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Home > Tech Reiews > Japan Technology Review Last Updated: 15:24 03/09/2007
Japan Technology Review #50: January 6, 2003

IEEE Meeting Summary: Education of Management of Technology

By Hajime Yamada (GLOCOM)

On December 13, 2002, the IEEE Japan Chapter of Engineering Management Society held a meeting at the Center for Global Communications (GLOCOM) of the International University of Japan (IUJ).

Michiyuki Uenohara, Professor Emeritus, Tama University, delivered the keynote speech as follows:

Manufacturing industry seems to have lost self-confidence now, but there is nothing to worry about. Fundamentals of Japan are good, its technology is leading the world, citizens are wealthy, and daily necessities are abundant.

Management of Technology (MOT), however, must be taught seriously in order to catch up with the leading countries of the world. Industrial management in the era of mass-production of standardized goods still remains stubbornly while present consumers seek unique products suitable to individual needs. From now, Japan must construct an economy based on the sales of service industry with its foundations in manufacturing, not in the manufacturing industry itself. Also, technology and product development must add some value by uniting with the humanities and social sciences in order to aptly respond to these needs.

MOT in my definition means corporate strategies that would be led by research and development, creation of new technology responding to needs, efficient utilization of existing technology, strengthening corporative competitiveness and securing appropriate profits to support healthy development. The focus of MOT in the 21st century lies in how to deal with the highly information-oriented and internationalized world trend. Handling pressure from neighboring countries is especially important. Our technological superiority will decline if we persist in the conventional way. What is important is how to grow human resources that would feed back their rich experiences and can grasp the correlation between the market and technology.

Masahiro Hashimoto, Director, Academia-Industry Cooperation Promotion Division, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), expressed his expectation for the government policy and academia-industry cooperation:

Expectations for university education are increasing. One third of researchers in Japan belong to universities, where one fifth of the government's research budget is spent. However, academia-industry cooperation policy is 15 years behind that of the United States. We are now at the stage of desperately constructing systems. Since the time of the former Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), the government had established the office for promotion of academia-industry cooperation, proceeded with cooperative research and technology transfers, and promoted growing talented people. In 1998 MITI led the formation of Technology Licensing Organizations (TLOs) by establishing the TLO law in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. Regulations prohibiting professors' holding concurrent jobs were relaxed so that professors have become able to work at companies established on their own technology. Also, start-up companies originated from universities were allowed to use the facilities of national universities and to register within universities. Internship programs to support nurturing human resources have been provided. METI started the plan for "Growing One Thousand University-Originated Start-Ups in Three Years" this year.

The largest problem in establishing a start-up company is securing staff members. The number of able people who can handle financial, legal and managerial matters is insufficient. The Industrial Structure Council of METI also proposed fortifying growth of venture capitalists and managers. In other words, Japan must tackle the education of MOT. Only 345 MOT graduates are graduating yearly in Japan, but we need at least 4700. Educating them with marketing and management is also essential. Industry must inform schools about their human resource requirements, issues of concern and needs. It is also necessary for us to start a new type of education by feeding back societal change. As a part of MOT promotion policy, METI started developing curricula and text books this year. A MOT consortium consisting of industry and educational organizations is also under development as a new type of MOT schooling suited for Japan.

Atsushi Kaneko, who serves as the Secretary-General of the MOT professional consortium among industry, academia and the government, a project commissioned by METI to Mitsubishi Research Institute, Inc., explained the policies of the consortium:

Now attention is being focused on MOT, but our project has just started and we are creating programs while running. Japan's ability of MOT is quite low among advanced countries. So far, Japanese manufacturers were led either by philosophy of a charismatic manager or by technology without having MOT. I doubt that any manufacturing company has achieved good management so far. Industry has been promoted as a government policy, and therefore manufacturers had just been running on rails.

Since the late 1990s, free competition has been accelerated and understanding of common language about management has become necessary. Japan needs to study good management skills. Education programs within corporations have been widely developed, but the idea that head-hunting able people from outside is more effective is becoming dominant. To use money for education as an investment in human resources is difficult in this situation. Although special education is quite important, we have few teachers in Japan who can teach those subjects at levels equivalent to Europe or the United States, to our regret. Therefore, I expect that universities should assume the role of teaching general education with globally common language at common levels, which is quite a difficult part of education for a single corporation to achieve.

The point is the management corresponding to environment that changes rapidly. Clarification of market needs and mission as well as leadership is required. Skills and judgments are required for utilizing appropriate outside resources and for handling more than one project at a time. In the next several years we must grow the scale of Japanese MOT education more than ten times. First we should establish the standard of skills and support the universities that prepare teaching materials. We utilize programs that each university prepares and develops on its own, as well as virtually-developed schools. Eventually, we aim to distribute programs developed uniquely by corporations or industry as well.

There are two parts in the MOT professional program. One is the core section that aims to build up literacy to communicate globally, and the other is the selective section that trains specialists. Since our web site is open for these matters, your comments are most welcome.

It was pointed out from the floor that Japanese universities do not seem to have enough qualified teachers in this field, and therefore more talented people should be transferred from industry to universities, and that a measure is also required for university students to take these courses. Mr. Kaneko answered that although all the desired people in industry were too busy to teach whole courses, a plan was developing to include them for giving lectures and text preparation.

Akio Kameoka, Chair of the Japan Chapter of IEEE EMS made the following presentation:

Although Japanese competitiveness is decreasing, we still keep strength in technology with which we can compete against Asian, American or European countries. MOT is our issue to be solved because we are weak in concept creation and management ability for merchandizing. Product concept is the key point to change investment to technology, and then to goods for sale, and eventually to returned money. That is the role of MOT. When the market is invisible we need innovators who can create the concept to develop a market, just like growing the number of fishes by developing artificial underwater reef areas for fishes to breed when we cannot find natural ones. PlayStation is an example that is growing peripheral businesses by setting the price of basic hardware low. Becoming the front-runner after having caught up requires steering the wheel on no existing rails. Radars and eyes will become very important. Now it is an era for a techno-producer who can build a concept, coordinate, has strong will for achievement and a long range of vision just like a talented technocrat, architect, or designer.

To conclude the proceedings, Hajime Yamada, who serves as Secretary of IEEE EMS Japan Chapter, mentioned that a short-term view is also important while taking time to nurture human resources, and asked Kazuhiro Goto of GLOCOM, IUJ for practical topics concerning how cooperation of industry-academia-government should be promoted.

Goto explained the present situation in which we are at a crucial point to see whether or not our technological competitiveness rapidly decreases, while motivation is declining strikingly. In order to stop this situation from worsening, Goto pointed out the necessity of cooperation of industry, academia and government. On the other hand, Goto also noted that universities were in the middle of renovation along with their turning into independent sectors, and that some were criticizing the achievements of national institutes as useless.

Goto then made 15 proposals, Including that dispersed handlers and projects for industry-academia-government cooperation should be cleared and integrated, and 20 to 30 percent of professors at technology institutes should establish and maintain their own small-scale companies to conduct research for private companies, among others. There was a favorable response from the floor mentioning these proposals as quite substantial and essential, and acknowledging the problem of an annual-based budget prevented from distributing budgets for research and education in the true sense. Another response from the floor pointed out the reason for the drop of popularity in engineering departments to be lack of flexibility at universities, which were slow in catching up with the change of industrial structure in society. Goto attributed such delay to course systems of universities that allowed irrelevant subjects to remain, and concluded that universities should change themselves by co-opting needs of industry.

The meeting concentrated on discussing how MOT education should be, and was quite beneficial to all.

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