MIG visits Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan

Contributed by Karen Lightman, Managing Director, MEMS Industry Group

My journey through Japan continued with a trip up to Sendai (which is 96 minutes north of Tokyo by Shinkansen), at the invitation of Professor Esashi-sensai at Tohoku University. Takeo Oita-san of NDK accompanied me at my visit to Sendai.  We were greeted at the station by Katou Hiroyuki –san and Ms. Emi Ooba, both with the Commercialization Support Sub-section, Industrial-Academic Collaboration Promotion Section, Economic Affairs Bureau, Sendai City.  Their focus is to promote Sendai as the “best location” for R&D. Along with their director, Hiroyuki Miyata, I was very humbled and impressed with their hospitality and graciousness.

I would compare Sendai with my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA – at least how Pittsburgh was about 20 years ago before its revitalization. Like Pittsburgh, Sendai is trying to rebuild itself with a strength in R&D/university-education.  I was able to see some of the focus on R&D when I visited MEMS Core, thanks to a tour by Chief Engineer Masaru Miyazaka.

After a great sushi lunch in Sendai where Professor Esashi joined us, I was the guest of honor at Tohoku University where I gave a presentation on the US MEMS market and developments – MIG members can download my presentation on the MIG website.  I was again humbled by the turnout at the meeting; about 20+ researchers and representatives from the Miyagi Prefectural Government were in attendance and we discussed at length the potential for MEMS technology spin-offs and commercialization and how Japan/Sendai can learn from the US. I’ll post a few pictures here and more on Flickr.

After my presentation I was given a tour of the amazing research facilities at Tohoku University, both on campus and off; as well as got a glimpse of the R&D park that Tohoku University is building. While I was impressed with the development; there’s a side of me that wondered why they were breaking ground on “virgin” untouched greenspace for R&D facilities, when the existent research labs I toured were not fully utilized…I am sure there’s a good story behind it (again, a similarity to Pittsburgh that I won’t go into here!)

During my visit, I was able to learn more about MEMS Park Consortium (MEMSPC)– as stated on its website:  “MEMS Park Consortium provides an open environment where researchers can share information and facilities. Put simply, the potential of MEMS Park Consortium lies in its strong ability to produce highly competitive goods, achieved through information sharing in an open environment.” Under the direction of Miyata-san, MEMSPC is eager to expand its scope and reach way beyond Sendai and would like to work more globally (much like MIG, hence my visit). The two organizations have a lot in common and I look forward to partnership and furthering each other’s symbiotic missions.

The day was capped with a visit/stay to Akiu Iwanumaya. I was able to experience the famous Japanese hot spring spa – wow – the perfect way to finish a business trip! There was a bummer of an end to my trip on my last day before my flight home (picture it: a gorgeous early morning jog, then a close encounter with a truck, a curb and my clumsy self falling and badly injuring my ankle) but overall the visit was GREAT and I look forward to continuing my visits and engagements in Japan. Sayonara!

Miyata-san and Karen Lightman

Miyata-san and Karen Lightman

Oita-san, Professor Esashi, Karen Lightman and Hiroyuki-san

Oita-san, Professor Esashi, Karen Lightman and Hiroyuki-san

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