Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Osaka University and UC San Diego to Help Accelerate Japan's Innovation Ecosystem

As the kick-off for a growing partnership between UCSD and Osaka University in Japan, the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center and Global Connect welcomed the program’s leadership, comprised of faculty, researchers and senior administrators from Osaka University.

The objectives of the three year program are to grow the innovation eco-system in Japan, provide accelerated technology commercialization training and assist with bringing technologies out of the lab and into the marketplace. The program teaches the importance of customer input early in the technology development process as well as the importance of the ability to “fail fast,” iterate fast and to develop better solutions that fit the market.

Program participants bring technologies created at Osaka University and will be working on them during the program. This will include presentations to and advice from von Liebig business mentors, development of the business model, and understanding customer needs and market size.

Dr. Shintaro Hisatake brought a technology that may help engineers design safer cars through better radar detection systems. Hisatake said, “First of all, I would like to appreciate everything what you have done for us. Your program has changed my mindset. I would like to come back to next fall!”

In addition to going through the training program, the faculty tested the program for students who will begin arriving in Fall 2015. The program’s curricula includes the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center’s full commercialization program, from idea validation through proof of concept to venture formation. Session topics include customer development, finance, pitching and intellectual property.

Yuki Nagano is an experienced venture investor and Associate Professor in the Office for University-Industry Collaboration.

“The program was way beyond what I expected,” said Nagano. ”I thought many times, I wish I could have taken this program, maybe ten or twenty years ago, then, my job in the venture capital firm would have been much easier.”

Osaka University professor, Dr. Yasuo Kanematsu believes that the program will be a great opportunity for open minded, challengeable students looking for improvement. After observing a session of the NSF Innovation Corps program held at the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center, Kanematsu explained that it has been more difficult to provide the same type of mentor relationship and feedback to Osaka University students, and that this program will be a unique opportunity for Japanese students.

Dr. Satoshi Kabasawa, former project professor at Keio University and current regional director and specially appointed professor at Osaka University, has been studying innovation for 10 years. He believes that the final program will be important in changing the mindsets of Osaka University faculty and students who are not so eager to fail.

“Our students are not so sure what to do when they fail,” Kabasawa said. “And though we want to make the negative impact from that failure to be small, failure is important to allow them to innovate, be creative and assess what are the next steps to move forward.”

Both parties are in agreement that the program will be an exciting opportunity for joint educational, cultural and research activities, the exchange of scholars and researchers, as well as the exchange of knowledge and academic materials for both UC San Diego and Osaka University.

The team will soon define the student selection criteria for its first cohort of 10 students, estimating that the program will expand with additional cohorts every 6 months, for a program total of 50 participants.

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