The person credited with holding the greatest number of patents in the world is Japanese inventor Nakamatsu Yoshiro, who with over 3,000 patents to his name trumps Thomas Edison's record of 1,093 logged patents three times over. His inventions, like all truly great inventions, tread the thin line between pure genius and sheer eccentricity, and include the plastic kerosene pump, the floppy disk, and the Love-Jet. Dr. Nakamatsu cites not sleeping more than six hours a night and writing while swimming underwater as catalysts for his innovative mind, although Nobel Prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr thought the process more a matter of chance, saying, "Innovation comes when the wrong things are used in the wrong way at the wrong time by the right people." The reality is though that innovation rarely comes from out of thin air. RIETI Report had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Tamada explain how "econoinformatics" can tell an awful lot about the origins of innovation. (DC)
Dr. Tamada, a graduate of the University of Tokyo, also holds an MPA from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, as well as a recently earned Ph.D. from his alma mater. Before becoming a Fellow of RIETI in 2002, he had previously served in the position of Deputy Director in the Technology Policy Division of the Industrial Policy Bureau, MITI and had been Assistant Professor in the Institute of Social Sciences, Tsukuba Advanced Research Alliance at the University of Tsukuba. Recent publications include "Empirical Study on Effectiveness of Research and Experiment Tax Credit," Proceedings of Portland International Conference on Management of Engineering and Technology, (1999), and "Policy Paradigm Shift from Science and Technology Policy to Innovation Policy," Chapter 18 in Systems and Policies for the Globalized Learning Economy, ed. by David V. Gibson et al., Prager Publishers, Westport, CT, pp.447-461 (2003).
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Exploring the Link between Science and Innovation
RIETI Report: Dr. Tamada, you are currently conducting quantitative research on innovation at RIETI, through "econoinformatics." You have so far been doing this research for 5 years now, but what initially motivated you to take up this project?
Tamada: It is often said that our time has shifted from the age of industry to the age of knowledge. People are now consuming knowledge rather than commodities. Given the zeitgeist, there is no question that government support for the creation of knowledge by universities and research institutes is indispensable for the prosperity of a nation. The question is where and how can public funds be infused effectively.
Upon joining the aircraft and ordnance division of MITI in 1993, I was put in charge of governmental support for basic research on Japan's domestic and international joint development of aircraft and aircraft engines. A large part of my work at that time was to persuade the Ministry of Finance and Diet members to allocate adequate budgets to this research by giving them justification for spending taxpayers' money in this way. Through this experience, I became interested in studying theoretical frameworks for linking governmental financial support with technological innovation, and entered the master's program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 1995. What I learned there was that economic theory proves that innovation is undersupplied through market mechanism, and therefore government support is justifiable.
This led me to the question of whether economics can help indicate in what areas the government should allocate its limited resources. This is essentially the question of how and to what degree scientific study influences technological innovation in Japan. However, I found there were few quantitative studies that could answer this question, and this became the motive for embarking on my research.
As the subject of my research I chose the patent data - granted and pending - of Japan's Patent Office. Patent data is effectively a massive collection of innovation information, and this is the best material to employ when conducting research on innovation. With support from RIETI and some other organizations, I have successfully built a computer with 1.1 terabytes of storage capacity on which any digitally publicized Japanese patent data since 1994 can be fed into the database we are creating through our research and freely processed; this is the foundation of our analysis. I am proud of the fact that this is the first achievement of its kind in the world. Of course, this research is indebted to past studies, especially the method of bibliometrics, which originated from research into reference material cited in theses and dissertations. What is unique about my research is that it marks the first time that questions of economics have been answered using the advancement of informatics and computing power. I have coined this field "econoinformatics," and believe that it will emerge as a new area of economics in the 21st century.
RIETI Report: Could you elaborate on the method and process of your research?
Tamada: Up to 3.7 million patents have been applied for and 880,000 patents granted at the Japanese Patent Office since 1994. According to the International Patent Classification, there are about 36 thousand different fields for patents, but I filtered out patents from the database which belong to four major clusters, determined in line with the four priority areas specified under the government's Science and Technology Basic Plan: biotechnology, nanotechnology, IT hardware, and environmental technology. For each of the four clusters I selected 300 samples at random and conducted a quantitative research on the scientific papers cited in these patents including those cited on the front page of the patent application. I did not only calculate the number of scientific papers cited in each patent, I also looked for every paper cited and gathered together information such as the name of the organizations to which the writers belong and the sponsors of the projects. In doing so, we learned what type of organizations - universities, private-sector organizations - contributed to innovation. Furthermore, this extremely time-consuming and labor-intensive task also unveiled the mechanism of how knowledge is cultivated. The number of scientific papers cited shows the degree of Science Linkage with innovation. For example, the more papers cited, the stronger the Science Linkage.
Science Linkage is considered a useful index that connects "technology," a factor that boosts industrial productivity, with "science," the systematic accumulation of intellectual activity. Isaac Newton once said, "If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants." In a sense, the quantitative study of patents is the study of the achievements of past giants.
To measure the degree of Science Linkage, we need to examine the organic chains that connect governmental infusion of funds, activities of universities and research institutes, academic papers, patents, and innovation. I attempted to demonstrate this flow by studying patents. Another interesting finding is that the engine of innovation differs depending on the area of research. For example, Science Linkage is much higher for biotechnology than it is for IT and environmental technology.
RIETI Report: How can this database contribute to the field of science and innovation?
Tamada: I believe it has great potential. Firstly, this database will give policy implications and thus guide how the government's funds should be allocated, as I initially intended. For instance, an infusion of public funds to support studies into biotechnology can be justified because of its high Science Linkage. On the other hand, it might lead to the conclusion that environmental technology should not be enhanced through scientific study, but by improving regulations.
Secondly, through a timeline-based analysis of Science Linkage, we would also be able to make quantitative evaluations of the impact the Science and Technology Basic Plan had on Japan's innovation system.
Thirdly, in studying Science Linkage by university, it would be possible to attempt a quantitative evaluation of the tie-ups between industry and universities, on a university and even faculty basis.
Fourthly, through analysis of patent applications and fields of technology by region, and by author of scientific paper cited, we would also be able to contribute to the study of regional clusters.
Fifthly, it will also become possible to study the relationship between technology and management of private companies that have promoted innovation by focusing on the changes and trends of the technological areas in which they have made patent applications.
Lastly, quantitative study of patents that have been applied for would contribute to a company's system for evaluating the researchers that they employ.
RIETI Report: Are you planning to advance your research by updating the database?
Tamada: I believe that is essential and hope to continue my research through RIETI's support. This study is also being carried out in collaboration with the National Institute for Technology and Policy (NISTEP), and with the Research Center for Advanced Economic Engineering (AEE) at the University of Tokyo. The joint project with NISTEP focuses on a quantitative evaluation of the impact the Science and Technology Basic Plan had on Japan's innovation system. The joint project with AEE focuses on management of technology areas and Professor Goto Akira, Director of AEE, has provided a great deal of help with this study. I believe that the potential of my research will increase the more it receives the collaboration of external supporters.
At the same time, I am aware that this database is not an almighty tool to measure the links between science and innovation. The greatest deficiency common to this type of quantitative study is that it is based purely on the analysis of past codified knowledge - patents which have been gained through a predecessor's efforts - and therefore it is difficult to use it for making forecasts about the frontier of scientific studies. To advance new frontier areas of scientific research, measures such as the Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research promoted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology are necessary. However, what I am currently undertaking can give support to this, because the study of a new area of science will result in a new patent, which will then fall into the reaches of my own research.
RIETI Report: Do you have any plan to share this database by making it available online?
Tamada: I am willing to share this database with others, but making it available on the internet would be problematic at the moment owing to the tremendous size of the data involved. For the time being, I think it is more realistic to conduct joint projects with external organizations and researchers, and simply provide outputs from the data on request.
As I mentioned earlier, this database can be said to be the only one of its kind in the world. If some other organizations inside and outside Japan are interested in my research, I would very much like to hear from them.
12/4 RIETI Policy Symposium: "System Design in the Age of Broadband II"
For details of event and admission, http://www.rieti.go.jp/en/events/03120401/info.html
For a comprehensive list of past and upcoming RIETI events, please visit the website: http://www.rieti.go.jp/en/events/index.html
Brown Bag Lunch Seminars
All BBLs run 12:15 - 13:45, unless otherwise stated.
11/26 Speaker: SHIMOTANI Masahisa (Vice Chairman, Special Committee of Human Resources Development, Osaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry)
Moderator: SAEKI Hidetaka (RIETI Vice President / Senior Fellow)
"Problems with Today's Youth and the Japanese Education System from the Perspective of the Industrial World"
(in Japanese only)
11/28 Speaker: KINOSHITA Toshihiko (Professor, School of Commerce, Waseda University)
Moderator: IRIE Kazutomo (RIETI Director of Administration)
"Winners and losers of ASEAN: How should Japan and the rest handle?"
(in Japanese only)
12/03 Speaker: Zoltan SUDY (Former Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Hungary to Japan)
Moderator: ARAKI Ichiro (Associate Professor of Yokohama National University)
"Transition to Market Economy and Democracy: The Success Story of Hungary"
(in Japanese only)
12/05 Speaker: YOSHITOMI Masaru (Research Fellow, JBIC Institute / Former Dean, The Asian Development Bank Institute)
Moderator: TANIKAWA Hiroya (RIETI Senior Fellow)
"Post-Crisis development paradigms in Asia and the Chinese-economy"
(in Japanese only)
12/09 Speaker: KANDA Keiji (Director, Japan Energy Policy Institute / Professor Emeritus, Kyoto University / Professor, Musashi Institute of Technology / Research Advisor, Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry)
Moderator: IRIE Kazutomo (RIETI Director of Administration)
(in Japanese only)
For a complete list of past and upcoming BBL Seminars, please visit the RIETI website: http://www.rieti.go.jp/en/events/bbl/index.html
There are no Research Seminars scheduled at present.
For a complete list of past Research Seminars, please visit the RIETI website: http://www.rieti.go.jp/en/events/research-seminar/index.html
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