A Driving Force for Sustainable Achievements

University News | July 27, 2022

This article was published in the Spring 2022 issue of Litterae Populi. The full issue can be found here.

The Core Station for the Management of Open Facility & Skills (CoSMOS) promotes the shared use of facilities and equipment and integrally manages the development of research support personnel. It aims to improve the quality of research and education and strengthen innovation creation.

Professor Hiroshi Amitsuka, director of CoSMOS (second from left), Professor Toshifumi Igarashi, who oversees human resource development operations as a vice director (second from right), Specially Appointed Assistant Professor Ryuta Sasaki as a project manager (far left), and Senior Research Manager Masaki Kato (far right) as a coordinator.

Adopted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology for its FY2020 Project for Promoting Public Utilization of Advanced Research Infrastructure (the Core Facility Construction Support Program), the Hokkaido University Core Facility Initiative is now under way. Under this initiative, CoSMOS plays a central role in promoting the project. In addition to overseeing the University’s technological infrastructure and research support personnel development system, it supports sustainable achievements and their application in society.

Professor Hiroshi Amitsuka, director of CoSMOS, says, “A major development was the establishment of a cooperative framework between the Global Facility Center of the Creative Research Institution and the Office for Technical Support, both of which already existed within the University.”

Since the incorporation of the University, the current Global Facility Center has taken the initiative in promoting measures for equipment sharing, such as enhancement of open facilities and upgrading of contract analysis functions. At the same time, a university-wide organization and human resource development system for technical staff has been established. However, after about 15 years of incorporation, more substantial collaboration was required.

“The two pillars supporting the foundation of education and research are facilities and technical support personnel. Both have developed through the two organizations, respectively, but each has also faced its own challenges. With a view to sustainable development, and based on the philosophy that both should be firmly positioned and maintained within the University’s management strategy, CoSMOS was established as the parent body for collaboration,” says Professor Amitsuka.

To ensure that the functions of both organizations are not compromised and that they work well together to create a synergistic effect, this station has been placed under the direct control of the Executive Vice President responsible for university management. Each program is steadily promoted through collaboration with the Research Development Section—an organization comprised of experts in research and business management—in innovation-related projects, and with the support of the administrative organization.

Facility strengthening and human resource development as the two wheels of a cart

A project to support the upgrading of existing facilities and equipment that are in high demand in education and research is also underway through open invitation at the University. This project named REBORN (Research Equipment BOosting and Reusing

Network) is intended to promote the shared use of existing facilities and equipment on campus, and to add or update facilities and equipment, thereby improving the productivity of education and research.

“Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, upgrading of remote and automated devices has been a major challenge,” says Professor Toshifumi Igarashi, a vice director of CoSMOS.

As a growing number of shared devices can be remotely controlled, the number of users, both on and off campus, is expected to increase.

“We use a portion of the fee income to upgrade the skills of our technical support personnel,” Professor Igarashi says. The University’s technical support personnel have a wide range of expertise in areas including analytics, machine engineering, and field techniques. The goal is to develop such personnel and eventually establish a system that will enable them to acquire multiple skills and design their careers. As part of this effort, cross-departmental training and management seminars are also conducted to improve the skills of technical staff.

Plans are also slated to launch a system called Engineers Guide, which will allow our faculty members to search for engineers with any skill on campus. “Hokkaido University has a wide range of engineers with a variety of skills. I think that if we can enlist the help of such people, we can make a lot of progress in our research,” says Professor Igarashi.

A room where contract analysis is performed. With many samples arriving daily from the University’s chemistry laboratories, it is an ideal place for learning techniques.

Supporting the challenge of Hokkaido University students

Human resource development is not limited to staff. The door is open to Hokkaido University students as well.

As part of the project, Hokkaido University Tech Garage (HUTG), which provides manufacturing support for Hokkaido University students, is operated to help students propose and develop products that do not yet exist in the world. With the wisdom of the University’s faculty and staff, and utilizing a variety of technical support available only at the University, HUTG supports future entrepreneurs from Hokkaido University.

“It’s like a secret base where funding and space are provided for Hokkaido University students so that they can take on the challenge of creating new products they want to make. In the future, we hope that some students will use their HUTG experience to start their own businesses,” says Masaki Kato, a Senior Research Manager in charge of planning and supporting Tech Garage.

The HUTG program is offered twice a year, in the spring and summer, providing funding, work space and equipment, and hosting regular meetings to learn from entrepreneurs and other guests. Being able to network with like-minded people is also appealing.

“What is particularly important is the formation of a community base through manufacturing,” says Senior Research Manager Kato. The connection between Tech Garage graduates and Hokkaido University through manufacturing allows Hokkaido University students themselves to build connections with society. To this end, it is important to continue activities over a long span of time. The continuous human resource development for the purpose of instilling a manufacturing culture within the University will be the driving force that opens the window to the future for the University.

Hokudai Tech Garage

Telekocha, developed by a team (three fourth-year engineering students) participating in the 2021 Summer Hokkaido University Tech Garage, won the “toio SDK for Unity Award” at the Heroes League 2021 hosted by MA, a general incorporated association. Telekocha is a telepresence system developed based on the concept that you can join together with a circle of friends even when you are apart.

Tech Garage Logo

Hokkaido University Tech Garage is supported by the Hongo Tech Garage of the University of Tokyo and the Hokkaido University Entrepreneurship Development Fund, which is operated by the Institute for the Promotion of Business-Regional Collaboration, Hokkaido University.

This article was published in the Spring 2022 issue of Litterae Populi. The full issue can be found here.