Realizing Social Value from an Interdisciplinary Approach

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Purpose of Research

The research objective of this research center is “to study the dynamism of innovation that realizes social value, through cooperation between social science and natural science.” Laboratories and public research institutes in universities and companies, as well as collaboration between them have led to the birth of many excellent advanced technologies. However, being an excellent technology is not a sufficient condition for widespread adoption and penetration into society. In order to spread the technology socially, forms of management other than the research and development of the technology are necessary. These include efforts in marketing to potential users, building relationship with emerging users, the development of a system to follow-up on the technology (after service), patent management and domestic and overseas standardization. This research is based on the above viewpoints, and it involves natural scientists who are actually developing the technology and working on the research subject together with social scientists, who are primarily in management, in order to elucidate the dynamism with which the technology being studied and developed in the university can be spread to the society. Unlike businesses, universities do not have a marketing department which makes it more difficult for them to spread technology. It is, therefore, useful to study technologies originating from universities.


Research content / methods

The technologies to be studied will start off with the following three; (1) self-healing materials (Wataru Nakao Laboratory), (2) three-dimensional micro/nano stereolithography (Shoji Maruo Laboratory), (3) regenerative medicine for hair (Junji Fukuda Laboratory), which are currently being studied at the YNU. The reason for this is the difference in the target(s) for which the technology is intended. With respect to the process by which to spread the technology, we are considering the scope of research based on ordinary transactions (BtoB, BtoC). Since (1) self-healing materials are materials of aircraft turbine spindles etc., it is rare for end consumers to consciously purchase them. UtoB (University to Business) will be the predominant route of spread of this technology. With (2) three-dimensional micro/nano stereolithography, one of the goals in the future is to create artificial organs using biocompatible gels. The technology can be spread to consumers from the university through medical institutions and businesses; we imagine a UtoBtoC (University to Business to Consumer) form of the spread. The existence of (3) hair regenerative medicine technology was reported through each media outlet in FY2016, and there is a great deal of positive response from ordinary citizens that are suffering from alopecia. We can, therefore, consider this as a case of UtoC (University to Consumer). By establishing such axes of comparison, it becomes possible to compare and consider the influence of the difference in the target and stakeholders (social groups) of each technology on the dynamism of the technology's spread. In addition, we plan to expand the technology to be studied in order. Next, the action research method will be adopted as the method of research. In short, action research is a “method of solving problems whereby the researchers studying the problem collaborate with practitioners who come face-to-face with the issue in their work, in order to resolve a social problem.” In this investigation which is pursued by means of action research, researchers of the social sciences and natural sciences will stand on level ground to work on solving the problem of “social dissemination of an advanced technology originating from a university,” thereby creating knowledge that has never existed before. There are three main reasons for this. Firstly, although we use simplified models in positivistic studies, in this research we describe and interpret complicated events in a complicated manner, so that we can elucidate a complex dynamism that involves various stakeholders to realize innovation. Secondly, by comparing and analyzing the dynamism by which three advanced technologies spread to society, it is possible to construct a new theory and contribute to the development of dissemination research of innovation. Thirdly, we can make a practical contribution to the spread itself, of an advanced technology originating from a university to the society. The results of the research can be diverted for generalization, beyond the context and population of this research. Therefore, if we elucidate the dynamism with which innovation spreads, rather than just how it exists in industry / academia, it would be possible to provide useful knowledge to persons in charge of making policies on innovation. Although our university is a university with researchers in the so-called liberal arts and sciences, we cannot say that knowledge of both sides is organically connected. This research center can be a model which promotes research where social scientists led by business and management scholars, as well as natural scientists led by engineers, stand on level ground to contribute to society. In the future, we will perform a social value realization study to investigate the processes that realize social value. Social value realization studies not only analyze diverse social values that innovation brings to society in terms of social science, but also becomes a new academic field that systematizes a methodology which serves as an element for new technologies created from engineering efforts to penetrate the society, and would provide a vital research theme at our university, which conducts practical academics and combined research between liberal arts and sciences.