should talk with." Until now, in the science and engineering course, each research laboratory has conducted their own joint research with businesses, but, in addition to that, there have been difficult to understand cases such as industry and academia cooperative offices in the Research Institute for Science and Engineering and social cooperation promotion offices in the Educational Affairs Division. I think it is necessary to develop a whole university, one-stop system that clarifies operations so industry and academia operations can be developed efficiently and positively, and appropriately placing staff such as coordinators.

――What do you think is necessary in the future in order to continue the industry, government and academia project?

Many years are required for the procurement of rights and practical implementation of research results. Leading researchers who can constantly work on the project are needed to maintain continuity.

Also, while there are business needs and research seeds from the university, a cause for industry and academia cooperation not progressing efficiently is the lack of "expert opinion". Based on social science and technology trends and business needs, we require a coordinator who will think of which on-campus researchers to link with the companies, what kind of research structure to organize, and one who can appropriately start up projects. It isn't that easy to find the right person. The university has provided a place for workers to study again, but surely there is a way to establish, for example, a program for training people with a wealth of business experience who have retired early as coordinators linking the university with businesses. I believe that the rotation of people ignites a rotation of wisdom and technology in the whole of society, and contribute to the creation of an abundant society incorporated with one's life plan.

Incubation Promotion Office arousing the minds of new business starters

――The Incubation Promotion Office was also established in 2001 to support students and staff aspiring to start businesses. Can you tell us in detail what projects are taking place?

The incubation center was opened near Toden Waseda Station in October 2008 to be used as a business activity base with the aim of creating innovation through raising business ventures. There are currently 12 business ventures, such as IT, medical supplies, environmental and contents businesses, housed in single offices. The number of member companies using the incubation community system, which can use the center's joint facilities, stands at 54.

Exchange meetings and business venture training lectures are held for residents, and searches for new advanced technology seeds, brushing up of students' business ideas, and business plan contests for arousing the minds of new business starters take place through cooperation with many researchers. We have been putting up steady results such as producing Taichi Murakami, President of Livesense, who, at the age of 25, in December 2011 become the youngest manager of a company to be listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Mothers Market.

There is a feeling of these kinds of businesses appearing, but in innovation creation, further business starter education is required. At the university, starting with the Open Education Center and Business School, subjects for business starter training in various areas are on offer, but there is not enough organized cooperation with the Innovation Center. I think that through the center, we could make new developments with, for example, the realization of collaborations with the Business School and Faculty of Science and Engineering. Society hopes for universities to produce "Nobel Prize caliber researchers", but in reality, I believe there is a strong demand for training "people who can make research results more competitive in the world".

Expand international developments by making the most of our name recognition in Asia

――What are your thoughts on international industry, government and academia cooperation?

Starting with China, our university boasts extremely high name recognition in Asia. Especially in China, because universities and national research organizations bear the role of research and development, in addition to Japanese high-tech industries, a lot of hope has also been placed on our university for research cooperation and transfer of technology.

In 2010, Waseda University was selected for the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology "Independent Promotion of Industry, Government and Academia Cooperation in Universities Project". An international industry, government and academia cooperation headquarters has been established with the Vice-President acting as director-general and international bases with profession staff set up in Beijing and Singapore. In the Asia region, with the use of these bases and agreements with the National University of Singapore and Chinese NGOs as a foothold, we are not only dispatching researchers, but also holding exhibitions and symposiums etc., and strengthening international industry, government and academia cooperation systems. In recent years, interest in Japan from Europe and America has been on the rise in high-tech fields such as electric cars and telecommunications, and content businesses. Because our university is also strong in these fields, we intend to actively take on the challenge of technology transfer in Europe and America.

In "Waseda Next 125", the target of creating "WASEDA" as a global university and forming a global campus is given, and we are promoting overseas exchanges and taking in exchange students. I hope that the students from overseas acquire Japanese technology and develop the practical use of it in their own countries, building a bridge between Japan and those nations.

Aiming for generation changing innovation creation

――From your point of view, someone who has had experience in both business and university, what significance do you think industry, government and academia cooperation has?

Different from business where research goals are clear, university research is ranked as research for education, and a major goal is human resource training. Accordingly, I think the industry, government and academia cooperation demands for businesses and universities are inevitably different. Business research and development has long supported postwar economic growth in Japan. The sharing of that experience and knowhow in joint research with businesses will be undoubtedly stimulating for master and doctorate students who are going into the workforce.

There aren't many instances where leading research results from universities are commercialized as is. What is required is a brush up of skills with a view toward technical development and manufacturing processes that meet the needs of society. Calling upon that methodology through joint development with businesses in the laboratories is an effective means. In research and development and technical development, which society will continue to rely upon universities for, I believe that objectivity and neutrality should be maintained and consideration must be given to a balance with research education.

――Finally, please tell us what the center's aims are.

I think that what the center is aiming for is to create innovation, which is also the university's mission, and construct and smoothly manage organized cooperation with society through human resource training. Innovation is the birth of revolutionary technology that changes a generation, such as the invention of the letterpress and gunpowder in the past, and the internet, mobile phones and electric cars in more recent times, and the thinking behind the creation of new values. Not only technology, innovation can also be taken as changes to business models. I think that the epoch-making technology and creative methodology that accompanies great social change, is what is demanded of a university.

Even in the previously mentioned "4th Basic Science and Technology Plan", it is said that "science and technology innovation creation" is necessary to regenerate Japan's commitment to technology. For universities, in addition to the technology transfer of leading research results and nurturing business ventures, they are required to arouse reformist minds and business starter minds. Even this university, along with the whole university carrying out its role as an innovation base, needs to strategically involve itself toward the creation of future society by making use of the good footwork and flexibility of Waseda. I want this center to take up that part.

(*1)Intellectual property.indicates something that has no "form" but is highly valuable (property) such as human ideas and brands etc. For example, written works and trademarks, designs, inventions etc.
(*2)Research seeds, Technology seeds.metaphors for hidden seeds that can connect new technology being researched by businesses and universities to bear large fruit in the future are called research seeds and technology seeds.

Kuniki Kino
Head of the Research Collaboration and Promotion Center
Head of the Research Institute for Science and Engineering

Graduated from the Department of Applied Chemistry, School of Advanced Science and Engineering, Waseda University in 1979. Completed his master's degree at the Graduate School of Science and Engineering in 1981 and his Doctor of Engineering (Waseda University) in 1987. Entered Kyowa Hakko in 1981. After working as head researcher in the Tokyo laboratory and technical research laboratory, became a professor at the School of Science and Engineering, Waseda University in 1999. Majors in applied chemistry. Started current positions as head of the Research Institute for Science and Engineering in September 2010, and head of the Research Collaboration and Promotion Center in November of the same year.

A wide range of new technology seeds

Case1

Air bubble boring technology which can also be used as a liquefaction prevention measure

"Air bubble boring technology", developed by Professor Hirokazu Akagi, Faculty of Science and Engineering, in collaboration with Magma Corporation and Taiyo Kiso Kogyo Corporation, is technology which can easily drill while maintaining the stability of the groove face by drilling while mixing air bubbles with the drilled earth. Because the soil returns to its original state when anti-foaming agent is added, the amount of discarded soil buried at landfill sites can be reduced buy one third to a half. It is expected that the soil improvement method, "AWARD-Demi", which was developed using this technology, will be utilized in foundation ground strengthening work, such as liquefaction prevention measures, that have gained in importance since the Great east Japan Earthquake.

Case2

Spreading out worldwide, safe and high-quality 3D conversion technology

Quality eXperience Design deals with 3D image conversion in currently popular 3D movies etc. Established in 2008 behind the research of Professor Takashi Kawai and Professor Kohei Ando from the Faculty of Science and Engineering, it is a business that started out from Waseda University's Incubation Center. Making 3D images their priority in order to respond to consumer comments that they get tired when watching 3D images, the company has been involved in conversion software development and high-quality operations. Projects so far, as well as the movie Kaibutsu-kun, include 3D conversion of Moomins and the Comet Chase, released in Finland in the summer of 2010, and are gaining attention worldwide.

Case3

Development of the world's thinnest sticking plaster,
Hopes for practical use in medical application

Faculty of Science and Engineering Assistant Toshnori Fujie and Professor Shinji Takeoka, in cooperation with the National Defense Medical College, have achieved a world first with medical application of highly polymerized ultra-thin membrane (nanosheet) using polysaccharides as surgical operation vulnerary covering material (nanoplaster). They have developed a nano-sticking plaster that is 1/1000 the thinness of plastic food wrap. It has been proven that a wound can be safely closed just by sticking it to the damaged area of the organ, even if pressure is added. It has also become possible for the wound to heal without post-operation tissue adhesion, so it is hopeful that the nano-sticking plaster will be used as a new method in addition to the old surgical method of using sutures, removal, and covering material.

Case4

Birth of the nation's youngest Stock Exchange listing president from Waseda's Incubation Center

On December 7, 2011, Livesense, a business venture coming from Waseda, was listed in the Tokyo Stock Exchange Mother's section. Representative Director Taichi Murakami is 25 years old, becoming the youngest ever in Japan to be listed on the market. President Murakami won first prize in business plan presentation contest held by the "Basic New Business Venture Training Course" that he took as a first year student at the School of Political Science and Economics. Using the privilege of a year's free usage of office space at the university's Incubation Center, he started his business in February 2006. His current business is developing various web services centered on part-time recruitment sites such as career changes, dispatch work, rented housing and second hand cars.

Interviews with specialist staff

The importance of clarifying evaluation standards and judgment

Technical coordinator,Patent lawyer
Hidetoshi Enomoto

From my position as a patent lawyer, in order to give the technology produced at the university back to society, I give advice to faculty and staff about procurement of patents and maintenance. Patent rights are indispensable in securing superiority of others in the practical application of technology. However, finding a business that will practically apply the technology to meet the needs of the community isn't that easy. Even Waseda has applied for many patents of its research results since the establishment of the approved TLO in 1999, but at the moment, many of those are yet to be applied. I think there are various differing views in the sense of university patent possession and business possession. Universities should aim to give the results of their research back to society and, moreover, strive to thoroughly consult with researchers to extract a plan for future use of patents without lowering research incentives for the researchers. What is important is clarifying evaluation standards and judgment from a patent benefit viewpoint.

Sharing an image for the future of society

Technical coordinator, Doctor of Physics
Hiromasa Nagao

The job of a technical coordinator is to enable that the process from making creative research results intellectual property to commercialization can be seen before one's eyes.

Using my experience from large corporations to starter businesses, and my long years developing reagent chemicals and equipment in the field of physics and chemistry, I predict technology and market developments and am involved in transfer activities for the practical application of new technology seeds. Because this is a job where, more than technology being your partner, you make people your partners, steadily building relationships of trust with various people is the first step of technology transfer.

This university has abundant "wisdom", "equipment", and "brand name power". If more use is made of those, I think that a "Waseda" industry, government and academia cooperation, that can match the needs of society, can be achieved. I hope that, in the future, technology developed at Waseda University will be used throughout the world.