GETI/GLOCOM Platform Joint Seminar
GETI / GLOCOM Platform Joint Seminar Series: An Introduction
Summary by GETI Staff
The Global Emerging Technology Institute (GETI), a US non-profit technology think tank, in cooperation with the Center for Global Communications (GLOCOM), International University of Japan, will organize a series of joint seminars inviting distinguished speakers in Japan and from abroad. The purpose of the seminar series is to provide a forum where professionals in various sectors (academia, government, industry, financial, research, journalism) can exchange insight and ideas in relation to science and technology issues, with an emphasis on emerging technologies in particular. The presentations will be given in either in English or Japanese, and the Q&A sessions will be moderated bi-lingually, providing speakers and attendees with a milieu for lively discussion of the topics derived from the presentation. The monthly seminars will be held in GLOCOM's conference room in Roppongi, Tokyo. A summary of the seminar will be posted on both GETI and GLOCOM websites afterward.
At the first GETI/GLOCOM seminar on April 10, 2002, Miwako Waga, Japan Director of GETI, presented her views on the importance of in-depth analysis of the progress in science and technology and its contribution to economic growth in developed nations. Waga-san stated that analysis should not be confined to the identification of most recent developments in scientific disciplines, but also should include and understanding of market trends. According to Waga-san, private-sector R&D expenditures are the primary driver of technological innovations. However, public policy on science and technology is a key to the shaping of emerging research topics that involve high risks, as well as potentially high returns. In addition, public policy on deregulation can have a significant impact on the rapid deployment of new technologies and the development of new industries. The cellular phone market is a case-in-point. The growth of the cellular phone market in Japan remained limited until the outright sale cell phone handsets was deregulated in 1994. Deregulation, spurred by U.S. `gaiatsu`, resulted in the rapid increase in cell phone users, the evolution of handset designs, development of miniaturized components, and the increased sophistication of wireless communication services. In short, deregulation grew the market and created several new market segments.
In terms of Japanese S&T policy, the importance of maintaining and bolstering the "international competitiveness" of the manufacturing sector is often emphasized as a justification for greater public support of R&D in industry. However, this aspect should be reexamined in a wider context. First, it is difficult to establish the causality of publicly-sponsored research initiatives and increased industrial competitiveness. Instead, public support of R&D in the industrial sector should be understood as a tool for enabling innovative companies to tackle technical challenges with reduced risk. As a result, new knowledge will be produced, which may lead to new designs and materials that will eventually enable productivity increases (in terms of greater performance, reduced size, lower price, etc.). The productivity increase, coupled with many other variables, may enhance the competitive edge of a product in the domestic market and in foreign markets if it is exported or produced overseas. Thus, care must be taken when international competitiveness is emphasized in the discussion of public S&T policy. In addition, international competitiveness can be reinforced through other means. It may be outdated regulations that keep Japanese companies from realizing their true technological competitiveness and actual business potential. As was the case in the cell phone industry, deregulation can create new business opportunities for manufacturers. The objectives of S&T policy should be defined carefully to maximize the most value for the resources utilized. This is especially crucial now considering the slow down in the global economy as a result of reduced IT spending.
In the emerging technology field of micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), US federal government agencies such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have provided sizable funds to support basic and applied research efforts conducted by the private sector, as well as in university and government labs. The National Science Foundation has been supportive of university-industry research cooperation since the 1970s. For example, the NSF-funded university-industry collaborative research center at UC Berkeley has played an important role in advancing MEMS research over the last 15 years. The state of California recently established four new research institutes focused on emerging technology development which relates to MEMS. In Michigan, a recently established engineering research center at the University of Michigan is expected to promote wireless MEMS research over the next 10 year period. In the U.S., it is clear, that both the federal and state governments appear committed toward establishing, funding and nurturing innovative research. It appears that the combination of publicly-supported innovative research initiatives, the entrepreneurship of business leaders, and the availability of venture capital have worked well for the steady growth of the MEMS industry in the US.