MEXT Minister visited the university

University News | August 15, 2017

On Wednesday, July 26th, the now former Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT), Hirokazu Matsuno, visited Hokkaido University to inspect the robots used for agricultural work, the Space Mission Center at the Creative Research Institution (CRIS), and the Global Research Center for Food & Medical Innovation (FMI). He also spent the day discussing how to advance research and education with a number of university officials.

The day began at the Administration Building with Matsuno being welcomed by President Nawa, who gave a general overview of the university. There, they and other university officials deliberated on the current state of higher education, research, and ties between industries and academic institutions.

Under the fine weather and refreshing summer air of Hokkaido, Matsuno then visited the agricultural fields on campus. While receiving an explanation by Professor Noboru Noguchi from the Research Faculty of Agriculture, he was able to inspect some agricultural robots (driverless tractors), remote control them via a tablet, and watch them to go through the farm roads into some fields. This system allowing coordinated operations between multiple robots is the product of the Cabinet Office’s Cross-ministerial Strategic Innovation Promotion Program. Matsuno took this opportunity to ride on one of the self-moving tractors, showing great interest in how they worked together in the fields. “This is a great experience. I hope this will encourage young people to become more interested in agriculture,” he remarked.

After wrapping up at the fields, Matsuno was then taken to CRIS, where Professor Yukihiro Takahashi of the Faculty of Science spoke to him about the undergoing information revolution based on the appearance of microsatellites. Recently, microsatellites have been replacing larger ones, and they are expected to be further utilized to study global warming and predict natural disasters. Looking at the vacuum chamber utilized during the development of these satellites and the cleanroom used to build them, Matsuno asked about applications for field-based scientific research and collaboration goals between the university and industries.

Matsuno then visited the FMI where research collaborations have been progressing between the university, local government, and businesses to create an active and healthy society for all ages. The FMI provides companies with laboratory spaces with which they can work with academic researchers. With the day coming to an end, Matsuno inspected the joint-use facilities and the “future room” at the FMI. The latter is designed so that people can sit in a circle and have a casual round table discussion.