Japanese Scientific Monthly Vol. 59, No.10
|The Third Year of the National Universities Incorporation System Intellectual Creation Cycle at local universities|
President of Niigata University
With the incorporation of national universities in Japan, they have been facing a growing demand for the social contributions as its third purpose alongside the current education and research program. Our university has set up the Intellectual Property Headquarters for the creation, management and utilization of our intellectual property. I would like to introduce one example of its approach, outcome and as well as a few points regarding the intellectual property of local universities.
At every university researchers conduct their research based on their own individual free thoughts. The application of the results from their research in society would not only motivate them but it would also promote further development and research whilst bringing a profit back to the university. Universities are now faced with the challenge of starting up such an intellectual creation cycle and developing a way to sustain its circulation. While the utilization of intellectual property is an unfamiliar territory for most universities, our university has been gradually seeing the outcome of technology transfers by the Intellectual Property Headquarters and Niigata TLO Inc. The attempts to exploit the results of the basic research in innovative technology development are particularly outstanding.
One of the examples I would like to introduce is “The Invention of Quick Hydrogen Sensor”, by one of our professors in the Faculty of Engineering. This technology is said to be indispensable for the safety of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as it can detect the hydrogen instantly by using electro motive force (EMF) for the first time in the world in terms of industrial utilization. It is now patent pending and transferred to a local company. The license fee for the inventor has been contributed to the university and used for the basic research and young researchers’ training this field. The university invested a part of its profit into Niigata TLO Inc., which was the first case in Japan for a national university corporate group to make an investment into TLO.
The inventor of this technology has received the Award of Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology together with Niigata TLO and the local company at the forth recognition ceremony held in Kyoto last year. This award was for those who have made outstanding contributions in the field of industry-academia-government collaborations. It was an honorable event also for our university. What I would like to stress here is that this innovative technology development was created not by any special financial support from the outside but within the mainstream of our own education and research accumulated over many years.
When a new system of national universities was established nearly a half century ago there was a boom in the research of semiconductor physics, which evidently later became the basis for the current information science and IT industry. Meanwhile, our university had researchers who established the new field in physics of super-ionic conductor by researching such things as handmade silver sulfide as opposed to one on germanium and silicone. The inventor of this sensor who studied this field has developed the results into research on liquid metal and thus created his own research field.
I would like to make some comments regarding this technology transfer from the viewpoint of a local university. Firstly, every local university has had quite a few researchers who have opened up their own field of development and have made numerous achievements under less favored conditions compared to that of the ones by former imperial universities established during the pre-War era, such as Tokyo University. Their research has also been refined in competition with other researchers while still possessing an excellent expertise and high reliability. Secondly, I would like to point out the necessity to establish a system in which all TLO’s in Japan can work in unison or to train efficient coordinators for technology transfers. Although one coordinator links the university’s intellectual property to a “treasure mountain”, those treasures can be utilized only when the value of its applicability is recognized. Thirdly, I hope not only for the technology transfer to local companies in assistance for the promotion of local industries but also for the finding of the research which would lead to the technology with a global application.
While there has been an increasing demand for the industry-academia collaboration and technology transfer, universities should not neglect their original missions for education and research. The most important thing right now is for the researchers of both basic and applied research to carry out their study with future perspectives and solid confidence. Universities should tackle the educational reform to develop our human resources for the 21st century.
Our institutions has used its characteristics as a university and set up “Interdisciplinary Research Institute”, an organization of teaching staff specializing in research. By building such a comprehensive research system in the field of advanced research, we are trying to create the new research field. As for education, we have been working on the establishment of new educational programs for our bachelor degree course including various attempts such as: organization of courses for all faculties according to “the benchmarks within the fields and levels” under which each faculty and department provide their students with major programs to achieve their educational objectives. And in turn, we have been introducing “a minor system” which would develop compound thinking and would offer our eager students the opportunity to expand their knowledge.
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