Site: Tohoku University
Research Institute of Electrical Communication
2-1-1 Katahira, Aoba-ku
Date Visited: 3 June 1999
WTEC Attendees: J. Winters (report author), M. Iskander, T. Itoh, L. Katehi, D. Friday, L. Young
Hosts: Dr. Kazuo Tsubouchi, Professor
Dr. Kazuya Masu, Associate Professor
Dr. Hiroyuki Nakase, Research Associate
The Research Institute of Electrical Communication was established in 1935 for research in the areas of microwaves, ultrasonics, magnetic recording, optical communication, acoustic communication, semiconductor devices, and information theory. The institute is divided into three divisions: Brain Computing, Materials Science and Devices, and Coherent Wave Engineering. The WTEC panel visited the Acoustoelectronic Integration Engineering subsection of the Coherent Wave Division, which is headed by Prof. K. Tsubouchi. This group has 4 Ph.D.s, 9 masters, and 4 bachelor students, along with 5 researchers and 4 visiting researchers.
Prof. Tsubouchi described the institute's main research activity, "Tele-Pad." Tele-Pad is a personal multimedia terminal, which communicates voice, data, and images with high reliability and distributed switching. Research is on a Tele-Pad system based on what was referred to as SS-CDMA (spread spectrum - code division multiple access technology). The system operates with a 26 MHz bandwidth with up to a 2 Mbps data rate using microcells of up to 150 m in radius and pedestrian users. The main research challenge being addressed by this group was the implementation of the correlator. Three different correlator structures were presented, including the sliding correlator, matched filter, and convolver.
A ZnO/Si SAW convolver developed by this group has been implemented by Clarion for use on the uplink. For the downlink, an aluminum nitride SAW matched filter was developed. The entire SS-CDMA system was implemented on a PCMCIA card, which was commercially available in April 1999.
Although the research presented a novel approach to wireless multimedia communications, the main focus of discussion was on research funding and the interaction with industry. This was the WTEC study team's only visit to a university, and this university was chosen because it has been very effective in working with industry and transferring technology from university research into industry.
At Japanese universities, there are several research funding possibilities. These include the Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) grants. In 1998, Professor Tsubouchi obtained research funding through NEDO. NEDO provides research funding from the government to universities for initial and basic research and development programs for industrial technology in areas in which the private sector is reluctant to undertake such research because of the risk in commercialization. Researchers in industry propose research to the evaluation committee of NEDO, which checks funding sources and matches funding sources with researchers.
Funding is provided for individual as well as group research. Funding is provided for a period of 3 to 4 years. For individual type, one to five million dollars would be provided, usually for basic research. For group research (up to 5 people, some perhaps in industry), one to ten million dollars would be provided, usually for applied research.
In terms of technology transfer, Prof. Tsubouchi stated that they had a 70% success rate in transferring technology to industry. This was attributed to their visiting researcher program. With this program, researchers from industry visit the institute for 2 years.
A company provides two to four researchers, with each researcher spending the first year studying at the university and the second year working on technology transfer. This works because the researchers have a commitment from the managers at their companies for the research projects to continue for 2-5 years, with the companies gearing up for the technology transfer while the researcher is at the institute. Thus when the researcher returns to industry, the company is set up for the new technology.
This institute provided a working example of how universities and industries can work together for effective technology transfer. Long-term (3-4 years) research funding from the government provided for a stable research environment, and the use of visiting researchers from industry aided in technology transfer. However, for this transfer to be effective a long-term (2-5 years) commitment from individual companies was required.
Tsubouchi Lab. in 1999, viewgraphs.
Introduction to NEDO (brochure).
Tsubouchi, K., and K. Masu. "Wireless multimedia: SS-CDMA technology." Proceedings of International Symposium on Future of Intellectual Integrated Electronics. Presented March 14-17, 1999 at the Sendai International Center, Sendai, Japan. pp. 259-268.