A cooperative research and development spiral leading to the creation of continuous innovation

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology’s Private University Academic Research Development Promotion Project is a project to ensure private universities become a foundation for research and development and a pillar for promoting development.

Research Center for Cooperative Development on Materials, Devices and Systems
(In 2007 the “High-Tech Research Center” was selected by the Private University Academic Research Development Promotion Project)

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology’s Private University Academic Research Development Promotion Project is a project to ensure private universities become a foundation for research and development and a pillar for promoting development. Out of the available subprograms, the first such program, the “High-Tech Research Center” selects research systems to carry out cutting-edge research and development projects, and provide concentrated and general assistance in regards to necessary research facilities, research equipment and servicing. Under this system, the government provides assistance by subsidizing half the budget for equipment, with the remaining half and research activity funds being covered by the universities themselves.

Research representative, Masao Yanagisawa. Professor at the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

At Waseda University, projects such as “practical nanochemistry”(2003-2007), and “development of new material with advanced molecular and photon functionality, and functional systems”(2006-2008), have been adopted by the project. Two base projects currently being undertaken at the Center for Advanced Biomedical Sciences (TWIns) are the “Center for the Consolidated Research on Medical, Life Science and Engineering,” and the “Research Center for Cooperative Development on Materials, Devices and Systems,” which will be introduced here. Both these centers can boast projects on a scale unmatched in other private universities.

Forty academic staff from the Faculty of Science and Engineering are taking part in the operation of the Research Center for Cooperative Development on Materials, Devices and Systems. From the faculty, academic staff majoring in fundamental science and engineering research of electronic and photonic systems, information science and technology, applied mathematical principles, as well as advanced bio-electronic and information science and technology, and nanoscience and technology, are all joined together in this newly serviced center. By maintaining close communication, a new form of “cooperative research and development ” can be pursued, breaking down the vertical barriers in each field. We asked research representative, Professor Masao Yanagisawa, of the Faculty of Science and Engineering, about the purpose and aims of the center.

Cooperative research creates new culture

“Our aim at the center is to build a bridge connecting each field such as material, device and system which support high-tech telecommunications society from down to up stream, so we can create integrated cutting-edge technology along with a new research and development culture through cooperation.” (Professor Yanagisawa)

At the Research Center for Cooperative Development on Materials, Devices and Systems, we set the following four projects with the next generation high-tech telecommunication society as a target, giving each clear roles and targets to achieve, by providing a plan for cooperative research and development and integrated results. 1) In mathematical principle research concerning numerical data simulation, to develop computing models and simulations with a guarantee of accuracy for numerical data calculations. 2) In highly reliable superparallel base software research, to develop high-speed base software, high in reliability and effectiveness. 3) In environmentally orientated material creation research, to develop ecological materials indispensable to maintaining society, and introduce products with new functions to the world. And in 4), high function device and systems research, strive to develop new prototypes and technology using high function materials, devices and ubiquitous telecommunications by integrating the results of the above projects.

“I will explain this cooperation by comparing it with the parts of an airplane. Mathematical principle research is the tail, parallel calculations, the engine, materials make up the body, and the systems sit in the cockpit to steer the whole operation. That is the image I hold. These four projects constitute the airplane heading for its destination, with the destination being a high-tech telecommunications society. And our aim is, without fail, to reach that destination and distribute our results for practical use in society.” (Professor Yanagisawa).

The ultimate goal of the center is to keep the cooperative cycle rotating continuously. The prototypes borne from each project will in turn be improved, leading to new prototypes, and by responding to advanced technology and society, creating a new target destination. “This is an endless revolving spiral, with practical technology resulting from an unlimited supply of innovative theories, forming the basis of our ideal cooperative research and development.” (Professor Yanagisawa)

The center, completed in February 2008, occupies the 4th to 7th floors of Building 63 at Nishi-Waseda Campus. By putting members of the four projects together has resulted in huge merits through deeper mutual cooperation.

Establishment of a cooperative societal model from a wide perspective

University education and research is traditionally based on activities conducted in separate laboratories. In these research labs, while research can be thoroughly conducted in the field of interest of the researcher, each field is divided vertically with little room for mutual interaction and neglecting integrated viewpoints, and that has been said to become more harmful than good to the traditional laboratory. It has become a course of nature for neighboring labs in the same department not to know what research is being conducted next door.

But in recent years, with developing science and technology, and maturing societies, each field has begun to pursue society and market orientated research and development. Each university staff member has been seriously looking at what they can do from a wider perspective, how they can expand their own research activities through cooperation, what is lacking even when there is cooperation, and what needs to be done to find a breakthrough to produce integrated results.

“Universities are now breaking free from old traditions and trying to create a new cooperative culture. By not doing so, we won’t produce the research results society really needs, or nurture competent human resources. More than anything else, we must acknowledge that we are in an era where academic development will only result from cooperation among researchers.” (Professor Yanagisawa).

Panel discussion at the 3rd symposium on “Materials, Devices, and Systems Cooperation and the Next Generation Telecommunication Society,” held at the center in December 12, 2009. There was lively debate on future research and development cooperation, and what researchers have to do.

Behind this thinking, the School of Science and Engineering has undergone a total reconstruction. Rather than focus on individual academic staff research, the university has focused on setting it as a new mission to produce systematic results through the multiple effects of this research, and furthermore, to produce research results that lead to technological innovations that contribute to the development of industry and society.

“Put plainly, in a harsh industrial climate, universities must act as central research labs for enterprises, and provide functional cooperation between industry, universities, and social labor divisions from a wide perspective. You could say that the aim of this center is to provide these bodies with a radical model of research and development.” (Professor Yanagisawa)

In order to fill the gap, known as “the Valley of Death,” between basic research and practical implementation which has been mentioned in the past, we must investigate and trial new research and development models. At the university, the aim is to head in a straight, constant line down the road from basic research to practical implementation, and establish a methodology to bridge the gap through cooperation.

Raising the younger generation in a cooperative culture.

Many young researchers attended the symposium, resulting in heated discussions.

How can we produce a cooperative culture? The vision of future research and development, and methodology has been hotly discussed in an annual symposium. At the 3rd symposium, held in December 2009, Professor Yoichi Muraoka (Information Science and Engineering major) spoke on the future of information study, and guest speaker for co-sponsor “International Research and Education Center for Ambient SoC,” Professor Satoshi Goto (Graduate School of Information, Production, and Systems), gave a presentation on the state of advanced research in the information and electronic fields, with both presenters offering opinions on problems faced in each area.
Both raised awareness to the root of the problems, and how we must break out of the stranglehold caused by the vertical system base of academic research. To break free from this feeling of entrapment, exchanges between different fields of interest are a must.

“In educating the younger generation, raised awareness of research and development based on cooperation and exchange must, naturally, be present in graduate student theses, but even more, this awareness needs to start at bachelor’s theses level. I think it is essential that we promote research in this kind of culture more than anything else.” (Professor Yanagisawa)

Concurrent poster sessions at the symposium.

Effort is also being put into the symposium’s concurrent poster session. “It is important to give a visual presentation of your research and actively show your work to people from other research labs and different fields of study. Therefore, we are consciously providing an opportunity for researchers to do so.” (Professor Yanagisawa)

With a mid-term report due out this year, the four projects major results are beginning to take shape. Everyone is working towards presenting a fully-fledged cooperative creation to be put into effect in the second half of the project. The expectations are high for the creation of a university-developed cooperative research and development spiral model.

Related links

Waseda University Academic Research Development Promotion Project(introduction of adopted projects)

Waseda University Faculty of Science and Engineering

Waseda University School of Fundamental Science and Engineering and Graduate School of Fundamental Science and Engineering

Waseda University School of Advanced Science and Engineering and Graduate School of Advanced Science and Engineering


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