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Home > Tech Reiews > Japan Technology Review Last Updated: 15:24 03/09/2007
Japan Technology Review #20: October 22, 2001

Symposium on "Information Revolution and Evolution of Technology Management"

By Hajime Yamada (GLOCOM)

On October 2nd a symposium titled "Information Revolution and Evolution of Technology Management." was held by the IEEE Japan Chapter of Engineering Management Society, at GLOCOM, International University of Japan.

The Japan Society for Science Policy and Research Management and the Engineering Academy of Japan co-sponsored the symposium, a cooperative event with the Intelprise Enterprise Collaboration Program of GLOCOM. Of 46 registered guests, 30 attended including Sogo Okamura, one of the foundering members of the EMS Japan Chapter, and Junichi Baba and Ikuo Yamada, past chairs. This made it one of the largest Japan Chapter meeting events.

Keynote addresses were given by Shumpei Kumon, Executive Director of GLOCOM and Kuniharu Kato, Vice President of NTT Advanced Technology Corporation (NTT-AT), followed by a panel discussion.

Kumon's lecture asked "What is the Essence of the Information Revolution?" the summary of which is as follows:

Around 1550, a long wave of sovereignty supported by militarization started. Then, around 1750, another long wave of industrialization rose and corporations competed with each other for economic power. Finally, around 1950 yet another long wave of informatization started: competition characterized by wisdom. From this kind of long-term point of view, the information revolution has barely emerged. Such informatization will continue to develop towards popularization of intellectual games.

Through the information revolution, NGOs, NPOs or netizens (citizens united intellectually through networks) will gain power over nations or corporations. The group media that will enable these people to easily form groups will be a new media for the future.

However, Japanese industry only considers how to provide mass quantities of "information appliances" to consumers. Their ideas are still stuck in the mass production mode of industrialization. On the other hand, the United States has not yet stepped over the way of thinking of mass media during the maturation phase of industrialization. Both do not fit to the coming informatization.

Kumon hopes we can follow the examples of Canada, where citizens share information communications system as a community, and various groups are formed by netizens. In Japan, the rise of Community Area Networks and wireless LAN draw our attention.

Following Kumon, Kato discussed "Revolving Technology Management". Its summary is as follows:

Before transferring to NTT-AT Kato had been working with NTT for a long period of time, where he experienced a big change in the status of Research and Development. Until the early 1980s, R&D was conducted according to long-term plans. The R&D department was expected to conduct a series of research for as long as a decade, and achievements were scheduled to transfer to the business sector. Then NTT was privatized and an era of comparison of own technology with institutes of other companies started. As a result, confrontations between the business sector and the R&D department started to occur. It was almost the year 2000 when the idea that technology is the very center of management began to be understood within the enterprise. At the time R&D achievements started to correlate with every social structure.

However, stress put upon applied studies in order to respond to business sector expectations meant that we could not promote long-term basic research. In that sense, the 1970s were a happier and more stable period for research institutes. Since then, fundamental studies have become weakened. This is happening at every company all over the world. In order to survive short-term competition, long-term R&D is being cut off. This is the reason we hope for good R&D conducted at universities and national institutes, as well as for good technology transferred from them.

At present, companies have several tasks. The first is carefully specifying customers. It is beginning to be recognized that a simple specification of customers is dangerous. The second task is to specify commodities. Lowered obstacles against participating service industries have invited a variety of competitors. Each company asks itself seriously with what product can they fight against those competitors. Finally, technology and personnel are sought for not only within a company but also in the outside world, and forming alliances is becoming more common. To solve these tasks managers need to have a wider vision.

After these keynote speeches, a panel discussion was held with Akio Kameoka, Professor of Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology moderating. Konomi Matsui, Managing Director of the Japan Techno-Economics Society joined Kumon and Kato as panelists.

Kameoka raised an issue to start the discussion: Japan has an international reputation of having a certain level of technology, but lacking management. How can we break this situation?

According to Kato, the United States had a problem of weakened competitive power in the1980s, but they made great research on how to overcome it. In Japan, nobody bothers to study this, leading to unsatisfactory defeat. Kumon, on the other hand, suggested that Japanese companies have a fair chance in the future. It is important to progress with a long perspective on the development of society and economy. Matsui also emphasized the importance of constructing national strategy each decade.

The panelists agreed that Japan's technologies are strong, but the introduction of new concepts is not enough; it is necessary to fortify concept-building activities.

During the discussion it was pointed out that the industrial sector among industry-government-academia is no longer able to provide funds for R&D. Government and academia still have potential, so steering them and transferring technology will become important. Industry-government-academia interactions over organizational frames correspond to forming groups of netizens of researchers and engineers. Such interactions should be promoted in the direction suggested by Kumon.

The discussion ended with recognition of the need for engineering producers who can also manage broadly, from creating concepts to providing products. The necessity of educating able people was emphasized in this discussion. It was pointed out that in the United States there are more than 160 Management of Technology Programs, and that it is necessary for Japan to prepare similar programs.

After the panel, participants in the IEMC2001, Noriko Taji, Hiroyuki Yamasaki, Hideyuki Ito, Akio Kameoka and Hajime Yamada made presentations on their research, which were planned to be presented at the cancelled Conference.

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