[ Nippon Keidanren ] [ Policy ]

Promoting the Development of Industrial Technologists through Partnerships between Industry, Academia, and Government

March 18, 2003

Nippon Keidanren
(Japan Business Federation)

1. Introduction

To become a nation of creativity in science and technology and to achieve sustainable economic growth in a rapidly aging society with a declining number of children per family, it will be essential to prepare an environment for ongoing world-class innovation through broad-based partnerships between industry, academia, and government. In October 2001, the Japan Business Federation published a policy statement titled "Promoting Partnerships between Industry, Academia, and Government to Strengthen International Competitiveness," where it described current issues and policies for strengthening such partnerships.

Since then, as a result of vigorous debate involving the Council for Science and Technology Policy and related government ministries and agencies, dramatic progress has been made in developing various institutional systems for promoting partnerships between industry, academia, and government, such as a transition to incorporated national universities with non-public employees, fundamental reform of the taxation of research and development, expansion of competitive funds, and the easing of regulations on teachers at national universities holding a second job. In addition, the momentum toward increased partnerships has grown to an unprecedented level through summit meetings and conferences on partnerships between industry, academia, and government sponsored by the Cabinet Office, the Japan Business Federation, and the Science Council of Japan.

Japan is a leader among advanced industrial nations in R&D investments and in the number of registered patents. In contrast, it is the furthest behind in business start-ups and an entrepreneurialism that couple new knowledge with industry.

It goes without saying that people or human resources hold the key to the more effective use of the various institutional systems being established in Japan to become a nation of creativity in science and technology and to lead the world in applying newly created knowledge in industry. As such, human resources are the foundation for Japan's development. To increase the skills and abilities of people, partnerships should be established between universities and industry, with universities (including graduate schools) providing the platform for the creation of knowledge and the development of human resources and with industry providing the platform for commercialization. There is an urgent need for strategic efforts and for active government support to increase the overall abilities of technical people who do the work of transforming knowledge into the revitalization of industry. Japan will not develop unless companies and universities strengthen their international competitiveness together.

Plans are already being made in response to social and economic changes to establish graduate schools offering MBAs and other specialized degrees as well as law schools and graduate schools offering professional degrees. Regarding these reforms as well, it will be necessary to couple technology with markets and to invest in the development of industrial technologists who will provide the key to the creation of new industries.

Accordingly, the Japan Business Federation offers the following proposals on partnerships between industry, academia, and government with regard to the development of industrial technologists who are destined to play a central role in efforts to establish Japan as a nation of creativity in science and technology.

2. Current Issues and Responses Regarding Industrial Technologists

In a questionnaire survey carried out by the Japan Business Federation (companies participating in the survey were members of the subcommittee on promoting partnerships between industry, academia, and industry of the federation's committee on industrial technology), matters most frequently cited as issues with industrial technologists joining companies were: (1) lack of basic college-level knowledge, (2) lack of creativity and ability to identify problems, and (3) diminished initiative and critical awareness. Lack of language and communication skills and narrowness of fields of specialization were also views cited by many companies. Strong concerns were also voiced about the overall decline in abilities.

In response to these issues, companies are endeavoring to foster industrial technologists (1) by providing in-house training, such as through basic-skills training programs for new employees and through independent professional training programs and (2) by providing on-the-job training directly tied to product development and manufacture. In addition, many companies are actively hiring people with doctorate degrees and are making mid-career hires to take advantage of existing skill sets.

A survey of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology also discloses nearly the same tendencies. In this survey of private-sector companies, replies that the abilities of young researchers are declining far surpassed replies that such abilities are increasing. It is also true that most college educators who are responsible for fostering scientific and technical human resources feel there is insufficient development of people with creativity or with independence and initiative.

Great concern exists in industry circles about the current situation for industrial technologists who are destined to support Japan's future. There is a need for industry, academia, and the government to address this issue together and to accelerate efforts to promote the development of industrial technologists.

3. Basic Policies for Strengthening the Functions of Universities in their Development of Human Resources

The basic functions of universities are the creation of knowledge through pure research and the transmission of knowledge through education. Such efforts do not immediately give rise to industrial applications or to the energizing of the economy. Universities should naturally engage in basic research outside the scope of companies and in the development of technical people and researchers. Working to strengthen the partnering of industry and academia, such as by actively developing applications for created knowledge or by reflecting the current state of industry in education, will help strengthen the international competitiveness of both universities and industry.

3.1 Strengthening the international competitiveness of universities

In the context of borderless markets, companies are engaged in fierce international competition, whose efforts are being supported by highly skilled industrial technologists. For Japan to maintain and strengthen its competitiveness, universities in their task of developing human resources should place priority on strengthening their international competitiveness. It will be essential for them to engage in reform with a commitment to survive international competition between universities. They should seek to become attractive and creative platforms gathering together the world's knowledge, information, students, researchers, companies, and working members of society. By augmenting their international competitiveness, universities will contribute to strengthening the international competitiveness of Japan's industries and will help increase Japan's international standing through the promotion of foreign investment in Japan and through contributions to the international community.

3.2 Securing diversity

The single-track flow of innovation from basic research to application research, development research, and commercialization has now ended, and there is a need to develop a multitrack and fast-paced innovation system consisting of cross-field research and development and the feedback of commercialization needs into basic and application research. The division of responsibilities between universities and industry, with universities specializing in basic research and with companies specializing in application and development, is growing more sophisticated and complex. What is important in this context is to assign creative efforts regarding research themes, curriculums, and the management of faculties and departments to individual universities and to achieve overall diversity through competition. In the transition to incorporated national universities, it is strongly hoped that universities will reaffirm their founding principles and that they will restructure themselves to become distinctive universities, such as by achieving world-class standing in certain fields if not in all fields.

3.3 Partnerships between industry and academia for the application of knowledge and the strengthening of dissemination functions

The dissemination of knowledge based on contracts with technology licensing organizations, the promotion of joint research, and start-ups originating in universities are some of the means available for applying created knowledge in the development of society by way of technical innovation. What should take center stage in this process is innovation made possible by universities' development and supply of highly skilled industrial technologists. In addition, for universities to increase their international competitiveness, the establishment of competitive research themes will be important. There will be a need to further strengthen partnering between industry and academia from the stage of selecting research themes.

Universities should also strengthen their disclosure toward domestic and foreign audiences, including students preparing to enter universities, on their educational programs, research results, and distinguishing features to encourage goal development by students and to increase the number of foreign students studying in Japan.

4. Enhancing Educational Systems for Industrial Technologists

4.1 Enhancing faculty-based education

As the federation's questionnaire survey makes evident, what is most strongly desired in relation to the development of human resources at universities is the strengthening of basic educational abilities. At science faculties, where a majority of graduates continue their education at graduate schools, emphasis should be placed on achieving an advanced standing in international comparisons in both quantitative and qualitative terms with regard to such basic sciences as mathematics, physics, and chemistry. And the separate roles for science faculties at universities and specialized education at graduate schools should be defined clearly. Second, it will be essential to enhance educational programs related to basic abilities in foreign languages, communication, and expression, abilities in developing international responses, and ethics in science. In addition, efforts should be made to expand interdisciplinary seminars involving different science subjects or basic humanities subjects. The human resources desired in the rapidly changing corporate environment are not only specialists but generalists with a broad range of knowledge and education.

In the employment of new graduates (including people with postgraduate degrees) companies should fully respect the "Corporate Charter for Screening and Employing New Graduates." They should take care not to interfere with students' ability to focus on their studies and should support the deepening of studies in graduating years.

4.2 Practice-oriented education in engineering schools

The establishment of graduate schools offering professional degrees will begin in fiscal 2003 with the objective of fostering human resources with advanced and specialized professional skills. It is hoped that these graduate schools will develop practical and diverse educational programs based on the needs of industrialization. Given that most technical people employed by companies have master's degrees, there is a need to revise educational programs for industrial technologists in existing graduate schools. In particular, we need to make further efforts to establish more practice-oriented educational programs in engineering schools and to set up new courses that reflect industry conditions, with the aim of fostering researchers and technical people capable of contributing to industrialization.

Companies should promote an understanding of the current state of industry through such measures as internship programs and the assignment of their employees as teachers to universities.

4.3 Spread of management-of-technology degree programs for working adults

For created knowledge to cross the so-called valley of death and be coupled with industry as innovation, we need graduate-school-level educational programs that foster people with technical knowledge and management skills needed to commercialize such knowledge. The United States and other nations have already established many management- of-technology degree programs, and this is contributing to the creation of new industries. There is a need to enhance and establish professional educational programs in Japan in areas not covered by existing graduate school education or by corporate training programs. In developing these programs, emphasis should be placed on the principle of competition based on the creative efforts of individual universities. It will also be important to achieve diversity in such areas as course periods, course subjects, day or night courses, and e-learning.

Japanese industrial circles will work to promote an understanding of the pressing need to spread the establishment of master-of-technology degree programs reflecting industry conditions in Japan through a consortium organized in partnership with industry, academia, and government.

4.4 Student participation in joint and contract research

In light of the growing trend for partnering between industry and academia and such environmental changes as the improvement of contracts, joint research between companies and universities has taken off in Japan in the last few years. In the federation's questionnaire survey, the view is expressed that promoting joint and contract research between industry and academia and having students participate in such research will be extremely effective in fostering human resources able to contribute to industrialization. Further efforts will be made to promote joint and contract research through such measures as the use of corporate facilities.

4.5 Regular review of human resources development through partnerships between industry, academia, and government

The Japan Business Federation has actively pursued for some time the exchange of views with many universities. To continue to reduce the gap in expectations between industry and academia and to strengthen partnering, the federation will hold regular meetings on the development of human resources by bringing together the federation, universities, and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology.

5. Expectations toward University Reform (Incorporation of National Universities)

In fiscal 2004, national universities will become incorporated institutions with non-public employees. It is strongly hoped that this transition will not be limited to a mere change in organization. Rather, as the first major transformation since the Meiji Period, national universities should restructure themselves in a manner that will strengthen higher education and research institutions supporting Japan in the 21st century.

The guiding principle should be the introduction of competition based on impartial evaluation, and the government must work to prepare a suitable environment for this. Being educational and research institutions receiving government funds, incorporated national universities must achieve high transparency and accountability. From the perspective of industrial circles, in addition to the matters discussed above, prioritized reform should be undertaken on the following issues.

(1) Introduction of private-sector management methods
In becoming incorporated institutions with non-public employees, personnel, finances, and other matters will be managed with a new degree of freedom. Incorporated universities should widely solicit people from outside academia to serve on newly established management councils and to serve as directors. Incorporated universities should also broadly adopt private-sector management methods for personnel and performance reviews and for organizational management. Moreover, efforts should be made to improve services by establishing a one-stop resource for partnering with industry and academia, such as by placing technology licensing organizations within universities.

(2) Strengthening the authority of university presidents
To carry out cross-sectional reform of educational faculties in conformance with social needs and to undertake strategic medium-term planning, the authority of university presidents as the chief executive should be strengthened, and management should be based on a flexible, top-down approach. The president should represent the university to internal and external audiences in committing to and being accountable for the plan. In addition, clear numeric goals should be set and reforms be made regarding the so-called inbreeding problem where a high share of university teachers are graduates of the same university, an issue that is emphatically viewed as impeding the development of broad perspectives by scientific and technical human resources in Japan.

(3) Exchanges of people between industry and academia
Mutually beneficial exchanges of people should be promoted between industry and academia. This can take the form of allowing private-sector people to become university teachers or to serve for a limited period in such capacity or as a second job, of employing university teachers in the private sector either full time or as a second job, of accepting each others' researchers, or of accepting interns.

6. Roles of the Government

6.1 Establishing a competitive environment between universities (enhancing evaluation systems)

To maintain free competition between universities, the impartial evaluation of universities by a third party will be indispensable. The impartial evaluation of each university and the disclosure of results should be steadily implemented based on a third-party evaluation system executed by an authorized evaluation institution scheduled for introduction in fiscal 2004 as approved by an extraordinary session of the Diet in 2002. To accompany the start of after-of-the-fact monitoring based on evaluation, before-the-fact regulations should be eased further, such as the need for government approval in establishing faculties or departments.

The quality of graduates from universities should be strictly monitored with respect to class attendance and should be guaranteed by making this a condition for graduation. To secure international equivalence for educational programs and to improve their quality, it will be important to enhance accreditation programs through the Japan Accreditation Board for Engineering Education and to strengthen linkages with international evaluation and accreditation systems.

6.2 Enhancing efficient support of outstanding education

With regard to the urgent issue of fostering industrial technologists, the active support of government will be necessary. In this process as well, it will be important to give prioritized support through the principle of competition. First, support of the development of new curricula for fostering industrial technologists needed in the future should be based on public solicitation, should conform to a transparent selection process, and should efficiently allocate resources for outstanding education. Support of the development of human resources should give top priority to the expansion of scholarships and other financial support for students and researchers. This process should be changed to a system where appealing universities gathering many students and researchers through competition will benefit from higher tuition income. In addition, the direct support of universities should be changed to a system that takes into account third-party evaluations mentioned above.

7. Conclusion

It is said that the United States succeeded in breaking free from the economic downturn of the 1980s by making Japanese companies its model, establishing as a national strategy the development of industrial technologists, and working to apply the knowledge of universities in industrialization.

Given that Japan is mired in a prolonged economic downturn, there is a need to reform various institutional systems and to vigorously promote the development of human resources able to undertake such changes. With its sights on establishing Japan as a nation of creativity in science and technology, the industrial world will continue to promote partnerships between industry, academia, and government through summit meetings and conferences on such partnerships.

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