November 19 - December 5, 1997


Win Aung, Ph.D., P.E.
Division of Engineering Education and Centers
National Science Foundation
Arlington, VA 22230
Tel: 703-306-1383
Fax: 703-306-0326

February 3, 1998


Recent press accounts and visitors to and from Japan including those from government agencies such as Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and Science and Technology Agency (STA), have indicated that major changes are taking place in the traditional relationship between universities and industry in Japan. Already, there is an extensive network of centers and institutes that are engaged in cooperative research; however, while past cooperation has been restricted to information exchange, the barriers that have kept academia away from industry are being removed gradually.

It is the authorís intention in undertaking the present Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Fellowship to obtain a perspective on the recent development in and future plans for university-industry cooperation in Japan. The perspective will be based on anecdotal evidence gained through visits with a limited set of organizations in Japan. During the 17-day trip, the author visited four major universities, three public and one private; three government agencies (Monbusho, MITI and STA); three major research centers and institutes for cooperative research established by the prefectural governments; and the research laboratory of a private company - Sumitomo Industrial Corp.


B.1 Potential Impact of Upcoming Government Reform

Japan governmentís chief reform panel recently finalized an earlier proposal to streamline the nationís administrative structure. At the time of my visit, the plans that have been finalized by the Administrative Reform Council, chaired by the Prime Minister, include the creation of a Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. This new ministry would combine the existing Education Ministry (Monbusho) with STA. The proposed reform is a major topic of discussion among those who are likely to be affected. Among them are the people in the universities who derive funding from Monbusho. Japan Governmentís recurring budget deficit is causing concerns. Beyond that, the unification of Monbusho and STA, two powerful but separate agencies that historically had distinct clienteles -- one dealing almost exclusively with university research and education (Monbusho) while the other with R&D at national laboratories (STA) -- is viewed as likely to have important implications on how universities and industry work together in the future.

The current feeling in Japanís academia is that the new ministry, if approved by the Japanese Diet, will have an impact on university-industry R&D linkages. The new ministry will no doubt draw upon ongoing assessment of similar overseas experiences including those in the U.S. In addition, one of the two centers for cooperative research funded in 1996 by Monbusho itself will seek to investigate the suitability of the various approaches for Japan. This particular center, headed by Prof. I. Yasui, has been established at the University of Tokyo starting in 1996. (As discussed in the following, the total number of such centers funded by Monbusho will stand at 56 by the end of 1998.) My discussion with him shows that he has a very intimate knowledge of the various types of university-industry cooperative research centers established in the U.S.

B.2 Education Reform and University-Industry Cooperation

Japan Science and Technology Basic Plan, adopted in 1996, singles out university-industry cooperation as a key strategy for enhancing the nationís R&D infrastructure. In early 1997, the Japan Government proposed six major reform efforts that include education reform. As a part of the reform, Monbusho has adopted the recommendations of the Study Group on University-Industry Cooperation.

The call for change arises in part as a response to critics who have pointed that Japanís future economic well-being will depend on the nationís ability to develop new technologies, and that universities will need to play a more active role through cooperation with industry. National universities in Japan are expected to continue to contribute to the nationís well being through basic and applied research in all fields of science and through the production of well educated graduates; however, through meaningful cooperation with industry, it is anticipated that academia will be able to carry out research that is more relevant to industrial R&D, thereby improving the quality of education provided to students.

Significantly, Monbusho has relaxed its restrictions in regard to eligibility of universities to apply for funding from non-Monbusho agencies such as MITI. In addition, the Ministry is considering a modification of the service law so as to allow professors at national universities to engage in industrial research and even set up business enterprises. These measures are aimed at increasing technology innovations at Japanís universities, which garnered, in 1994, less than 140 patents as compared to almost 2,000 patents obtained by universities in the U.S.

Specific measures under consideration by Monbusho, and to be adopted by the new Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, are applicable to national universities, but it hopes that regional and private universities also will adopt them. These measures are:

  1. Enhancing information exchange between universities and industry. Measures include strengthening JSPSí support for university-industry research committees, increasing university-industry interaction through professional societies, in addition to other measures. Universities are expected to discard the passive role played in the past and take concrete steps to broaden their contributions to the society at large. Research information is to be posted on home pages. A system to seek industry support for research is to be set up.
  2. Modifying personnel policies and intellectual property regulations, to enhance exchanges of personnel. University and industry researchers will be allowed to conduct joint research on sites of their choice. Participation by university researchers in the commercialization of his/her invention will be permitted. Universities will pursue new measures of technology transfer to small and medium sized firms. Faculty members from national universities will be allowed to receive additional pay through consulting work with industry though incomes from such activities will need to be accounted for.
  3. Promoting regional cooperation. Universities will need to increasingly position themselves as a core R&D and economic development agent within the respective regions (prefectures). A systematic database showing successful and unsuccessful university-industry projects are to be prepared by the universities. Monbushoís centers for cooperative research are to increase their outreach to small and medium sized firms and to be more active in the regionsí research parks, and in patent application and commercialization of new technologies.
  4. Promoting more effective utilization of research results. In addition to establishing a database on university-industry research cooperation, universities are expected to disseminate the results in a timely manner with due regard to the need to leave out sensitive information (for example, on operation know-how) in order to protect the interest of the firms concerned. Universities are to develop new models for technology transfer. Industry is requested to provide more assistance to universities, such as in developing internship programs for students. Monbusho is very keen on instilling originality and creativity among university students.

B.3 Initiation of Industrial Internships at Universities

As a result of Monbushoís education reform efforts, a high level Working Group (WG) on Promotion of Industrial Internships at Universities was formed in early 1997. Chaired by Prof. T. Kimura, President of Tokyo Institute of Technology (TIT), the WG has 15 members from industry and academia. Industry representation comes from Sony, NTT, Hitachi, among others. Besides TIT, universities represented include Keio University (the largest private university in Japan), and Toyohashi University of Science and Technology.

The objective of the WG is to examine the relevant issues and make recommendations to increase university-industry interaction, by focusing on appropriate mechanisms for industrial internships for college students. Monbusho is paying attention to this issue as a means of enhancing scientific and engineering creativity at universities and colleges.

While the WGís recommendations will standardize, expand and institutionalize the practice, industrial internships are not new in Japan. For example, a recent survey conducted by the WG finds that in 1996 the participation rate for internships programs in the various categories of universities and colleges is summarized in the following table:

Type of Institutions

Total Number of Institutions

No. of Institutions Having Existing Internships Programs

Existing Percentage

Planned Percentage Increase (and New Percentage)

5-Year Technical Colleges*




4.8% (54.8%)

4-Year Colleges




4.9% (22.7%)

2-year Colleges




2.0% (8.4%)

* Programs in 5-year technical colleges are comprised of a 3-year academic program at the high school level followed by a 2-year internship in industry.

The above table indicates that 104 four-year colleges in Japan, representing close to 18% of the total of 586, currently have internships programs. For two-year colleges 6.4%, or 36 out of a total of 559 institutions, have internship activities for students. The planned increases in the numbers of student interns for 2-, 4-, and 5-year colleges are relatively modest, but they show that over 22% of the 4-year colleges will be participating in industry internships. The WGís recommendations will lead to new Monbusho guidelines for these internships.

B.4 Expanding the Role of Cooperative Research Centers at National Universities

In 1996, Monbusho created two new centers for cooperative research, both at large national universities. These are located at the University of Tokyo and Nagoya University, respectively. With two additional CCRs due to be established in 1998, at Tohoku University and the Tokyo Institute of Technology, respectively, the total number of CCRs will rise to 56. These four new CCRs, the first to be created at a major national university, are by far the largest in terms of personnel and allocated laboratory space. Each also has a much broader R&D mission, which includes creating offices for technology licensing.

Monbushoís funding of CCR-UT came against a backdrop of a steady economic downturn in Japan that started in the early 1990ís. There is now a view held by many in the country that academic research must relate more to the problems of industry. To contribute to a prosperous future Japanese society, the academic community must pursue new ideas for linking universities and industry in research and development.

I had an opportunity to visit the new Center for Cooperative Research at the University of Tokyo (CCR-UT). The CCR-UT is directed by Professor I. Yasui, who was originally affiliated with the Universityís Institute of Industrial Science (IIS). First established in the late 1940ís, IIS is one of two long established research entities at the University, the other being the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology (RCAST). Though small in comparison with IIS and RCAST, CCR has a unique fast-track mission, namely, to investigate new systems, approaches and mechanisms for university-industry cooperation.

As presently structured, CCR-UTís professional staff is comprised of a director (Prof. Yasui) and eight senior professors drawn from the existing faculty on campus. In addition, and this is what makes CCR-UT unique among Japanese and U.S. research universities, CCR-UT also has authorization to engage four (recently increased to seven) visiting professors from industry and/or government, and four foreign visiting professors. The Centerís approach is to appoint only high level managers from industry or government as visiting professors; as such they are not "visiting" on a full-time basis. Professor Yasui emphasized that the whole question of university-industry interaction is an infrastructure issue that will be investigated in CCR in the coming years, and hence the role to be played by these visiting professors remain to be defined. The nationalities of the Centerís foreign visiting professors are: U.S. (3), Chinese (1), and French (1).

The existing visiting professors are affiliated with Mitsubishi Chemicals, Nissan Motors, Hitachi, Mitsubishi Heavy Industrials, Tokyo Electric Power Corp., and MITI. One vacancy remains to be filled.

Eight areas of focus have been selected by CCR, namely:

  1. Optical Engineering
  2. Prediction and Control of Complex Fluid Flow
  3. Quantum Nanoelectronics
  4. Sustainability and Environmental Science
  5. Urbanism, Design, and Theory on Technology
  6. Information and Medical Electronic Devices
  7. Composite Materials Science and Engineering
  8. Advanced Biomedical Engineering and Life Sciences

In addition to serving as visiting professors, industry participate through membership in the advisory committee, the proposal review committee, and in research seminars.

The CCR-UT currently has 2,500 square meters of laboratory space.

B.5 Industry Involvement in Global Engineering Education

Initiated by Prof. H. Ohashi -- President of Kogakuin University, member of the Science Council of Japan and a past president of the Japan Society for Mechanical Engineers -- and under the direction of Prof. O. Furuya, a unique university-industry joint program on Global Engineering Education (GEE) is being developed at for undergraduates at Kogakuin University, a private university in Tokyo that also served as the host for my visit to Japan. The GEE curriculum will focus on: Fundamentals of Engineering; Communication Skills; International Perspective including Ethics; Creativity; and Management Skills. To make room for the new elements, some of the traditional core courses in the standard curriculum will be eliminated.

Industry involvement in GEE will be through joint development of the curriculum and in coordination of student projects involving real life engineering problems. Students will get involved with the projects beginning in the freshman year and stay with the project for the next 3-4 years. Each of these projects will involve a team of 5-10 students. An example of the projects being discussed is the design of the cellular telephone. Over the lifetime of the projects, students will progress from the fundamentals to the eventual design. Industry sponsors will meet with students on campus.

Begun in mid-1997 under support by Monbusho, this 4-year effort will develop a new, flexible approach to university-industry cooperation. In seeking to provide a broad and modern engineering education experience for undergraduates, GEE embodies many of the elements of ABET Criteria 2000. To develop a broad, flexible curriculum that can be transported to other institutions, GEEís approach is also similar those of the engineering education coalitions in the U.S. although, unlike the coalitions, GEE is under development at a single institution. Nevertheless, as the only such program in Japan, GEEís progress deserves the attention of those in the U.S. trying to accomplish similar goals.


C.1 Background

Various R&D models have been created in Japan in which industry-university cooperation is promoted, though such cooperation is not necessarily the primary focus in each of these models. Foremost are the afore-mentioned centers for cooperative research, established by Monbusho primarily at national universities, followed by some of the non-profit research organizations established under the auspices of the prefecture governments to promote regional industrial development. Examples of the latter type of organizations are the Kanagawa Academy of Science and Technology and the Fukuoka Industrial Technology Center. The majority of the 83 national laboratories, 10 semi-government research organizations, 26 non-profit organizations and 6 prefectural research institutes appear not to involve the universities in their activities. Industry-university cooperation, where it exists, usually means that a researcher from a university goes to work at the research center or institute with industry participation. Full-time researchers employed by the center carry out hands-on research. One of the many models of cooperation adopted in the U.S., where students are intimately involved, is seldom practiced in Japan. An exception is perhaps the Venture Business Laboratory at Tohoku University, where the education mission is being emphasized.

Thus, it is small wonder that a consistent message given to me by the people that I visited was that, up to now, there has been a relatively low level of cooperation between Japanís corporate research laboratories and the countryís academic institutions particularly those at the national universities. Hence, for most of these universities, technological innovation has not been a major concern. Until now, Japanís industrial growth has been fueled in particular by the ability of industrial laboratories to develop superior manufacturing technologies. Japanís elite academic "ivory towers" have paid relatively little attention to such a development.

The relative low level of industry-university cooperation in Japan stems from laws passed by the Diet as a tool to keep the campus activism of the turbulent 1960ís away from the countryís manufacturing plants. In time, newer laws were enacted that allowed Monbusho to bar national universities from even applying for funding from other ministries such as MITI and STA. As noted previously, however, this has begun to change in recent years.

Spurred in part by the recent economic downturn, the national and prefectural governments have taken steps separately and together to initiate programs and activities aimed at revitalizing the economy through innovations in science and technology. A limited but highly publicized effort of university-industry cooperation was started in 1994 at Tsukuba University (see below). Japan enacted the Science and Technology Basic Law in 1995. The Law specifies that it is the responsibility of both the national government and the prefectural governments to formulate and implement comprehensive and consistent policies for the promotion of science and technology. This Law formed the basis for the 1996 Cabinet resolution known as the Science and Technology Basic Plan.

These measures followed the belief in Japan that university-industry collaboration is a cornerstone in the re-emergence of industrial competitiveness in the U.S., and Japan must do the same for it to break out of the current economic situation, a situation characterized by rising unemployment, an aging population and growing government budget deficits. Furthermore, there is a growing sentiment that Japanese researchers at universities often miss the chance to obtain patents for their inventions as a result of a lack of support for the protection of intellectual properties at academic institutions.

The increasing emphasis on university-industry cooperation, however, is focused on harnessing this activity toward the creation of new technologies. Nevertheless, while recent changes in law and corporate policies in Japan have allowed industry to increase its spending at academic institutions, such expenditures are still small. In 1993 the expenditures totaled $650 million, a five-fold increase over a decade ago but is still only 3.4% of the total expenditures at national universities, about half the rate in the U.S. The relatively low level of support for university-industry cooperative research is underscored by the fact that funding by Monbusho for a center for cooperative research averages only about $35,000 per year.

In addition, much of the corporate support for academia comes to specific faculty members based on individual contacts. The support is usually given as donations with no expectation for results. Where joint and commissioned research exists it is usually highly mission-oriented and conducted at private universities in applied, technological areas. The number of such projects has significantly increased in recent years. A major emphasis in these projects is the production of patents that have the potential for generating new businesses for the industrial partners.

Yet another mode of university-industry cooperation undertaken in Japan is the creation of endowed chairs at universities by companies. Though still numbering only a few dozens, the endowed chairs are concentrated at some of the 98 national universities.

As is well known in the U.S., Japanese corporations also cooperate with universities overseas, when these universities have superior researchers and facilities in emerging technological fields. Japanese support for universities overseas tends to be on a much larger scale and each funded project often involves a larger group of researchers. A recent report apparently commissioned by Monbusho, which cites data from the U.S. Department of Education, indicates that during the period 1986-1991, Harvard University received the largest total funding, $93M, from Japanese companies which include Shiseido, Toyota, Sumitomo, Nomura, and Hitachi. Next on the top ten list was MIT, which received a total of $24M from Nintendo, NTT, Hitachi, Kyocera International, and 22 other companies. In spite of the publicity given to Japanese corporate support for U.S. universities, such support accounts for only 1% of the total research spending by U.S. universities.

As mentioned previously, the enactment of the 1995 Science and Technology Basic Law has given rise to a wave of reform in the Japanese system of funding university research, so that universities may now receive funding from other agencies in addition to Monbusho.

C.2 Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture (Monbusho)

(a) Establishment of the Tsukuba Advanced Research Alliance (TARA)

With partial support by Monbusho, Tsukuba Universityís president Dr. Leo Esaki, previously at IBM and winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1973, established TARA in 1994. A bold and innovative move for Japan, TARA is the first university-based organization in Japan to cultivate interactions between academic institutions, industry and government. Most of its approximately 200 faculty members are on short-term contracts. Half of these are recruited from outside the University. The Alliance has received substantial funding from the Diet through Monbusho. Annual operating budget is about 5 billion yen. In a departure from tradition, a significant portion of the operating budget is derived from funding by other government agencies and from contract and joint research with chemical, pharmaceutical and electronics manufacturers.

Research at TARA focuses on seven "research aspects" that include materials science and biological sciences. Faculty members are expected to propose team-based peer-reviewed research projects that seek to erase disciplinary boundaries and barriers between industry, university and government laboratories. A typical team is comprised of ten faculty members. Such large projects are atypical in Japan. While Monbusho has funded fourteen new faculty positions at Tsukuba University and will continue to provide support, TARA seeks to attract industrial contributions made possible by the relaxation of regulations governing university-industry cooperation.

(b) Funding of Centers for Cooperative Research (CCR)

Though originally targeting the smaller national universities the CCRs, now numbering a total of 56, currently include four large national universities. Monbusho funding typically includes allocation of new laboratory space, new faculty and researcher positions and equipment. Most of the older CCRs, however, are small with one associate professor and about 1,000 square meters of laboratory space. As has been indicated, the average funding for a CCR is about $35,000 per year.

From the information available, apparently the major differences between a center in the U.S. funded by the NSF and one funded in Japan by Monbusho are: (1) funding by the NSF does not include laboratory space in the direct costs, whereas Monbusho does provide such funding; (2) NSF funding does not cover the directorís full salary while Monbusho supports a new line for the center directorís position; and (3) NSF expects the director to continue teaching while the director of a center for cooperative research in Japan is a full time, non-teaching position.

The cooperation with industry, however, is a somewhat low-key undertaking oriented toward the development (the word "promotion" is frequently used by my Japanese hosts during my visit) of university-industry cooperation rather than the conduct of projects. Among the causes cited by faculty at some of the largest national universities for the relative lack of impact of these centers is the under-funding of these universities in general and of these centers in particular. It was also explained to me by some faculty that national universities have not been key players in technological innovation since faculty there feel that it is not their responsibilities as academicians. Furthermore, since faculty salaries are fully funded annually by Monbusho, there is no incentive for faculty members to do more.

Leading researchers that I met in Japan cite the following impediments as the causes for the relatively low level of university-industry cooperation in the country:

  1. Concern by universities on the need to appear not to favor one or even a group of companies by working only with them;
  2. Unwillingness on the part of industry to pay for university research results that are considered already paid for with taxes, especially with regards to research at public institutions;
  3. Concern for equity on the part of industry that a companyís dealing with one university may antagonize others; and
  4. Government regulation, changed only recently, that prohibited faculty members at public universities from receiving pay from consulting with industry.

(c) Japan Society for the Promotion of Science: Coordination of Information Exchange

The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science supports two activities to promote university-industry cooperation: (1) the formation of university-industry cooperative research committees; and (2) supporting international symposia with joint university-industry participation. Since 1933, JSPS has promoted communication between universities and industries by forming university-industry cooperation committees in various research fields. The purpose of these committees is to promote interaction and the exchange of scientific information. A committee may be formed at the request of either academia or industry. A JSPS university-industry advisory committee reviews proposals for organizing new committees; it also initiates new committees on its own. Over 160 committees have been established with 47 still operating. Participating industry pay a fee to help maintain these committees. Some of the other early committees dealt with steel making (1934), foundry technology (1936), construction materials (1944), high temperature ceramic materials (1956), optoelectronics (1961), and future-oriented machining (1964). The more recent committees concern nanometer electronics (1986), plasma materials science (1988), structural response control (1994), visual media (1994), and short wavelength optoelectronic devices (1996).

JSPS international symposia are organized by the respective research committees with the objective of advancing international scientific exchange through university-industry cooperation.

C.3 Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI)

The first step toward funding universities was undertaken by MITI in 1995. In what was an epochal shift in policy, Monbusho endorsed a program in which the New Energy and Industrial Technology Organization (NEDO), the funding agency under MITI, funded national research institutes and universities in 1995 under a program to support 100 major projects. With funding of up to 200 million yen each, these projects dealt with the development of new "seed" industrial technologies, such as environment, energy, biomedical, new materials, electronics and information technologies. Thus, MITI has begun to pay attention to industry-university cooperation in science and technology, although previously their primary concern was science and technology collaboration essentially involving the industrial sector.

In 1997 MITI, in coordination with Monbusho, undertook the second step toward direct support for universities, by proposing to extend the support to university-industry cooperation. The initiative, once approved, will be spearheaded by the Office for Promotion of Academia-Industry Cooperation, newly created within MITIís Industrial Policy Bureau. The oversight by the Research Division in the Bureau was short-lived and the Office is now under the jurisdiction of the Technology Policy Division (whose Director, Mr. K. Hombu, visited NSF earlier in 1997). This initiative is included in a new bill for promoting university-industry cooperation. A major element in the bill is the creation of technology licensing offices. The bill will also allow private firms to fund individual professors to commercialize their inventions. A technology licensing office can be created either for a university or a cluster of universities. These offices will help the universities with contract negotiations for joint projects, as well as to work with companies to set up research centers. Most likely established outside the campuses, these offices will also assist faculty members in commercialization of inventions arising from research. Issues relating to intellectual properties will be addressed in these offices.

C.4 Science and Technology Agency (STA)

A rather unique and unusual approach to supporting universities has been pursued by STA through its Exploratory Research for Advanced Technology (ERATO) program. Inaugurated in 1981, ERATO is supported under STAís Japan Science and Technology Corp. (JST). Under ERATO, close to 50 major projects were active in 1996-1997. Biotechnology as a theme is prominent in these projects. There is participation from industry and academia in each project, which typically comprises between 20 scientists grouped into sub-teams. Including support staff, the number of persons involved per project is about 25 with a budget of approximately 1.7 billion yen (about $16M by the then prevailing exchange rate) over a 5-year period. Each research team is often headed by a university professor; however, the project office must be set up outside of the university and no work may be performed on campus.

Through the National Institute of Science and Technology Policy (NISTEP), STA conducts policy research on, among other topics, innovation mechanisms, and human resources development and distributions for science and technology. Dr. Kinji Gonda, Senior Director in Research, is especially active in carrying out systematic, quantitative analyses of regional development for economic growth.

C.5 Other Ministries

Including MITI, Monbusho and STA, a total of seven cabinet agencies have put up close to 60 billion yen annually for university-industry cooperation. The creation of centers for cooperative research by the various agencies is at the heart of the initiative.

C.6 University-Industry Cooperation in Regional Economic Development

Since 1983, the nationís regional governments have established a number of basic research institutes. In addition, MITIís Technolopolis project has led to the creation of research institutes aimed at stimulating the development of new technologies through basic research.

In many industrial regions in Japan, such as Kansai (covering Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Wakayama, Shiga, Gifu, Aichi and Mie prefectures) in western Honshu Island and Keihin (extending over the cities of Kawasaki and Yokohama) in the central region, the manufacturing sector has been in decline. This is caused by companies relocating their production facilities to the outlying prefectures or overseas bases where costs are lower. In response, the regional governments are stepping up the support of science and technology for new economic development including the formation of industry-university partnership. At the same time, the outlying regions such as Tohoku (including the prefectures of Aomori, Akita, Iwate, Yamagata, Miyagi, Niigata, and Fukushima) are also expanding their capabilities in science and technology bases.

Currently, eleven prefectures have programs to foster the development of science and technology. These include Kanagawa, Toyama, and Hyogo prefectures. Among the objectives of these programs is the promotion and support of university-industry-government research consortia; incubation of R&D firms; and cooperative research in the private sector. Though a number of new organizations such as research parks, design concept centers, business parks or incubators, and industrial parks, have been created jointly by the prefectures and the national government through STA, MITI and Monbusho, the best mechanism for promoting technological innovation is still unknown. The economic downturn in the past eight years, however, has accelerated the adoption of a parallel approach with respect to the different mechanisms such as business incubators, research park/science city, and cooperative research institutes.

During my JSPS Fellowship, I visited some of the regional organizations involved in university-industry cooperation for economic development. These are the Kanagawa Science Park, the Kansai Science City and Tohoku Intelligent Cosmos.


The Kanagawa Prefecture, located in the Keihin Industrial Belt, has employed a land-use policy to pursue industrial revitalization. By easing restrictions on land utilization, the prefecture has been encouraging the growth of universities, research institutes, and R&D companies. During the 10 years preceding 1993 (the latest for which figures were quoted for me), the number of four-year colleges increased by 10 to a total of 36. The total number of colleges and universities in Kanagawa stood at 65. The number of research institutes grew from 400 in the 1970ís to 855 by 1993, representing 15.6% of the research institutes nationwide. Japanís 1990 census showed that Kanagawa had 320,000 research scientists and engineers residing in the prefecture, representing 15.6% of the total in the country. A total of 63,000 research scientists and engineers work in Kanagawa.

In 1989, the Kanagawa Science Park was opened. The Park is comprised of three components: KSP, Inc., which is involved in such activities as business incubation; Kanagawa Academy of Science and Technology (KAST), which conducts high technology research and development and provides advanced education at the graduate level; and Kanagawa High Technology Foundation, which offers high technology measurement and characterization service for leading edge technology development.

At present, KAST is conducting eight large scale cooperative projects, all except one being carried out in Japan either at KASTís in-house laboratories or at external research institutes and university laboratories. These involve an international team of researchers that also include representation from industrial laboratories in Kanagawa Prefecture. This region touts itself as Japanís Silicon Valley. The single exception to KASTís Japan-based research projects is located at Columbia University. There, under a $1 million per year, 5-year guaranteed support by KAST, faculty and students at the Department of Chemistry are conducting leading edge research on ligand/receptor interaction. With solid state NMR as the main arena of research, the Columbia University/KAST laboratories accept postdoctoral fellows of any nationality as well as short-term visiting scholars from industrial laboratories located in Kanagawa Prefecture. Columbia University faculty also spends time at KAST laboratories in Japan to foster research cooperation and information exchange. The support of the Columbia University laboratories by KAST is similar to the recent practice by Japanese industry to seek out and support the best talents around the world. The size of the project at Columbia is also consistent with the preference by Japanese companies to fund projects with large numbers of researchers, typically 10 or more investigators.

Tohoku Intelligent Cosmos Plan

The establishment of the Tohoku Intelligent Cosmos Plan started with a proposal developed in 1987. Approved by the Diet and funded by the various ministries of the central government, the Plan is an ambitious R&D mechanism for economic development in the Tohoku region. The latter comprises 7 agricultural prefectures situated in northeastern Japan, namely, Aomori, Akita, Iwate, Yamagata, Miyagi, Niigata, and Fukushima Prefectures. The Plan links the cooperative activities in these prefectures, activities that include the industrial, academic and government sectors.

The Plan sponsors R&D projects, develops new industries, creates an advanced information network, and generally undertakes projects aimed at improving the technology infrastructure in the region. Research at academic institutions is funded through the Academic Support Body.

The Institute of Cooperative Research (ICR) was an outgrowth of the Plan in 1989. This Institute is involved in establishing and managing R&D corporations, and the commercialization of new inventions. In addition, ICR also leases its facilities to the new R&D corporations. Biotechnology and pharmaceuticals are of major interest.

Kansai Science City

The objective of Kansai Science City is similar to that of its counterparts in Kanagawa and Tohoku, in this case the economic revitalization of the Kansai region comprising of Nara, Osaka and Kyoto Prefectures. A notable new model for industry-university collaboration in the region has been implemented. This is located at Ritsumeikan University, a private university with a history dating back to 1869. In 1994 the faculty of Science and Engineering was moved to Kusatsu in Shiga Prefecture in western Honshu Island.

Also in 1994, this new campus took a bold step needed to attract industrial funding and established the first Ė on Mechatronics -- of several research centers. In a departure from other centers established at other universities, the research centers at Ritsumeikan are managed by the university and not by the individual professors. The new centers are housed within the Ritsumeikan University Research Organization of Science and Engineering.

Faculty participation is on a voluntary basis and each faculty member may join more than one research center. The Liaison Office that has offices on the campuses in Kyoto handles the business aspects of the interaction and Shiga and which also operates in Osaka. Upon receiving a research proposal from industry, a team consisting of a lead professor supported by several others met in one or more review sessions that would culminate in a formal cooperative proposal to be forwarded to the company by the Liaison Office. If accepted by the company, the proposal then results in a contract signed between the university and the company. Over the lifetime of the project, the research team meets with company representatives once every month or two to give a progress report.


Clearly, university-industry cooperation is at a crossroad in Japan. Attitudes are changing and governments at both the national and prefecture levels are putting programs in place to strengthen support. The experimental models and programs are different from those employed in the U.S. with the Japanese system more focused on business development and hence on setting up technology licensing mechanisms from the outset.

The practitioners in Japan continue to monitor the progress of the U.S. experience. While the beneficial impact of university-industry linkage on the development of new technologies is quite well-understood and supported by the public in the U.S.-- stemming in part from well-publicized joint efforts throughout the past decades in areas such as aviation, jet propulsion, nuclear power and others -- a comparable understanding, and the underlying efforts at increasing public awareness and support, are so far absent in Japan. The weakness in the link seems to be lack of interest on the part of industry in Japan. This will change only when universities in Japan gain parity with industry in research capability.

Monbusho and other ministries are helping through the funding side and some universities such as Tsukuba University now have impressive laboratory facilities and faculty personnel. For a general uplifting across the country of the quality and impact of university-industry cooperation, however, some type of peer-review process will be essential both for project selection and progress review. Anecdotal but concrete evidence of success also will be needed. The U.S. experience also points to the benefits of a flexible, user-friendly, bottom-up approach to development and management of university-industry joint projects. The proposed government reform that would merge agencies such as Monbusho and STA, if implemented, will help enable such an approach. This would significantly alter the current scene in industry-university collaboration, but the fruit of cooperative efforts will emerge as a result of a change in the corporate and academic cultures, especially the attitude in both sectors toward joint activitie, and this may take some time.


I deeply appreciate the support for the trip by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science through an Invitation Fellowship. The help of the numerous individuals at the various universities, government agencies and laboratories, and industrial organizations in Japan -- who spent time with me during the visit -- is gratefully acknowledged. These individuals contributed to this report through discussion, correspondence and the supplementary information furnished. I am particularly grateful to Prof. H. Ohashi and Prof. O. Furuya, both of Kogakuin University in Tokyo, for their advice and guidance. The NSF Tokyo Office and its staff, in particular Ms. K. Shinohara, deserve special mention for their efficiency and helpfulness during the planning phase of the visit as well as throughout my stay in Japan.

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