Site: Hitachi Central Research Laboratory
1-280 Higashi-koigakubo,
Kokubunji, Tokyo 185 Japan
Date Visited: November 16, 1994

Report Author: S. Esener



S. Esener
D. Keck
G. Saxonhouse


Dr. M. Nakamura
General Manager
Dr. M. Ojima
Head of Optoelectronics Research Center
F. Hara
Head of International Relations Section Planning Office


According to Dr. Nakamura, Hitachi and its subsidiaries' main business is a combination of electrical, electronics, and information systems -- encompassing, for example, the activities of IBM and General Electric combined. Hitachi is active in the areas of information and electronics (mainframes to microcomputers, magnetic and optical disks, telecommunication, medical electronics, and chip making), power systems (nuclear and thermal power plant, transmission systems, pollution control equipment), industrial systems, transportation systems (elevators escalators, automotive), and consumer products (air conditioners, refrigerators, TVs, VCRs, video cameras). The net sales of the Hitachi group in 1994 reached 7,400 billion yen (~$74 billion (Footnote 1), and net income was 65 billion yen(~$6.5 million). From 1993 to 1994, Hitachi experienced a drop of about 16% in its earnings, which led to a 1995 restructuring effort. It employs 330,637 employees worldwide. In 1994, 32% of net sales (25,155 billion yen, ~$25.2 million) were derived from electronics and information, 30% from power systems, 10% from consumer products (electronics and home appliances) now shifting to Asia, and 28% from materials (wires and cables, metals, chemicals) and other services.

R&D expenditures totaled 484,237 million yen(~$484 million), or 6.5% of all sales. This figure dropped by 3% from the preceding year. The Information Systems and Electronics sector accounted for over 60% of these expenditures. It should be noted that in 1994, during severe business conditions, plant and equipment investment was increased and was channeled into sectors with high growth potential, such as semiconductors and liquid crystal displays.


The Hitachi Central Research Laboratory (HCRL) was established in 1942 by N. Odaira, founder of Hitachi, Ltd., to create new basic technologies for the coming 10 to 20 years, while pursuing development work for today's business. Early in 1948, HCRL adopted the practice of bringing together representatives of HCRL and all of the company's plants with the vision that "as long as we are the lab of a private company we must strive to contribute to the company's business from a long-range view." Joint meetings have played an important role in the promotion of technology transfer. On HCRL's 50th anniversary, its motto became "from catch-up research to pioneering research" by "trying to avoid duplicating previous work, cooperation in research projects, and timeliness of the good results" with the aim of becoming a center of excellence.

The Strategic Business Projects system became operational in 1992. Under this system, the business divisions are put in charge of all aspects of the development of strategically important products, including planning, R&D, prototype design, production, and marketing. This system is supplemented by a preproject review system to assess the commercial and technical feasibility of projects prior to implementation.

Hitachi pursues joint development partnerships and alliances with other companies and universities in Japan and overseas to make use of R&D resources. For example, it collaborated with Cambridge University (UK) in a project that led to demonstration of a single electron memory, and it collaborated with Trinity College, Dublin, in a project that led to development of an artificial retina for optical neural network systems, a step towards robotic vision.


Nine corporate research laboratories (Footnote 2) are directly attached to the president's office:

In addition, R&D for product development is also carried out within the business divisions under the Engineering Development Centers.

The labs are funded as corporate research by the head office for product targets beyond five years or as commissioned research by business divisions and subsidiary companies for product targets within five years. When considering the funding for all nine labs, 30% is funded as corporate research and 70% as commissioned research. When considering HCRL alone, 45% of its funding is corporate, while 55% is derived from commissioned research. All funding for the Advanced Research Lab comes from corporate research.

In addition, Hitachi funds research facilities throughout the world: Hitachi America, Ltd. (HAL) has labs for semiconductor research in California, and for automotive products and advanced television on the East Coast; in Europe, Hitachi Europe, Ltd. (HEL) carries on research on microelectronics at the HEL Cambridge lab, computational sciences at the HEL Dublin lab, and industrial design at the HEL Design Groups in Germany and Italy. In addition, Hitachi organizes research visit programs with the goal of promoting synergistic research through interactions among researchers from different backgrounds and cultures. During the period 1985-1992, 100 researchers, mostly from Europe and North America, participated in this program at HCRL, more than 40% in electronic devices research.


Of the research funding in HCRL, 45% is focused on electronic devices, including research on ultrahigh-speed devices, optoelectronic ICs, high-capacity storage, ULSI, and high-resolution image sensors; 32% of funding is spent on information systems, including ultrahigh-speed processors, broadband communications, end user programming, storage systems, advanced workstations, and mobile image media communication systems; 16% of funding is spent for fundamental research in machine intelligence, superconducting devices, and advanced measurement techniques; and the remaining 7% of funding is spent for R&D in medical and welfare systems. This research is carried out in twelve research centers or departments at HCRL:

  1. Ultrahigh-Speed Processor Research Department
  2. Intelligent System Research Department
  3. Network Systems Research Center
  4. Mobile Communication Systems Research Center
  5. Information Storage Research Center
  6. Optoelectronics Research Center
  7. ULSI Research Center
  8. Functional Devices Research Department
  9. Advanced Devices Research Department
  10. Medical Electronics Research Center
  11. Exploratory Research Department
  12. Advanced Technology Development Department


Fundamental Research

The goal of HCRL's fundamental research is to pursue advanced new technology and bring new explanations to scientific principles. Recent successes include observation of silicon crystal growth using STM, demonstration of an ultrafast superconducting logic circuit, atomic storage using AFMs, and room temperature operation of a single electron memory.

Electronic Devices

The objectives in this area are to achieve higher levels of integration while downsizing, higher speeds for lower power requirements, and higher capacity. Research is presently focused on 1 Gbit DRAM, 32-bit RISC processors, and magneto-resistive heads for ultrahigh-density magnetic disks. In the optoelectronics area, important research directions include the monolithic integration of DFB lasers and optical modulators, and high-sensitivity image pick-up tubes.

Information Systems

HCRL is heavily involved in downsizing high-speed and high-performance computer systems. It conducts research on massively parallel processor systems such as the SR2001, UNIX workstations using RISC microprocessors and server cluster systems, high-density disk arrays, and wide-area distributed parallel computing. The laboratory's research also aims towards intelligent systems with open architectures that can be personalized. Such applications include geographic information systems.

Telecommunications Systems

Research in this area presently concentrates on ATM transmission systems for B-ISDNs, 40 Gbit/s optical transmission systems, mobile communication systems, and multipoint multimedia communication. HCRL research also aims at intelligent network management.

Media Fusion

This effort concentrates on video-on-demand, mobile computing, and HDTV.

Medical & Welfare

This effort focuses on DNA analysis, diagnosis by high-sensitivity imaging, and sign language translation.


HCRL is composed of twelve research centers, including the optoelectronics research center that operates under the direction of Dr. M. Ojima. The center includes 70 researchers. Fifty of these work in the area of devices; the remaining 20 work on systems. A man-year costs approximately 25 million yen(~$250,000), including salary, 40%; equipment, 20 to 30%; and consumables, 20 to 30%.

The optoelectronics research center consists of five research units, four of which focus on communications-related issues. Dr. Ojima was promoted in 1995 from his research position on optical disks to the position of head of the center.

These four units work cohesively for telecommunications networks, high-speed and WDM transmissions, and optical interconnects. For high-speed transmission systems, they investigate high-speed external modulators, superlattice APDs at 1.55 microns and pin photodiodes, and optical amplifiers and excitation light sources for repeaters. For WDM transmission systems, their emphasis is on narrow-spectrum DFB lasers as transmitters and wavelength tunable detectors for receivers. For optical interconnects, the effort is focused on low-threshold lasers and laser arrays, and uniform pin photodiode arrays for receivers.

Dr. Ojima's center is tightly coupled to three production sites: the Telecommunications Division, the Fiber Optics Division, and the Semiconductor Devices Division. In addition to the optoelectronic research center headed by Dr. Ojima, other activities in photonics technologies exist at Hitachi, Ltd. For example, research on optical disks and recorder-replay units is carried out in the Information Storage Research Center at HCRL jointly with the Data Storage and Retrieval Systems Division production site. Additional work on optical telecommunications networks is carried out at the Network Systems Research Center and at the Telecommunications Division. Passive optical devices and optical fibers are researched at Hitachi Cable, Ltd. Optical disk media research is carried out at Hitachi-Maxell.


Single-mode interconnects were planned for production in 1996, with low crosstalk and skew. These presently consist of 8 channels, 200 Mbit/s, and 280 mW/ch power consumption, with 1 Gbit/s expected soon. The price is expected to be around $5,000. Supercomputing and switching matrix are the application areas.

For laser array research, researchers have demonstrated a multiwavelength laser array operating at 1.55 microns with 10 nm control using thickness-controlled epitaxy.

Concerning TDM and WDM transmission systems, Dr. Ojima and his researchers believe that until the year 2000 transmission systems will operate on a TDM base up to 10 Gbit/s. Beyond 2000, they expect a 4-wavelength WDM system to provide 40 Gbit/s, and by 2005, they expect 8-wavelength systems to operate at 160 Gbit/s.

For long-haul transmission applications, Hitachi researchers are developing a DFB laser with external modulators; with -28 dBm signal power they obtain a BER of about 10-11. The researchers prefer indirect modulation to avoid the chirp problem associated with lasers. They use InP Mach-Zehnder modulators. They have research programs on both III-V electro-absorption as well as phase modulators, and they plan to use some type of dispersion management for applying these modulators to 40 Gbit/s WDM systems.

Hitachi researchers find MITI projects useful and participate in them. For example, two of Hitachi researchers are involved with the RWC program. Dr. Katayama, who is now the head of OTL, is from Hitachi. The researchers consider the MITI projects to be a forum for researchers and a way to create links between them. The outcomes of these projects are certainly near-term, but they find that discussions started between participating researchers pay off in the long run. They also pointed out that in most cases the best researchers were sent to OTL.

Hitachi also encourages the Femtosecond research program; it sees the potential of a direct outcome of OTDM technology and possible indirect payoff in time analysis.

About 10 researchers a year from HCRL move to universities. Also, HCRL recently recruited a university professor and a Japanese researcher from Hewlett-Packard.

HCRL researchers felt that the effect of the recession was mostly in the cuts for equipment expenses (20%), but the number of researchers has remained, in general, stable. They also felt a push exists towards more applied research with a shift of researchers towards business units during the reorganization. The optoelectronics activity was practically not affected by the restructuring effort, because it is still in its infancy; the computer section was most affected.


HCRL representatives showed the JTEC panelists several accomplishments in the demo room, including a complete system for sign language translation.

1) Throughout this report, yen-to-dollar conversions are made at the rate of 100 yen to $1 for ease of comparison.

2) Hitachi reduced the number of its corporate laboratories from nine to seven in 1995.

Published: February 1996; WTEC Hyper-Librarian