Technology Transfer from Keio University: Development of Professionals Fostering Innovation over the Past Decade
It has not been long since Keio University started university–industry collaborations and technology transfer as one of its mandates. The Japanese government had great expectation for universities to overcome the recession of the 1990s and quickly developed several measures to harness universities’ potentials. Keio established the Intellectual Property Center in 1998 as an internal office, almost simultaneously with other well-known Japanese universities. Thereafter, during the next decade, Keio gradually secured institutionally-owned patent applications and set about exploiting them and university–industry collaborations. The foundation for university–industry collaborations and technology transfer has accordingly been established and some successful examples can be found, but these collaborations have not reached the level of self-sustainability as with many other universities. However, not all university–industry collaborations are the same and should thus vary depending on the scale, nature, culture, and history of each university. This chapter looks back at some of the successes and activities of Keio and considers what universities can do to foster innovation for the benefit of society.
KeywordsIntellectual Property Technology Transfer Patent Application Patent Cooperation Treaty Industry Collaboration
1.1 Historical Background of Intellectual Property Management at Keio
Research fund from external entities, number of IP and license revenue
Research fund from external entities
20.09 billion ¥ (≒251 million $)
19.78 billion ¥ (≒247 million $)
5.88 billion ¥ (≒73 million $)
4.63 billion ¥ (≒58 million $)
1.9 billion ¥ (≒24 million $)
1.6 billion ¥ (≒20 million $)
Patent applications (domestic filing)
Patent applications (PCT filinga)
50 million ¥ (≒0.63 million $)
42 million ¥ (≒0.53 million $)
2 Activities of the Intellectual Property Center
2.1 Examples of Contribution to Society Through Technology Transfer
Keio has been involved in a number of inventions that have benefitted society. For example, Professor Masanobu Maeda and colleagues, previously of the System Design Department, invented a method for the measurement of minute droplets. Previously, it was difficult to measure the size and distribution of minute droplets such as fog in engine vaporizers and air bubbles in wine because the circular outlines of these droplets overlap. This invention used an optical system to detect the overlapping circles by separating them through conversion into horizontal lines by compressing the image into the y-plane.
Another example involves a system of generating fonts from handwriting, invented by Professor Masato Nakajima, previously of the Electronics Department, and colleagues. Characters are conventionally displayed in a standard computer font, but this system allows users to turn their handwriting into a font in a very simple way. By merely inputting about ten handwritten characters into a tablet, the system analyzes the personal characteristics of the characters, such as the shape of sharp upward slants or round letters, and then memorizes it. Afterward, according to a user’s preference, they can easily turn their handwriting into a font.
A number of important startups based on Keio’s patents have also been made. V-cube  is a company established by Mr. Naoaki Mashita who invented the company’s fundamental technology when he was a graduate student at Keio. This company provides web meeting systems and has had the number one share for 5 consecutive years in the Japanese market. Users can easily hold a web meeting among multiple people, and can display figures and lists together. Its ability to be operated in the cloud, without the need for installing any software to the user’s computer, has made it attractive.
Another startup called SIM-Drive  was established by Professor Hiroshi Shimizu of the Faculty of Environmental and Information Studies. Professor Shimizu invented in-wheel motor technology which is a structure that attaches a motor inside a car’s tires. It runs on batteries. The company’s purpose is not to manufacture electric vehicles by themselves, but to provide the highest level of electric vehicle technology and information, at the lowest cost, to all stakeholders dealing with electric vehicles. This company’s main business is to design and develop prototypes of electric vehicles and to transfer their technology for customers.
3 Challenges of Many Universities in Japan
Looking back over the past 14 years of technology transfer activities, university–industry collaborations, and startups at Keio, a number of challenges arose and were overcome. These provide instructive examples from the viewpoint of Japanese universities.
Why are we in the red in Japan? We think there are several reasons. First, it has been more than 30 years since the United States established a system to use universities for industry development, including enactment of the Bayh–Dole Act and establishment of offices for technology transfer from universities to industry. Conversely, only 10-odd years have passed since the Japanese government established a similar system, including the Japanese version of the Bayh–Dole Act and a technology licensing office system.
Second, university research results are usually advances in basic knowledge, and the experiences of universities in the United States show that it takes about 10 years before basic research generates products and begins to benefit society. For example, research at Keio enabled development of a new outside-the-body diagnostic agent for the autoimmune disease systemic scleroderma. This became accepted by health insurance companies and began being sold as a diagnostic agent in 2010. It took about 10 years to reach this stage since Keio filed the patent application in 2001. Based on this example, a period of at least 10 years is necessary to pay off a deficit. Even if the period exceeds it, it is difficult for many universities to move the licensing business (technology transfer in a narrow meaning) income and expenses into the black except at a very large university.
3.1 Required Professionals
In teaching and researching in these primary and secondary major programs, mentors from industry and government educate students and discuss with students real issues and challenges in Japan and the world based on their experiences and perspectives. Additionally, in these courses, students participate in self-planned overseas internships. This is meant to inculcate strong-willed leaders with an international outlook.
At the university, he or she would fine-tune the outlook, planning ability, and international negotiations after interacting with a variety of people, organizations, other universities, and competitive funding agencies. In this circumstance, he or she would be expected to produce a new project tied to an invention which is a combination of the university’s research results and industry’s commercial ability based on societal needs.
Through his or her job, the third mission of the university “to return research results of university to society” would be carried out. It is our desire to foster innovation based on promising research results of a university on an outstanding level and he or she would enter the top of the research planning and administration office which supports the vice president responsible for the university’s research.
- 1.Fukuzawa Y (1867) Seiyo jijyo gaihen. In: Saucier M, Nishikawa S (eds) Seiyo jijyo, vol 3. Keio University Press, Tokyo, p 61Google Scholar
- 2.Keio University (2011) Keio University Annual Report on Research Activities 2011, p 50Google Scholar
- 3.Arai H (2002) Chizai rikkoku. Nikkan kougyou Shimbun, TokyoGoogle Scholar
- 4.Stephen A (2011) The Bayh–Dole Act. In: Merril SA, Mazza A-M (eds) Managing university intellectual property in the public interest. National Academic Press, Washington, DC, pp 16–19Google Scholar
- 5.Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (1998) Act on the promotion of technology transfer from university to private business operators (1998, Act No.52). http://www.meti.go.jp/policy/innovation_corp/tlo-2law.htm. Accessed 21 Oct 2012
- 6.Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (1999) The law on special measures for industrial revitalization and innovation (1999, Act No.131). http://www.meti.go.jp/policy/innovation_policy/bayh-dole.pdf. Accessed 21 Oct 2012
- 7.Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology – Japan (2006) Basic act on education (revised in 2006, Act No.120). http://www.mext.go.jp/b_menu/kihon/houan.htm. Accessed 21 Oct 2012
- 8.V-cube, Inc. (2012) http://jp.vcube.com/. Accessed 21 Oct 2012
- 9.Human Metabolome Technologies, Inc. (2012) http://humanmetabolome.com/. Accessed 21 Oct 2012
- 10.SIM-Drive Corporation (2012) http://www.sim-drive.com/. Accessed 21 Oct 2012
- 11.Keio Leading Graduate School Program (2012) https://www.lua3.keio.ac.jp/app-def/S-102/wordpress/. Accessed 21 Oct 2012
Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.