Site: The University of Tokyo (Prof. Kitazawa)
Faculty of Engineering, Department of Applied Chemistry
7-3-1, Hongo, Bunkyo-ku
Tokyo 113, Japan
Tel: 813-3812-2111; Fax: 3815-5632; E-mail:
Date Visited: January 29, 1997
WTEC Attendees: M. Beasley (report author), M. Nisenoff, R. Ralston
Hosts: Prof. Koichi Kitazawa, Department of Applied Chemistry


The University of Tokyo is generally regarded as the leading Japanese university. It is very strong in research in superconducting materials. The activities in superconducting electronics are currently housed at RCAST (see following site report). The WTEC panel's visit to the Department of Applied Chemistry was undertaken in order to gain the broad perspective of Professor Koichi Kitazawa on the overall situation in Japan with respect to research on superconductors.

Professor Kitazawa is a major leader in the academic superconductivity research community. Our discussion focused mainly on the status and health of the academic superconducting research community and the expected impact of Basic Law 135 on Japanese research universities. Prof. Kitazawa emphasized the importance of the new Basic Law in the context of Japanese society. It is a policy statement at the highest level and reflects for the first time policy considerations by the Japanese Diet regarding science and technology explicitly.


In response to the WTEC team's questions regarding the financial impact of the increases in funding beginning to flow in response to the Basic Law, Prof. Kitazawa stated that the funds will lead to a ten-fold increase for hundreds of select professors in Japan, perhaps close to 1,000. (Note that in the Japanese system, these moneys will be used to support several faculty, not just the major recipient.) These moneys are coming in a variety of ways and through various government agencies and programs. Also, there will be some new buildings and facilities improvements. For example, many of the engineering faculty of the University of Tokyo will be moving to a new campus in Chiba.

In the case of superconductivity research there has already been some impact. The Ministry of Education is undertaking an examination of the situation in academic superconducting electronics, but this will not likely be a large program. In MITI, NEDO (New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization) has received some of the new funds. They are also changing their expectations so as to encourage university/industry collaboration. Some of these funds (about $1.5 million) have come to the University of Tokyo superconducting research community in the Applied Physics Department.

The largest amounts are coming through JST (Japan Science and Technology Corporation) in STA. JST is run jointly by the government and the private sector. This funding is attractive because it is free of many complicating governmental restrictions. For example, Prof. Kitazawa joined with Tonomura of Hitachi for a $10 million program on imaging of electron waves. Most of this money will go for a new electron microscope at Hitachi (with substantial cost sharing), and a much smaller amount will go to the University of Tokyo.

We then talked about the implications of Basic Law 135 for PhD production. Prof. Kitazawa stated that inevitably more PhDs would be produced. They will come from the best MS students currently. Some of these PhDs will also likely become post docs after receiving their PhDs. Prof. Kitazawa felt that there would be industrial jobs for these researchers. Industry always wants the best people, and the Japanese industrial salary structure should not work against this. He drew an analogy with what happened 20 years ago when industry absorbed the large increase in MS students that arose as a result of a similar change in educational policy.

Prof. Kitazawa does not foresee an expansion of the number of research universities. National demographics will lead to reduced numbers of university students in the future. Some universities will necessarily be squeezed. On the other hand, in Japan, recessions such as currently being experienced historically have led to an increase in the fraction of students seeking degrees in science and engineering. Also, universities are seeing an increase in women students in science and engineering, because they can get employment more readily than in more traditional fields. Many go into computer- and software-related work.

In response to questions by the WTEC team, Prof. Kitazawa noted that funding for superconductivity research had gone down sharply over the previous 4 to 5 years. There has been some inevitable backlash from other areas of science on the panels of the Ministry of Education, which took the position that HTS had been funded too liberally. There had been some recent improvement at the time of the WTEC panel's visit, thanks to the new moneys in NEDO and STA -- perhaps even some small increase overall in MITI as whole.

On the question of collaboration, Prof. Kitazawa noted that collaborative projects are perhaps less common in Japan than in the United States. Also, there is not much interaction of universities with ETL or ISTEC. Creation of centers for the purpose of establishing shared facilities is not common. On the other hand, there is now a Centers of Excellence (COE) Program in the Ministry of Education. Awards are typically $5 million per year for five years. There is some intent in this program to foster collaboration and interdisciplinarity. For example, the Applied Physics Department in the University of Tokyo has received one of these awards, and the moneys will likely benefit superconductivity research. Other COE awards at the University of Tokyo include one in astronomy in the Physics Department and one in civil engineering.

Prof. Kitazawa believes that as a whole the superconductivity community in Japan will be healthy because of the efforts of MITI through ISTEC. The visibility of ISTEC helps justify basic research, although it complicates the case for engineering research.


The WTEC team then enjoyed a short report by Prof. Kitazawa on his own interesting and remarkably varied research, including a lively visit with the students and scientific visitors in his lab.

Published: August 1998; WTEC Hyper-Librarian