NEC and the University of Tokyo embark on industry-academia alliance to strengthen innovation

DQW Bureau
05 Sep 2016
NEC and the University of Tokyo embark on industry-academia alliance to strengthen innovation

NEC Corporation and the University of Tokyo recently announced the commencement of a comprehensive industry-academia alliance for strengthening innovation in Japan.

This alliance differs from others in that it has been created under an organization-to-organization agreement to promote comprehensive collaboration, including the sharing of visions and issues from the fundamental research phase to the commercialization of research results phase, the consideration of social acceptance of research results, and the development of human resources for the future.

This collaborative alliance will focus on the following.

  1. Members of top management for both parties will be directly involved in operations, making large-scale investments and conducting innovative research and development, with NEC taking responsibility for the promotion of commercialization.

  1. Top-notch researchers will be brought together by taking advantage of the human resource networks of both parties.

  1. With the aim of commercialization, interdisciplinary investigations will be conducted in regard to implications for ethics and legal systems and social acceptability by capitalizing on the University of Tokyo’s status as a leading university.

(4) High caliber human resources will be trained and produced through the provision of scholarships and internships.

Among the first actions by this industry-academia alliance for innovation will be considering the magnitude of the impact of AI on society, to conclude the NEC/University of Tokyo Partnership Agreement for Future AI Research and Education in the field of Strategic Artificial Intelligence (AI), and to commence specific activities.


Conventional industry-academia alliances have only engaged in limited, small-scale joint research related to individual technologies. However, in order to strengthen Japan’s innovation and promote meaningful social changes, it will be imperative to carry out investigations on implications for ethics and legal systems with a focus on commercialization, as well as to create new collaborative alliances that are large in scale and cover broad areas, including human resource development. Moreover, it will be necessary to ensure deep involvement by the management of all parties. This new industry-academia alliance for innovation was created through the conclusion of a comprehensive agreement resulting from a strategic partnership between NEC and the University of Tokyo.

Overview of the NEC/University of Tokyo Strategic Partnership Agreement for Future AI Research and Education (*)

  1. Research and development of new technologies and systems

NEC and the University of Tokyo will assemble exceptional teams of researchers in the AI field in order to carry out a range of innovative joint researches, including “brain-morphic” AI technology research. 

By bringing together world-class researchers, including Professor Kazuyuki Aihara of the University of Tokyo’s Manufacturing Technology Research Laboratory, who was selected by Japan’s Funding Program for World-Leading Innovative R&D on Science and Technology (FIRST Program) as one of the core researchers chosen to implement 30 cutting-edge research projects aimed at achieving world-class results, NEC and the University of Tokyo will promote the research and development of brain-morphic AI technology to create information processing systems that mimic the brain and nervous system. This technology will facilitate the realization of AI processing with overwhelmingly high performance, low power consumption, and the ability to resolve advanced social issues.

2. Investigation of implications for ethics and legal systems resulting from the penetration of AI in society

In anticipation of AI-based solutions penetrating deeply into society in the future, NEC and the University of Tokyo will jointly investigate laws, guidelines, social consensus, implications for ethics, and more while bearing in mind current societal rules and human senses. Reflecting the results of these investigations, NEC will promote the deployment of solutions utilizing AI.

3. Scholarships and internships aimed at the development of human resources

An NEC/University of Tokyo Future AI Scholarship aimed at developing students in doctoral courses studying AI at the University of Tokyo will be newly established through donations by NEC. In addition, from the viewpoint of research and development focused on commercialization, NEC will begin accepting outstanding students in doctoral courses as long-term interns.

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