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Home > Tech Reiews > Japan Technology Review Last Updated: 15:24 03/09/2007
Japan Technology Review #17: September 25, 2001

Symposiums to Introduce Creation of Science and Technology Knowledge Platform - Part 2 -

By Hajime Yamada (GLOCOM)

Following Professor Nonaka, Dr. Tsuneo Nakahara and Dr. Masahiko Aoki made speeches.

Dr. Nakahara was a vice chair of Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd., and now serves as its Special Technological Advisor. He represented business sectors to express opinions on the creation of Science and Technology Knowledge Platform as follows:

Images of Japanese companies have been expressed by such words or phrases as seniority system, lifetime employment, unions organized by each company, adjustment-oriented top management, groups, manufacturing technology-oriented, employees-centered, and future prospects. On the other hand, American companies, especially Silicon Valley enterprises are associated with words and phrases such as qualification- and education-oriented, high mobility, unions organized by each industry, leadership-oriented top management, individualism, stress on new technology creation, shareholders-centered, short-term achievements, venture spirit and venture capitalism. Japanese companies are now in the epoch of shifting to the American type.

Upon promoting this industrial shifting, some governmental policies play important roles. One is the Science and Technology Basic Law and the Science and Technology Basic Plan based on this Law. New businesses will not necessarily be created straightforwardly, even if the studies are strongly promoted. In order to create new businesses it is necessary to transfer technologies originated from Research and Development. Establishment of intermediating organizations has been eagerly promoted to link research achievements of universities and national institutes with needs of future prospecting business.

Another important policy of Japan is the IT Basic Law. Concerning IT infrastructure, Japan has declared that it will catch up and overtake the U.S. within five years. I don't think it's impossible for Japan to catch up with the U.S., because its small land area is an advantage for building the infrastructure of IT.

The main problem of information sharing by the creation of Science and Technology Knowledge Platform would be how to control information. Suppose you consider publicizing a piece of information now, you might also think that the publicity might make the patenting of it difficult in the future, or you will not be willing to share it with others if you think that it might enable the future core business. Thus, strategic decision-making is required for selecting information to share.

Once a database for storing industrial technological knowledge is established, it can be utilized by connecting to the network. In the process, a human network of users of this technological knowledge as well as those who sell and buy the technological information becomes essential. I expect that the creation of Science and technology Knowledge Platform will play this role of networking.

Dr. Masahiko Aoki is Professor of Stanford University, and Chief Research Officer of Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry. A summary of Dr. Aoki's address is as follows:

Let us consider a company as an information processing system. This system consists of various tasks. When we think about possible combinations of information among tasks, we realize that there are three types.

The first type is a hierarchical division. Task 1 carries out information processing and notifies the results to Task 2. Then Task 2 implements the necessary information processing using its own resources. The second type is in a form in which Task 1 and Task 2 observe the situations at the same time, and draw information for each of them from the circumstance. It could be said that 'assimilation of information' occurs in this case. The third form is information encapsulation. Task 1 and Task 2 monitor the same environment. However, they hide from each other what kind of information they each draw and interpret from the environment.

By information revolution, each task has been performed as one independent enterprise. It has become possible that, even after independence, they know their own role within the whole system and they can make technological improvements within their own task. Thus each independent task interacts with other tasks in the form of information encapsulation. The most active examples of this lay in Silicon Valley.

In Silicon Valley, developments of OS or devices, for example, occur simultaneously at two or more private companies in a very competitive way. The companies compete with one another and hide their own technology from others. That is called encapsulation. However, they still must construct one whole system together, and therefore information is mixed and shared to some extent. I believe that venture capital plays the role of intermediating this information sharing.

It is necessary for both information encapsulation and information sharing to progress at the same time. When unreliability is high, competition among the encapsulated tasks becomes equivalent to carrying out the same experiments at different companies simultaneously. Each task selects good results afterward to create its own systematic combination. In this way we can secure a wide range of options for future risks when unreliability is high.

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