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Home > Tech Reiews > Japan Technology Review Last Updated: 15:24 03/09/2007
Japan Technology Review #19: October 17, 2001

Symposiums to Introduce Creation of Science and Technology Knowledge Platform - Part 4 -

By Hajime Yamada (GLOCOM)

The second panel of the Symposium consisted of the following: Hajime Yamada (International University of Japan) as moderator, and Kazuhiro Hayashi (Council for Science and Technology Policy, Cabinet Office), Norihiko Ishiguro (METI), Hiroshi Komiyama (University of Tokyo), Takeshi Onoda (Mitsubishi Chemical) and Yasuo Uchihara (NC Network) as panelists.

Ishiguro took an overview of Creation of Science and Technology Knowledge Platform, and Hayashi discussed the relationship between this project and the Council for Science and Technology Policy. These topics, however, will not be repeated here because they have been reported earlier in this series.

Komiyama expressed his expectation for structured knowledge. For example, a study area of nanotechnology has been emerging. However, it is not certain who would be nominated as 'know-who', or what technology would be explained as 'know-how' in this field. As a matter of fact, no researcher grasps the entire picture of nanotechnology. Each researcher understands only a limited part of his or her specialty, for example, thin-film processing. Situations are the same in other areas such as biotechnology.

Let us review the process by which the periodic law was discovered. When scientists pondered about the periodic law, compounds were omitted and the range of effort was limited to elements only. As a result, the periodic law was found and became the basic structure of chemistry. Moreover, by following the prediction of the periodic table, new elements were discovered.

For nanotechnology or biotechnology, it is necessary to find basic structures equivalent to the periodic law for chemistry. Once it is found, we can develop and expand our thoughts. It will become the starter of 'know-who' or 'know-how.' Let us call that kind of basic structure "knowledge":. It is expected that, in this project, such knowledge will be discovered through cooperation of researchers by making the most of IT to conduct cooperation.

Onoda expects that the project will be useful as a means to get rid of the gaps of knowledge and industrial structures among various areas. He views the present status as an extreme concentration of one factor: Japan as a whole lays on a sole economic structure under the control of large companies or of the government, but it is difficult for the country to further develop in this way. He stresses that we must part from the era in which the whole country is towed by a handful of industries or technology.

Uchihara represents the NC Network, which operates a united system of sending out and receiving orders on-line with about 10,000 small and medium-sized business firms in processing or manufacturing machinery. This NC Network is a good example of implementation of the project. Uchihara explained:

Recently, the word 'Internet trading business' was created. For manufacturers, Internet business is most convenient and useful. Those who seek to place orders look for manufacturers through the Internet when they plan to ask some special processing. Manufacturers can receive such orders at comparatively high prices because the technology rather than the cost is valued in such cases. Thus the Internet business has an advantage of acquiring top-rated customers rather than trading with the usual ones.

NC Network also functions as a community of manufacturers. Members freely exchange information on trading price and techniques. Also, cooperative relationships for collaboration in receiving orders among them have been emerging.

After the presentations, a panel discussion was held. The main point of the discussion was what function we should expect as the portal site of the project. Uchihara pointed out that existing homepages on the Internet were mostly for pastimes, and this project should aim at providing a 'marketplace' instead of entertainment. He hoped for the project to grow into a place not only for exchanging technical information but also for creating trade orders.

Komiyama said that, by this project, it was desirable that researchers could locate themselves in the whole study field they belonged to, when studies were so subdivided that no less than 32 chemistry-related academic societies existed, for example. Onoda, as Komiyama did, hoped that scholars would start to interact and communicate with each other broadly through this project. Hayashi mentioned his willingness to use this project as one of the channels for the Council for Science and Technology Policy to grasp broader technical trends.

The role of Platform Master prepared by the project was also greeted with expectations as follows:

What we need now is coordinators who connect researchers in different fields in different institutions. We don't have enough competent persons to envision future plans for utilizing universities, corporations and local industries by putting all together. We expect Platform Masters to perform such functions, and to play the role of encouraging creativity.

It was pointed out by the panelists as well that smooth coordination would require more than on-line links, and that combined activities of on-line interchange and face-to-face meetings would be necessary.

As I have reported in the past four reviews, the first symposium on Creation of Science and Technology Knowledge Platform has accomplished its duty of explaining the meaning of this project to about 300 participants, and was brought to a close.

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