Report of the Symposium on "Materialization of Networks Beyond Organizational Boundaries"
By Hajime Yamada (GLOCOM)
On February 25th, a symposium entitled "Materialization of Networks Beyond Organizational Boundaries" was held at Osaka Garden Palace. The Engineering Academy of Japan (EAJ) sponsored the symposium, with cooperation by the IEEE Japan Chapter of Engineering Management Society. More than 120 people participated in the symposium, and proceedings were multicast through Japan via the Internet. The symposium was a success.
A panel discussion was held with pioneers of network users as panelists. Hajime Yamada, Professor at the Center for Global Communications, International University of Japan, served as a moderator, and panelists were Jun Sugano of Waseda University, Yoshio Fujinuma, Department of Commerce, Industry and Labor, Ibaraki Prefectural Government, Yuji Morita of Consulting Engineers Associates (CEA), Hiroyuki Yamasaki of Japan Productivity Center for Socio-Economic Development (JPC-SED), and Kazuhiro Goto of International University of Japan.
Sugano is operating a Technology Licensing Organization (TLO). Based on his own experience, he emphasized the necessity of further promoting technological exchange between academia and industry. He then introduced a system for exchanging opinions on a website. In this system, discussions are being held concerning TLOs and technologies proposed for transfers, among other issues. Also, issues on government policies are discussed in this site, and conclusions have been suggested to the government one after another. Sugano says that exchange of opinions has become activated by allowing not only serious opinions but also enjoyable topics or even personal views, all of which might make the site more attractive.
Fujinuma hopes to start and grow a new industry in Ibaraki Prefecture, which has two big high-technology footholds, namely Hitachi and Tsukuba. Fujinuma participates in a platform established on the Internet for opinion exchanges by the Ibaraki Prefectural Government, local governments, universities, national research institutes and chambers of commerce. On this site, participants discuss how start-up companies should be supported by universities or research institutes, how to raise risk funds, and how to cooperate regionally, Fujinuma reports. This platform is also used as a base for sending information within and outside the platform at the same time. Thus, after explaining the trial situation of Ibaraki Prefecture, Fujinuma hoped to form a virtuous circle of creating a start-up company, which would result in the start of the next one, and so on.
Morita explained a system for exchanging views at CEA, which is a membership organization with regular membership of 100, as well as 220 observatory participants. Every member is formerly qualified as a Consulting Engineer, whose duty is to give advice as a consultant on planning and operating technological implementation incorporations. When taking account of its nature of this online forum, Morita suggests the importance of participation from the younger generation in this exchange of views.
Dr. Yamasaki stressed that in order to break down the present situation of weakened international competitiveness of Japan, it is necessary to elevate interest toward Technology Management. In the U.S. and Europe, many universities have courses concerning Technology Management. There are also a lot of associated academic societies. JPC-SED has already started to cooperate with these universities and academic societies to introduce and establish the basis of Technology Management in Japan. They have started discussions on how to manage innovation, as well as how knowledge should be invested strategically. Yamasaki then explained the importance of making engineers' career paths double-track, and clearing a path for engineers to leave large corporations to start up companies.
Goto, based upon his experience of having looked after establishment of over 20 platforms, expressed that promoting cooperation among platforms was essential for activating platform activities. Goto also stressed that entrepreneurship was required to become a platform master able to take care of platform activities.
Discussion then was held focusing on how to create an industry from exchanging views on the Internet. Sugano said that this system is more suitable for Small Office, Home Office (SOHO) businesses rather than big corporations, and therefore, new businesses will eventually emerge along with the growth of SOHOs. Fujinuma emphasized the importance of constructing a forum in which multiple corporations interact, because establishing a company that holds "a unique technology that exists nowhere else" is impossible by depending upon the technology of one company.
Morita said that he reports examples of failures on the CEA site, because he thinks it important to build a system for sharing experiences, not only successful ones but also failures, for the growth of his juniors. Dr. Yamasaki emphasized the importance of awareness reform at the level of education, because both teachers and students must know better about the movement of society. Goto agreed with Yamazaki's views, and said that because university professors tend to fall short of expectations as platform masters, he is planning rather to lead discussions within platforms for the growth of entrepreneurship of engineers and researchers.
There also was a critical opinion from the floor that in spite of the government's policy to grow start-up companies, such growth does not seem to be successfully carried out. Fujinuma responded that 30 such companies had been established in the past five years in the Tsukuba area alone. Sugano argued that such companies would not grow without funds to support them even if they have excellent technologies.
This relates to an issue of how to evaluate technology. Therefore, exchange of views on technology evaluations followed. Some mentioned that Japanese banks tended to avoid taking risks, and others replied that if so, an entrepreneur should be more active and approach foreign banks directly. Dr. Yamasaki again stressed the importance of Technology Management. The conclusion was that abilities for technology evaluation would be improved by skillfully making the most of platforms, which are participated in by many persons concerned.