Thank you for joining us for OIST Forum 2021. I’ll be acting as moderator. My name is Momoko Suda. I’m the Deputy Editor in Chief in Charge of Science at NewsPicks.
00:20 - As you saw yesterday, we are doing sketch notes. You have already seen some of them. On Day 1, we discussed with Kazuo Ataka, Takaaki Kajita, and Sachiko Kuno the reality and background behind the decline of research in Japan and the research environment needed to restore fundamental scientific research in Japan. We had great proposals about how Japan can once again be a science and technology nation.
00:48 - Science and engineering are necessary for Japan. I think we’re able to reaffirm that, and I think we’re starting to see what we need to do at this time. So, now it’s whether we do it or not. I hope that the audience enjoyed Day 1.
01:07 - I would like to start today’s session. In the past, Japan has generated innovative technologies in high tech and materials, but all around the world, there’s been disruptive innovation, changing industrial structures. In the past 20 years, Japan has lagged behind. In order for Japan to lead the world once again, what is necessary? What’s needed to regain world-class science and technology power? OIST Forum seeks to find answers to those questions, with a total of 12 key speakers gathered, This is organized by OIST, and co-organized by NewsPicks.
We’re going to have a condensed session over three days, of which this is the second.
01:51 - Because of time constraints, we won’t have time for Q&A, but we will incorporate questions that we have already received. We also would like to reflect your impressions and opinions, so please type them in the chat box if you have comments. Just feel free to submit your comments and your impressions. Make sure that when you submit, you set the comment to “All panelists and participants. ” We will be using sketch notes again to enhance your understanding.
02:35 - Today, the theme is science and business, and we’re going to talk about how to create businesses, which will be the key to science-and-technology-based nation. Let me explain today’s program.
02:51 - In the keynote will hear from Adjunct Professor of Integrated Open Systems Unit of OIST and CEO of Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Dr. Hiroaki Kitano.
03:07 - In the second half, we will have a panel discussion with the panelists shown here.
03:15 - So, let us start the keynote. The keynote will be delivered by Professor Hiroaki Kitano. He’s joining us remotely.
03:22 - Professor Kitano, please. Thank you. Reflecting on what Dr. Ataka presented yesterday, I would like to expand the topic from the viewpoint of business development.
03:45 - Can you see my slides? Thank you. I have thought much about the title of this presentation, and I have given it the title “Moonshot Ecosystem” based on what Dr. Ataka said yesterday about needing a more grand challenge.
04:08 - I first became involved in OIST in the year 2000 before it was even established. When Dr. Omi started to conceive the idea of creating OIST, he made a global tour to recruit people. At the time, I was working on ERATO at the labs in Tokyo and Caltech, the California Institute of Technology. Then, Dr. Omi visited Caltech and asked to talk to a key person. The president at the time was David Baltimore, so we arranged a dinner for Dr. Omi and Dr. Baltimore.
04:45 - Dr. Omi visited Caltech in Los Angeles, then went to Stanford and continued his tour.
04:55 - After a while, I was asked to go to Kasumigaseki, where they asked me to take part in planning the establishment of OIST. That is how I became involved.
05:06 - When I heard about this project to create a world-level research institution in Okinawa from scratch, I found it very interesting and exciting, so I accepted the offer. But many discouraged me, saying that it would be a waste of time, that it was not possible.
05:24 - There was a range of people who gave me with this kind of advice, which I went against. I thought it sounded interesting and decided to give it a try. The title of my presentation today is “Moonshot Ecosystem. ” A while ago, OIST was buzzing with this. Take a look.
05:46 - When the “Daystrom Institute, Okinawa” appeared in the new Star Trek series “Picard,” we joked that such a world-class institute built in Okinawa must be OIST.
05:58 - We had lots of fun with it. In “Star Trek: the Next Generation,” the Daystrom Institute is mentioned often but never shown. But the Daystrom Institute is shown in the Star Trek Picard series, built overlooking the Okinawan coastline, This is the most important basic research facility of the Starfleet, where they create AI androids. We joked that OIST should do this, that OIST should be developed like the Daystrom Institute going forward.
06:37 - Talking about Moonshot thinking, which is today’s topic. This is Sergey Brin.
06:45 - I think it was as far back as 10 years ago. Google X held a workshop called “Solve for X” in Silicon Valley, for about 3 days in a resort hotel on the outskirts of Silicon Valley. I was invited to their initial workshop, where this picture was taken.
07:05 - He said, a 10% improvement won’t get you out the box, but a ten-fold improvement, though not easy, can bring solutions.
07:20 - This is Eric Schmidt. When he did this discussion of X, he showed an interesting chart on the screen behind him. X was presented as “a huge problem or global problem, which require a radical solution and breakthrough in technology. ” At the time, Eric said that this was going to be the next billion-dollar business of Google.
07:47 - This kind of broad view that says that technology or solution itself needs to be radical to change a huge problem is something like global agenda and will create a spin out business opportunities as well. Aiming at this goal is one of the possible approaches.
08:10 - Research of course is very important, not only big research such as Moonshot Project, but also smaller exploratory projects based on individual curiosity as well. We don’t know what research will bring. It can be something really big. One more is what you might call a focus of research.
08:25 - Something or an area that we all decide to focus on.
08:31 - On the other hand, a Moonshot is a specific goal that is agreed upon.
08:39 - This I think, started from the Apollo project. “We choose to go to the moon. ” That is the famous phrase.
08:44 - To get to the moon and back safely. A very specific and concrete goal. I am not sure if “delusion” is the right word to use, but the project has an extremely ambitious and aspirational element to it.
08:55 - There are many exploratory research and focused research, but Moonshot requires a well-calculated, very realistic, aspirational goal. All of these elements need to be balanced out Talking of the RoboCup, this is a Moonshot project or a grand challenge that I initiated.
09:16 - I have talked about this many times, so I think many of you have already heard about this project. The goal of RoboCup was to create by 2050 a team of fully autonomous humanoids which can win against humans a world soccer championship under FIFA rules.
09:26 - The goal was set back in 1992, and we had the first competition in Nagoya, in ‘97. The reason I came up with this project was because I thought that progression of AI and robotics with this kind of goal will bring many social changes or spill-over effects in a 30, 40, or 50 year-long span. I’ll talk about the logic of what actually happened from it later. Basically, we conceived this idea back in 1992, then made an announcement in ’95, and started the project in ’97.
The project has continued since then. During the course, many research outcomes have been spun out. The famous example is the KIVA Systems, which was later acquired by Amazon and was named Amazon Robotics. This brought a major change in warehouse operation with automation. Aldebaran Robotics also came out from this project. This was acquired by SoftBank and became SoftBank Robotics. Many different venture businesses derived from this project, creating a major ecosystem across the globe.
10:35 - Now, I will explain why I set this target for RoboCup? It’s not that I was a soccer fan. I became a soccer fan after starting RoboCup. Now, I will explain why I set this target for RoboCup. It’s not that I was a soccer fan. I became a soccer fan after starting RoboCup. I was thinking about the time around 20 years ahead from now, like in 2040 or so.
10:57 - I assumed that AI and robotics would play an important role in autonomous driving, automation of logistics, disaster rescue, service robots, and elderly care. Then I thought there would be issues including incomplete information and various others, and what kind of technology is required to solve these issues. I decided to choose a task in which all of these solutions are integrated in one thing that anyone in the world can understand.
11:25 - That was how we came up with the idea of creating a robot that plays soccer and wins against the world champion. Anyone can understand this. Well, some people wondered if I was in the right mind, but they could understand the task. All factors are integrated in creating a robot that plays soccer. I had designed a task that would generate various spin-out businesses in the process of pursuing it. Then, we actually had the games in Nagoya back in 1997. I have the video from then.
Please take a look. You can see it is quite static. The white on in the middle was made by the AIST. This robot did not even move by 1 cm until the end. I think these were made by USC. I am not sure if they recognized the ball, but they sometimes bumped into it, which caused quite a lot of excitement.
12:07 - BCC, CNN, and NHK, all came to cover the world’s first soccer game by robots. But because they were static or just moved about randomly once now and then, we were often asked, “When is the game going to start?” Then, we responded with a painful answer saying, “It actually has started five minutes ago. ” This is the video clip from 2019. There were several different leagues, and this is the middle-sized league. The robots were completed automated and moved this quickly with teamwork.
12:37 - And RoboCup is carried out autonomously and not remotely controlled. No one can touch the robots once the game starts until the end. Only the one that has just stalled can be removed by people. Other than that, they are completely autonomous. So, this is what it looks like now.
12:53 - When a human team had a game against the robots after the final. When you look at the game, you would think it can be done.
13:03 - But when machines made of about 50 kilograms of solid metal charge at you in formation at 3 to 4 meters per second without stopping, it is scary. This can turn into a completely different type of game than normal soccer. The game becomes considerably more serious. Robotics will only get better whereas the players only get older. So, it is becoming a closer game every year.
13:26 - It got to that level. As I discussed at the very beginning, after the first five years, a spin-out called KIVA Systems was developed mainly by professors at Cornell University. Using the autonomous technology developed for RoboCup, they created a business to improve warehouse operation. After about five years of its establishment, this company was bought and is now Amazon Robotics. Amazon is hosting RoboCups called Amazon Challenge now, and this kind of cycle has been made now.
Also, we made a Rescue Team right away. Various teams were developed at the time. After the 911 terrorist attacks, as you see in the video clip from World Trade Center, a team of RoboCup Rescue brought their machines to the World Trade Center. And they conducted a rescue operation for three weeks there.
14:23 - You are now looking at the on-board scene from that time. The machine went in the debris as you see, and conducted a rescue operation. This part was completely operated by a remote controller. They used wires and a video camera and checked what it looked like inside on the video. Because radio was blocked and there were big pieces of metals on the ground, the radio waves could not reach at all. So, the machine could not be operated remotely or wirelessly, or autonomously.
So, they had the machine actually go inside the debris, controlled it remotely, and retrieved it with a tether. But it really proved effective. They did not find any survivors, so they were not able to rescue anyone. But they contributed to the rescue by doing things such as quickly finding the entrance door.
15:07 - And this is the road between the 1 and 2 World Trade Centers. So, they achieved this kind of activities.
15:14 - Now, going back to the RoboCup, which started off with the soccer game, and to the rescue league, and an education league called Junior league, which involves about 250,000 children as well.
15:26 - There are @Home league and Industrial league, and so many leagues emerged from it. Now it is a paradigm of competition-type science and technology research. These competitions are also followed by symposiums to share the technology. This is becoming a culture. Some businesses joined it or offered sponsorships while spin off businesses also emerged, creating an ecosystem. What is important is, after looking at the static robots in the beginning, whether you can continue to believe in the future with KIVA Systems.
This is the key. If you give up after the first game thinking that it wouldn’t work, you cannot create the future that you dream of. This is the very important part.
16:10 - Like grand challenge or Moonshot, to realize an aspirational imagination, you have to start from the reality where it looks impossible to achieve. And you have to stay committed to your dream, and support needs to be sustained as well. Projects like Apollo and RoboCup, y ou really do need visions and leadership. You also need to have to theories of various aspects to lead the project to a success. Multiple factors are necessary including development of technology platform and excellent management as well.
16:44 - And when creating OIST, OIST itself was like a Moonshot project because no one has ever imagined having that kind of institution in Okinawa. Only very few people believed in it. And this is what we did.
16:53 - As a biotechnology cluster, Boston and San Francisco had already been established, but San Diego was established out of nothing over 30 to 40 years. We really looked into how the community with a 10% unemployment rate developed to be a biotechnology hub.
17:16 - There are professors who study this kind of thing. And Professor Tomioka had a really good paper of his research. So, we looked at various things.
17:29 - And you see in 1903, Scripps Lab was established, followed by The Scripps Metabolic Clinic in 1924. UC San Diego was established in 1960. From here San Diego started to flourish. To explain what happened there, this venture business called Hybrid Tech became successful and the management or the investors established VCs, which then created more companies, creating an ecosystem. Then some of the companies from there became successful and created a fund, or those management people created more companies.
So, that kind of a chain reaction was born. So, how do we make this kind of chain reaction happen, is the key point.
18:06 - When creating this ecosystem, we cannot rely on tax.
18:11 - If it is not successful, tax money will be invested, and the money will be distributed. It will not bring in more money.
18:16 - If a spin out becomes successful, investors invest money there.
18:21 - Then, those who become successful will get the large economic return, so they would donate to universities or invest money or make a company.
18:30 - To create this kind of a chain reaction is the most important.
18:33 - One of the ways to generate this collectively is to make a Moonshot ecosystem.
18:39 - There are of course other ways. Hybrid of several things is effective.
18:44 - So, can we make this kind of a Moonshot ecosystem at OIST? That’s going to be one key point.
18:51 - There are so many things to be considered. They won’t be interesting if I don’t talk about what I’m doing myself.
18:59 - So, if it was me in the position of the President, Dr. Peter Gruss, I think there are several evident areas that need to be focused on, the first of which is sustainability. It is very important.
19:14 - Because of COVID-19 lockdown, GDP declined by 25% and even about 50% in some countries.
19:20 - What we found from this is that the CO2 emission level went back to the level of 10 years ago, so we are back to where we used to be.
19:27 - So, we have learned that just making adjustments with the current economic model and energy demand model, the CO2 emission control is almost impossible.
19:38 - Some people call it green recovery, but unless we change the industrial and societal structures qualitatively, we will not be able to solve the global warming issue.
19:51 - So, there will be great change, and where are changes, there are great business and research opportunities.
19:59 - What is being said recently is the “climate departure. ” This paper looks at the temperature which has been measured continuously at one site in the Atlantic Ocean.
20:10 - The temperature has been fluctuating between 18. 5 and 21 degrees.
20:15 - However, around 1980, the temperature began to rise.
20:20 - Now, the temperature is estimated to go over 21 degrees around 2020, and then the average temperature to go up to around 22 or 22. 5 degrees and not to be reversed.
20:32 - In other words, the climate is estimated to transition irreversibly and not to go back to the previous state.
20:38 - So, how to control climate change is one thing.
20:43 - Another thing is, assuming that the climate change is going to occur, how we’re going to respond to that? We need to think about these two things.
20:49 - One of the things we did at OIST is to work on a microgrid experiment called Open Energy System with Sony CSL.
21:00 - These were fully operated for five years. On 19 faculty houses on the hillside, where people were actually living in them, we built DC microgrid system.
21:13 - Solar photovoltaics or solar panels were used with lithium-ion batteries.
21:20 - Each house was connected to its own system, and the electricity was shared amongst the batteries.
21:26 - So, we were able to operate the system nonstop for five years.
21:31 - As you see, it is connected through 3 bus lines called ABC Lines.
21:37 - This experiment was done partially with the subsidy from Okinawa Prefecture.
21:40 - The proof-of-concept was completed, and it just entered the phase of commercialization.
21:43 - At the same time, Sony decided to open-source the source code of this system, and so we did.
21:55 - It was because if you look at the situation of climate change with COVID-19 as I talked about earlier, we realized that we won’t be able to do enough on time by just Sony using this technology.
22:04 - By open sourcing the technology, we need to accelerate our effort.
22:07 - There’s a lot of know-how and software on OIST side, and those will also be open sourced.
22:13 - So, this entire microgrid system will be open sourced.
22:18 - With Linux Foundation, we launched a new open-source energy grid project called Hyphae.
22:28 - This chart shows a little bit of details, but I will explain it just briefly.
22:33 - When self-sufficiency of the renewable energy supply is about 97%, you can reduce the installed capacity by 50% with the power interchange.
22:42 - That’s what it can do. In addition, you can actually have a hybrid of the microgrid and the existing power line.
22:50 - It will be considerably expensive if you use 100% of electricity from microgrid.
22:52 - So, you can use 95% from microgrid and 5% from the existing line.
22:56 - This improves the renewable energy rate of the existing line as well.
22:59 - And total supply will be reduced, and it becomes easier to use renewable energy with the existing line as well.
23:04 - I think it will be such a structure We also worked with Misawa at OIST and made it completely off grid which allowed comfortable living all year round.
23:14 - It was dismantled once but it can be restarted.
23:18 - This is the structure. In regard to sustainability, the goal of zero CO2 emission is actually just part of the effort.
23:26 - We also need to reduce the resource requirement to one tenth or one hundredth. And increasing the biodiversity also becomes necessary. .
23:33 - Specially in Japan, we have concerns of Nankai Trough earthquake and Okinawa Trough earthquake in Okinawa as well as a major typhoon.
23:41 - as well as major typhoons. There is no doubt that we will have big disasters.
23:46 - So, we need to mix the sustainability and resilience for disasters. And there is a great opportunity there.
23:55 - Regarding the earlier mention of biodiversity.
23:58 - This is a Sony project by Dr. Funabashi called Synecoculture which aims to increase biodiversity and have a sustainable harvest with agriculture.
24:08 - It is not multiple cropping. They do not plant one crop but multiple crops. They plant considerably many crops like 100 or 200.
24:16 - It is easy to understand if you think about industrial farming of one crop.
24:21 - Seventy percent of the world’s food supplies actually come from backyard farming.
24:26 - So, we decided to introduce science in the backyard farming.
24:29 - What we do is look at the terroir to see what kind of plants should be planted, what kind of insects will come, what are the predators of those insects, and this becomes a huge network which we can use to design an ecosystem and then control it.
24:44 - We actually conducted a five-year experiment in Burkina Faso.
24:47 - With this agricultural approach, biodiversity increased.
24:53 - People in Burkina Faso could earn the average monthly income of about €1,000 per person.
24:59 - The income of a three-person family suddenly increased to the average level of ASEAN countries.
25:03 - This proved to be very effective. This is another Sony project using laser pickup technology on the ISS.
25:11 - We are developing the technology which uses laser for high-speed optical communication between the low earth orbit satellites.
25:18 - This can be realized in several years. This allows establishment of a high-performance optical communication network in outer space.
25:26 - Working on renewable energy and agriculture as shown earlier will lead to a nature-based agriculture around the world and robust energy supply.
25:38 - We can create such an ecosystem. When you consider various things, Smart Cities usually doesn’t work.
25:49 - We have to make Resilient Cities. I think we need to do this at OIST as well. When OIST is going to build North Campus, we need to do this.
25:56 - We also need to reshape cities as Dr. Ataka talked about, but I am going to skip this.
26:01 - I am going to talk about what needs to be done next. This is what we are going to do at my unit as research.
26:07 - We are going to use AI system to make a big scientific discovery.
26:10 - We should have a clear goal, so we aim to develop an AI system that could win Noble Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
26:18 - We’ve written several papers. Please take a look.
26:21 - Project has actually started just one year ago.
26:25 - We held a workshop at the Alan Turing Institute.
26:29 - And the project started at the Alan Turing Institute. We are also starting up some other projects as well.
26:32 - Whether we can actually win the Nobel Prize or not is not so important.
26:39 - But it would probably be like the Turing Test. It’s called the Feigenbaum Test.
26:46 - It is possible that Nobel Prize Committee gives the award to someone thinking it’s a human, but it turns out to be AI.
26:53 - Is it possible? Nobody has met Satoshi Nakamoto of Bitcoin or Blockchain.
27:00 - But everyone is still using it, so if something is verifiable and a breakthrough, I don’t care if we get a Noble Prize or not.
27:07 - But it could really be a game changer. The scientific discovery in AI field is not so new.
27:14 - It started with Dendral and Meta-Dendral launched by Feigenbaum, Lederberg, and Buchanan.
27:20 - Recently, Ross King created a closed loop system in which an experiment was automatically planned and conducted to test an install genetics hypothesis.
27:31 - But, the variety of experiments were not so wide, and since it only covered install genetics, it has not produced a considerably major result yet.
27:40 - But it was verified well. I think it is important to evolve it in a direction of expanding the variety of experiments to create more variety of hypothesis.
27:49 - In Chemistry, as in the Liverpool system, experiments are done in succession without humans, and parameter tuning of chemical reactions is done automatically.
28:00 - At OIST, this is a tentative floor layout of my lab.
28:06 - We are trying to make a robot that conducts experiments so that all experiments can be conducted by robots.
28:08 - We will actually need to do data, physical, material, and process flow management.
28:15 - All of these have to be done for experiments.
28:17 - We have to create the hypothesis and accumulate information.
28:20 - This is a Yeast Signaling map extracted from research papers.
28:24 - We have made it so that the information is automatically extracted from papers now.
28:26 - It analyzes the data from papers and covers with about 95% accuracy.
28:32 - It is becoming capable of making predictions now.
28:35 - Last year, our team published a paper which estimated the correlation between a certain disease and chemical substance very reliably.
28:48 - For example, in this verification, the relationship between Alzheimer and Indomethacin was found at some time in 1980s.
28:56 - It could predict the finding based on the papers published in the previous year or before.
28:59 - It could be predicted based on the papers published even 10 years before.
29:01 - It does not always predict the findings well. Some findings could not be predicted even from papers published 5 years before.
29:06 - Anyway, this is what we can do. Aging is the research I did together with Professor Imai.
29:14 - We looked at the mechanism of cell aging. We looked at the molecular mechanism and how the molecules interacted.
29:24 - We simulated it on the computer and found that the result actually matched the several mathematical models.
29:30 - Then we estimated the molecular mechanism to be Sir2.
29:37 - After Professor Imai transferred to MIT, he found that the Sir2 was the gene related to longevity.
29:43 - This is linked to Sirtuins Family. Professor Imai experimented this process with mouse and the mouse with overexpression of Sir2 had the extended life by 20%.
29:57 - The only thing we exhaustively developed was the computer model.
30:02 - Other than that, we made guesses while we tried various things.
30:07 - We were dependent on intuition. So, we think logically but but we also rely on intuition.
30:13 - We don’t exhaustively covering everything. In that sense, scientific discoveries are at the pre-industrial revolution level.
30:20 - We need to actually automate it. First, the labs need to be connected.
30:26 - Then AI assistant is needed. Then we will need more autonomous AI systems.
30:31 - In reality, hypothesis should be generated from the paper and database, then it will be experimented and verified.
30:38 - Some information on the papers and database there are erroneous.
30:42 - We are creating this great system that will generate a hypothesis from something like Twilight Zone so that it is handled properly.
30:48 - It will probably take 10 to 20 years to build it.
30:56 - Basically, the system will conduct a large-scale hypothesis generation and verification. When we actually look at major scientific discoveries such iPS found by Dr. Yamanaka and conductive polymers found by Dr. Shirakawa, search and optimization are repeated a few times in relatively many cases.
31:20 - This does not apply to everything and we do not need to discover everything.
31:23 - What AI can do effectively is exhaustive search and optimization.
31:30 - So, I think such a new type of intelligence will be made.
31:33 - This is a simple chart of AlphaGo mechanism.
31:39 - AlphaGo predicts the next move based on the previous games.
31:43 - And have programs play against each other. Then it uses the Monte Carlo tree search to explore the surrounding areas and to evaluate.
31:53 - And this is the mechanism. The past moves are recorded as shown in the red circle which is only a small area of all possible moves.
32:03 - After learning the moves, the AI explores all moves around it and evaluates all of them with the Monte Carlo tree search.
32:10 - As it learns the winning moves from those moves, it can expand the red area to the orange area.
32:15 - This alone can beat the humans. Humans have not learned all of the orange areas. This is sufficient.
32:20 - In addition, AlphaGo ZERO did not read the previous moves but just ran a random sampling of the entire moves.
32:28 - Then after that, the learning was enhanced further and further.
32:32 - AlphaGo ZERO came up with moves that no human players could ever conceive of.
32:36 - AlphaGo ZERO surpassed human players after the first few days of training, and AlphaGo two weeks later.
32:42 - Something like this is very possible. The current scientific discoveries are of things are easy for humans to discover.
32:53 - It is probably normal to start from there. That itself can have a significant impact.
32:59 - In the future, AI can also be used to make discoveries that are hard to be discovered by human researchers.
33:06 - If this becomes possible, a major impact is expected.
33:11 - It can lead to development of devices and software in the surrounding areas, creating one huge industry for sure.
33:16 - So, it is very important. If science research is automated, the research institutes that do not have these systems will lose their competitiveness.
33:23 - So, this will be extremely important, and we are trying to build it at OIST.
33:27 - Aging, for example, is an area that will probably be increasingly important.
33:33 - This is an ultimate theme. And there are some interesting ideas.
33:37 - I’ve been doing research in longevity area.
33:41 - A considerable number of researchers have started arguing that aging is not a process but rather a disease, so it is treatable.
33:46 - This is also Moonshot research. Recently, the book called “Lifespan” is selling well.
33:54 - It argues that by eliminating all the elements, aging can be controlled.
34:00 - Living up to about 120 years old is achievable.
34:04 - But, if the aging is controllable, how can the lifespan be extended to 150, 200, or 500 years old, is what researchers think.
34:08 - People can live up to about 120 years old. When we look at the past 50 years or so, the mean life expectancy has extended, and the mortality rate of younger children decreased.
34:19 - However, the upper limit has not been extended from around 120.
34:23 - In the last 10 years or so, the highest age has declined from 116 to around 114 or 113.
34:31 - This is the reality. We probably won’t be able to achieve lifespan extension to 120 or 150 in an ordinary way.
34:36 - Another interesting theme is whether all the living creatures are destined to die.
34:39 - They do die, but the charts on the right bottom field of the slide shows that the mortality rate of naked mole-rats remains the same even when they age.
34:50 - In general, the mortality rates of living creatures, including humans and all others, increase as they age.
34:54 - However, the mortality rate of naked mole-rats does not increase as they age.
35:01 - And we know why it is so. The naked mole-rats die for sure just randomly.
35:07 - But the death is not necessarily because of the aging.
35:11 - This is the very interesting area and might be the final frontier.
35:13 - If you really want to do this study, then you really have to have a very strong obsession.
35:16 - Before Ted Turner built CNN, the news had been recorded and viewed two or three times.
35:26 - But now, we can hear news anytime through 24 hours and anywhere.
35:29 - This is the picture of the Solar Impulse. This was a project to fly the plane around the globe by only using the solar power.
35:35 - Everyone thought it would be impossible, but it has actually flown several rounds already.
35:38 - These are the examples of breakthroughs made with obsession.
35:42 - I also think it is very necessary to use imagination to think what kind of impact our research will have on the society and whom it will make smile? We visit different places, like these monks in Laos, fishing villages in the Philippines, and so on.
35:58 - It is significantly important to imagine what kind of impact we want to have on society.
36:05 - And this is my last slide. These things are never easy to do, as with the establishment of OIST.
36:11 - We are trying to do something even harder. I would like to conclude my presentation with a quote from Steve Jobs, “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do. ” To change the world, we really have to be obsessive and continue doing what we do even if others call us crazy.
36:30 - During this process, I think that Moonshot ecosystem can emerge and lead to businesses or new scientific discoveries.
36:41 - The establishment of OIST has been crazy from the beginning, and I hope we can create an ecosystem that allows us to work on crazy projects at OIST.
36:51 - Thank you. Thank you for that precious talk.
37:01 - I was listening to your talk with astonishment the whole time about such a large-scaled topic on how to create a Moonshot ecosystem.
37:13 - Science produces various seeds, and we develop them to a larger industry.
37:22 - And the new wealth and knowledges are generated and accumulated from it are returned into the next research and to society.
37:32 - And that cycle snowballs, growing bigger and bigger.
37:36 - That’s how I interpreted the ecosystem that you talked about.
37:40 - In today’s panel discussion, we would like to discuss in depth about that the first step of the cycle - how to transform science into business.
37:49 - Thank you very much for your talk covering a very wide range of topics.
37:56 - Now, we would like to move on to the panel discussion.
38:01 - I would like to introduce today’s panelists.
38:05 - Prof Tamotsu Yoshimori, Graduate School of Frontier Biosciences & Graduate School of Medicine/ Faculty of Medicine, Osaka University, the Founder of AutoPhagyGO.
38:23 - Next, Mr. Akihiko Nagata, Representative of Real Tech Fund and Executive Vice President Chief Operation Officer (COO) of Euglena Co. , Ltd is joining us remotely.
38:35 - Pleased to be here. And Mr. Wataru Baba, Counselor in charge of Environment and Energy Business at Panasonic North America is joining us remotely from California today.
38:54 - Glad to be here. And I will serve as a moderator. So, let us start.
39:06 - First, I would like to ask each of the panelists to introduce themselves.
39:12 - Professor Yoshimori, would you please go first? Yes, thank you.
39:17 - I’m from Osaka University. My name is Tamotsu Yoshimori. Pleased to be here.
39:20 - I would like to introduce myself using my slides.
39:26 - Do you see my slides? Thank you. I am a hardcore basic researcher, and cell biology theory is my specialization.
39:43 - For the last 25 years I’ve been doing the research on the functions inside cells called autophagy.
39:50 - Put simply, autophagy is a system in which something like a Pac-Man that appears in cells and eats proteins or other components of the cells and organelles and degrade them down to recycle them.
40:07 - And this function is embedded in all cells.
40:10 - The chart I’m showing you is the number of papers in this area of autophagy research.
40:23 - Autophagy was discovered back in 1950s, but for various reasons the research stagnated for a long time.
40:31 - But the number of research paper has rapidly increased from around 2005.
40:35 - The field has become much more active. There is a very clear reason for this.
40:44 - Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi from Japan, now a professor at Tokyo Institute of Technology, identified the essential genes in yeast. It was back in 1993.
40:57 - In 1996, when Dr. Ohsumi moved from Tokyo University to the National Institute for Basic Biology and became a professor, he called me to be his assistant professor.
41:08 - Dr. Ohsumi specialized in yeast, but my area of specialization is mammals So, we started to do research on autophagy in mammals.
41:17 - So, we applied Dr. Ohsumi’s research results from yeast to the study of mammals.
41:20 - Then later, we began to find more and more about its relationship to diseases in mammals.
41:28 - Then this research field began growing. In 2016, Dr. Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize in Physics or Medicine.
41:36 - I wasn’t really versed in this area when I started this research, but this has resulted in the Nobel Prize of Dr. Ohsumi.
41:49 - And I was even invited to the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony.
41:52 - It was beyond words. And I would like to emphasize that at the very outset, we didn’t know how useful this research could be at all.
42:03 - But we later began to find the relationship between autophagy and critical diseases in various areas including lifestyle-related diseases, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, infectious diseases, and cardiac failure as listed on this slide.
42:18 - It was also discovered that autophagy is related to life expectancy and aging, and as a result the field expanded.
42:25 - And this is some of the results of my research lab, but I won’t go into that.
42:31 - The function of autophagy is impaired with the advancement of the age.
42:35 - But by reactivating this process, we found that we could elongate the life expectancy and inhibit the onset of age-related diseases.
42:42 - In this case we were studying the Parkinson’s disease.
42:45 - This is the result we reached just recently in 2019.
42:51 - As Professor Kitano mentioned earlier, we have come to the point of possibly countering the aging process.
43:01 - This is the ranking of the number of research papers cited by other peer reviewed papers.
43:11 - As you can see in this table, Japan is outstanding in terms of the number of cited research papers related to autophagy by large measure.
43:16 - Of course, partially owing to Dr. Ohsumi’s winning of Noble Prize.
43:19 - For example, if we look at individual authors, the top four highly cited researchers are Japanese, including myself.
43:27 - As shown, Japan is still leading the world in the research of autophagy even now.
43:35 - On the other hand, in terms of the number of patents listed, we are lagging behind even south Korea.
43:41 - We are of course lagging behind the US and China.
43:44 - The venture capitals were made one after another in Europe and the US.
43:47 - But there were none at all in Japan. I have done basic research for a long time without obtaining any patent though I had an opportunity to file one.
44:00 - It was partially intentional to help this research area to develop.
44:08 - But this is often the case with Japan. We are very good at basic research, but we lag behind in actually implementing the technology in society.
44:17 - I thought this is not good. That is why we created a venture capital two years ago.
44:26 - But ordinary venture wouldn’t be exciting, I thought.
44:30 - So, we really wanted to create an ecosystem rather than a venture.
44:37 - I’m rather idealistic, I wanted to create an ecosystem to implement the technology where profit earned is reinvested back into basic research, creating a good ecosystem for basic research. I thought it wouldn’t be good to keep depending on the government to do research.
44:57 - And the mission of this venture, AutoPhagyGo, is to make a broad a wide range of contributions to health and longevity. We are aiming to make it a company that works directly on aging, which was mentioned by Dr. Kitano earlier.
45:18 - Autophagy can be utilized not only in medicines, but also in food, cosmetics, and other areas as well.
45:27 - So, we aim to make it an open innovation platform that can be joined by different types of businesses.
45:35 - And this is a mission and a vision of AutoPhagyGo.
45:40 - There is another reason that I launched AutoPhagyGo.
45:42 - The research whose usefulness is yet to be known, like the one that Dr. Ohsumi did, can actually be useful.
45:47 - I also wanted people to know that. For CEO of AutoPhagyGo, we invited Miwako Ishido, who is a former researcher.
46:06 - We didn’t invite venture capitalists, but we invited investment from individuals or other business entities to promote collaborative joint research.
46:24 - Toyo Keizai also picked us as one of the top 100 venture companies.
46:31 - Also, we created a supplement and I think I’m running out of my time.
46:40 - I also authored a book about autophagy. So, those of you who are interested in learning more about autophagy, please do read this book.
46:51 - Thank you. Thank you very much, Dr. Yoshimori.
46:57 - He’s a world-renowned expert of autophagy research.
47:02 - As he said at the end, he’s written this book Life Science which has become a best-seller.
47:09 - I’ve read it, and it talks about not just about autophagy but explains the basics of life sciences. It is very easy for us to understand, so if you’re interested, please read it.
47:22 - Next, I would like to ask Mr. Nagata, please.
47:26 - I am Nagata here, so let’s have my slide please.
47:32 - I was quite surprised, Dr. Yoshimori. Mr. Naruke is the investor of your company.
47:36 - That is right. Mr. Naruke also talked to me about you.
47:44 - I was surprised. Is that so? OK. Next page, please.
47:50 - In 2007, I graduated from a university and at first joined the private equity fund called Inspire which Mr. Naruke was managing.
47:58 - When I was there, we invested in Euglena when it was still a seed.
48:06 - Then I transferred to Euglena. That’s my history.
48:09 - In Japan, very few university-based ventures grew to be partially listed.
48:17 - And I’m probably the only one who is also on the investor side in Japan, and I also serve on the government side.
48:23 - Now I am a representative of Real Tech Fund and a CEO of Euglena.
48:33 - Euglena is very relevant to autophagy. We use autophagy to store a specific substance in microalgae and vice versa. We focus on Euglena.
48:49 - It’s the first venture derived from the University of Tokyo to be partially listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
48:53 - In Japan, basic research on Euglena has been conducted for more than 40 years.
49:01 - But it has not been able to be commercialized.
49:04 - Then we came in and we took various historic research results to launch the company in collaboration with various university researchers.
49:13 - That was 15 years ago, and I was 25, and our CEO Izumo was 25 years old.
49:21 - The company started with very young members.
49:24 - Now we have been talking about the environment.
49:28 - But there was no environment conducive to starting up for us. That is how we started.
49:32 - We continued to make sales little by little and are now selling cosmetics and food with Euglena.
49:39 - We are now starting global operation. We are trying to compete with companies like Yakult and Ajinomoto in the field of using microorganisms to bring impact on health in the world.
49:50 - We’re also working on biofuels as well and the supply is expanding through Japan.
49:57 - We established a Real Tech Fund. We started this fund with anger in 2005 when no one but Mr. Naruke invested on us.
50:10 - Money went to companies of what we call “Chara tech (pop technology),” like smartphone games.
50:18 - We were frustrated that the companies that worked on energy, proteins or food tech were not appreciated.
50:26 - Under such circumstance we established Real Tech Fund.
50:33 - We believed that more money should be invested in companies that contributed to solving problems of the society, globe, human, and other various issues.
50:44 - Another reason was that in Japan, very few people who created a successful tech venture from zero are not on the investor side.
50:52 - Today’s theme is about Japan aiming to be a technology-based nation.
50:57 - But most people who created a company from scratch like Soichiro Honda are not around anymore.
51:05 - So, we were really lacking people who had actually done this.
51:09 - That is the original reason why we started the fund.
51:12 - In order for tech business to be successful, we thought it was necessary to create collaboration between a core tech company and a large company with a value chain and a supply chain.
51:24 - So, for LPs we chose operating companies rather than investment funds.
51:29 - And we manage about 20-billion-yen fund now.
51:33 - And I state clearly when we solicit funds that the investors are not going to get more money back than they give.
51:38 - It’s a strange fund. We start investing in university seeds.
51:44 - We start investing as early as before proof-of-concepts are even done for up to 13 years.
51:54 - We are aiming to position ourselves as a necessary societal function.
51:59 - This is actually something that the government should be doing and not the private sector.
52:06 - But we’re doing what we deem to be our social responsibility as an advanced tech venture.
52:12 - What we found interesting in the five years of investing is shown on the right lower corner.
52:19 - This is partially related to this event with OIST.
52:21 - The regional areas should be the focus of tech.
52:24 - Most excellent professors are at national universities outside of Tokyo, but they are lacking the environment to commercialize the technologies.
52:36 - This is what became clear to us through our activities.
52:38 - So, we are putting our efforts on this aspect.
52:39 - We have collaborated with more than hundred large companies.
52:46 - And we are starting to understand the keys to success.
52:49 - And we would like to expand this knowledge and experience.
52:53 - Lastly, during our activities, we agreed that we are not necessarily working for Japan, but we want to solve global issues.
53:04 - So, we have been working globally recently raising a global fund.
53:09 - We are especially interested in Southeast Asia.
53:13 - The level of deep issues in society are much deeper there than in Japan.
53:20 - So, entrepreneurship is stronger there than in Japan.
53:25 - We are creating a global fund focused mainly on Asia aiming to combine technology seeds from Japan with deep issues and entrepreneurship of developing countries.
53:40 - And I am working on both Euglena and Real Tech Fund now.
53:48 - Thank you. Mr. Nagata talked about his experience of launching a rare venture capital specialized in science and technology in Japan.
53:58 - I would like to ask him later about connecting academia and businesses and how startup businesses with seeds should be started later.
54:07 - Now, we would like to give the floor to Mr. Wataru Baba.
54:12 - Thank you, my name is Baba. Can you hear me? I haven’t prepared any presentations. I will try to be brief.
54:19 - My New Year’s resolution is to be brief and succinct.
54:25 - I’m very happy to join this panel discussion with Mr. Nagata and Dr. Yoshimori whose talked about great topics.
54:31 - But audience may be wondering who I am. I’m in charge of Environment and Energy business at Panasonic.
54:42 - The areas of my corporate activities range from state-of-the-art technologies that national research institutions would do including solar power, perovskite, and new electrolytes of hydrogen to commercialization of such technologies and the whole process.
54:58 - As mentioned by Mr. Nagata, climate change issue does not fit well in the models of the normal market, where the technology is considered valuable and brings successful recovery of the investment.
55:10 - But venture capitalists are not necessarily interested in investing in this project either.
55:14 - In such case, management and finance of businesses related to sustainability need different models or domains and techniques from conventional ones.
55:24 - So, I cover those broad and shallow areas. I’m not really an expert in any of the specific areas and I have been exposed to a wide range of different areas of research.
55:38 - So, I reconstruct the process of creating value chain by connecting each value created by the expert of each area to create a total value.
55:50 - Thank you and that is my self-introduction.
55:55 - Thank you. Mr. Baba has been involved in open innovation in a global company.
56:06 - I look forward to hearing from Mr. Baba about the ideas, players, or environment can create new businesses or industries based on his experience and knowledge.
56:18 - Now, let’s move on to the first theme. Dr. Yoshimori talked about having started the autophagy research when its usefulness was still unknown and starting it from the pure curiosity.
56:41 - On Day 1 of this event yesterday we discussed intellectual curiosity as a strong driver for scientists.
56:50 - I think that was one of the keywords. I believe that intellectual curiosity has been the strongest driver for scientific development.
57:01 - But businesses may not be necessarily driven by curiosity.
57:08 - It may be so in some cases, but businesses may be driven by deep issues as mentioned by Mr. Nagata in some aspect.
57:16 - There needs to be a bridge between curiosity-driven basic science research and business.
57:32 - What are the challenges in connecting these two domains? The situation may be very different in Japan and the U. S.
57:45 - Mr. Nagata, would you please answer this question in relation to the deep issues as well? I believe that Dr. Ataka gave a speech yesterday.
58:01 - He has a legendary book “Issue Driven,” so businesses have to start from issues.
58:12 - I think all science can start from curiosity.
58:17 - I think that there are two elements that connect business and science.
58:25 - One is successful experience. Many scientists think that the business sector is lacking respect for science and understanding or literacy of science.
58:43 - On the contrary, from the viewpoint of the business sector, the idea of implementing individual curiosity or technology seems irrelevant to the market or social issues and scientists lack business perspective.
58:59 - And I think that this is the underlying cause of the division.
59:05 - There are two ways to overcome the barrier.
59:10 - One is the experience of success. This is not discussed by MEXT often, but there is no doubt that the business will succeed with technology and science at its core.
59:28 - In order to do that, the scientists need to be respected and better understood.
59:35 - And business should first have the experience of success.
59:39 - That is why I am trying to produce a huge profit for the investors from Real Tech Fund.
59:44 - The investors can start with different motivations at first instead of passion, curiosity, or love for science.
59:54 - We can raise the level of awareness in the society.
60:02 - The other way is love. This fully applies to Euglena.
60:06 - I am working hard so that we can give the largest amount of research fund to the researchers at Euglena.
60:13 - Even though our company is much smaller than Panasonic.
60:17 - Our research budget for a year is one billion yen.
60:19 - We are operating the business hard to produce this money.
60:23 - We know that success means to continue to invest in curiosity-based scientists.
60:32 - And we want to do so. Euglena is run by mutual love between the researchers and business people.
60:37 - One of these two factors need to be implemented for the two worlds to be connected.
60:44 - Thank you. Profit should be reinvested and recirculated back into the research process.
60:52 - That is one of the important messages pointed out by the keynote speaker Dr. Kitano in his discussion about the ecosystem as well.
60:59 - Dr. Yoshimori, that is also your long-term vision of AutoPhagyGo right? Yes, in case of Japan, the research fund comes mostly from the government.
61:15 - And government policies change overtime. I believe that basic research will remain to be mainly funded by the government.
61:25 - But the businesses of running a university will become more difficult as the low birth rate continues.
61:32 - In order to also secure the freedom of research, we should have a second stream of revenue by earning money by themselves, idealistically speaking.
61:45 - But that is what we want to give a try. Listening to Mr. Nagata, I thought about this.
61:54 - I am such a curiosity driven person over the last 40 years.
62:03 - People from the areas of engineering or medicine might have different mindsets.
62:09 - I am from biology department so that maybe why I am curiosity driven.
62:13 - Wanting to solve the mysteries around the cell has driven my research.
62:22 - At the same time, I’m innately a curious person.
62:27 - Into my 50s I started running a marathon and started this venture company in my 60s.
62:39 - People might think of it as old man’s indiscretion.
62:41 - But I love trying new things. So that is why I started the company.
62:48 - But as has been pointed out, there is a big gap between the basic research and businesses in implementation of such research outcomes.
62:58 - I think is the gap is particularly wide in Japan.
63:02 - I see. Lack of successful experiences may be one of the factors.
63:11 - Mr. Baba, is the situation different in the US with many successful experiences? Do people have different understanding of science in the US? Yes, the situation is different.
63:25 - But agreeing that there are differences doesn’t solve any problems.
63:30 - But it is important to know the difference.
63:32 - I’m now in Silicon Valley and those successful people had supporters.
63:40 - They have had experiences or the accumulated knowledge of where these projects would come to a stall and what kind of management is needed for the project to success.
63:46 - Let’s say there is a researcher with curiosity and passion who can continue his research till the end no matter what kind of challenge he faces.
63:53 - Then they will say that another player is needed at a certain timing to commercialize the technology.
64:00 - Such a team making is part of the support provided in a rich ecosystem here.
64:08 - It is amazing. The ecosystem can be created at a federal or regional level or within a company with division of labor and love.
64:21 - Or businesses can collaborate with each other, universities, government, or local community. Some local communities allow researchers to conduct as many experiments as they want.
64:32 - There are various types of ecosystems that lead to success.
64:37 - And they are lenient about failure. That is commonly said.
64:41 - That is a major difference. Mr. Nagata also mentioned about businesses needing successful experiences.
64:49 - I think he meant that science-based businesses with high reproducibility and profitability are more likely to succeed not only in businesses but also in finance.
65:09 - I really love the term “Chara tech,” Mr. Nagata used when Mr. Nagata was talking about this pop technology.
65:20 - Even pop technologies are very much science based.
65:24 - They are running the business with many scientists. Maybe not the natural scientists but they have social scientists, psychologists, and economists.
65:37 - Even those pop technologies have scientific support in engineering to lead to a successful business.
65:48 - I really feel that is true, and this holds true not only in Silicon Valley, Science has become a keyword in the last few months all over the country.
65:59 - In the US under the COVID-19 pandemic and after the change of the government, the importance of science, facts, and data have been emphasized.
66:12 - And over the last several months, this has been the trend under the new Biden administration, an emphasis on science and fact. There has been a movement to create a fact-based White House.
66:28 - And that probably brings higher rate of success, and I think that’s how people are starting to see it.
66:36 - In your talked about science, you mentioned that science includes not just natural science, but humanities as well. I think that was a quite impressive viewpoint.
66:49 - In Japan, Basic Act on Science and Technology were revised and will take an effect under the new name of Science and Technology Basic Law in April.
67:00 - The law will cover not just natural science, but social science and humanities.
67:10 - What do you think about this trend, Mr. Baba? That’s quite interesting.
67:19 - Before COVID-19, I used to return to Japan monthly.
67:25 - I read a lot of news in Japan and I had management responsibility in Japan, so I thought I had received a lot of information about Japan.
67:33 - But the revision of the Basic Act for the first time in 27 years impressed me a lot.
67:38 - So, I immediately wrote about that in the blog.
67:43 - I don’t write blog daily or weekly. My first blog in two months was talking about the new law of science and technology.
67:54 - I think this is true for all of Japan but after joining Panasonic I felt that there is too much emphasis on natural science.
68:04 - Of course, interactions amongst natural sciences such as life science, chemistry, physics, materials informatics, and computer science are necessary.
68:21 - Though you could argue whether political science is a science or not, psychology, political science, economics, and various fields are established as scientific studies that are reproducible and explainable with universal theory.
68:48 - It was not just the law was revised. The media also promoted that the science policy includes not just the natural science but also social science.
69:01 - I want to praise the media for highlighting that.
69:06 - And immediately after that I talked about this at the companywide CTO conference with the Technology Committee.
69:18 - I talked about our center of gravity being sort of tilted and it needs to be corrected to increase our success rate.
69:31 - So that was an epoch-making great change, and it must have been long sought by those who worked on it.
69:37 - I think what was just said can be applied to when we find deep issues and looking into them deeply.
69:51 - Mr. Nagata, what do you think? Before starting this session, Mr. Baba asked me about OIST, and I passionately explained to him about how great OIST is.
70:05 - There are no categorization of science or humanities.
70:13 - There’s no school or department of natural science.
70:18 - There are no barriers in terms of information, human interaction, or physical walls.
70:26 - It is very rare in Japan. I was passionately telling him that that’s what makes OIST so wonderful on Zoom in the waiting room before this event started.
70:37 - Is that so? I would have liked to listen to that conversation.
70:40 - But the same applies about curiosity when you think about it.
70:44 - It’s normal for us to be interested in various other disciplines than our own.
70:48 - Let’s say we want to solve a certain issue in the modern society.
70:54 - The biggest reason university-derived ventures fail is because they look for an issue to use their technology rather than using a technology to address an issue.
71:09 - And that’s not necessarily wrong. That’s what keeps them doing research for 10 or 20 years.
71:17 - But we work on biofuels and if we find another microorganism that would work better euglena, we will switch right away.
71:32 - And if based on our social structure, woody biomass is better, we would select that.
71:37 - That is what businesses should do and a solution to the issue.
71:40 - But we separate the research in two parts. One is something that we have to do because we are a stock company and have to solve social issues through business.
71:52 - But we are determined never to stop researching euglena because we will be able to win if we continue and our value is in continuing that research.
72:02 - Companies have to balance our passion and efficiency and integrate addressing issues and curiosities. I think this will always be an important theme.
72:14 - At my company, we hire 70% of our directors as outside directors in order to enhance our governance.
72:20 - And some directors question why we do this kind of research.
72:25 - But we say we should not stop this because this is about science.
72:33 - As Mr. Baba mentioned earlier science is about the reproducibility. So, there should have been learning in the past and we are at the extension of that.
72:40 - So, it’s a mistake to stop just because you can’t see what we’re doing.
72:46 - Management is Go, not Shogi. We should not stop just because we cannot explain what will happen three, five, or seven moves ahead.
72:53 - But we have to look at it more three dimensionally.
72:58 - And the basic research should be done with the image of the future in the extension of the research and maintain curiosity as a driver.
73:09 - So, I think it is very important on the business side to address issues with an integrated scientific approach.
73:19 - Very suggestive talk. Dr. Yoshimori, what you think as someone who recently started a startup? Oh, I’m learning a lot. I am in the midst of a learning process.
73:33 - I’m an old man and I’m an amateur about starting a company, so it was a very interesting talk.
73:42 - I want to work on autophagy research. I don’t know how many years are left in my life but according to Dr. Kitano, if we can live to 150, I could do some more projects.
73:56 - But I want to continue research on autophagy and the issue is aging.
74:05 - I want to work on something that counters aging.
74:09 - If moving away from autophagy is more effective, I’m fine with that.
74:13 - But of course, I’d like to keep autophagy as the foundation.
74:18 - So, I had a vague idea about what Mr. Nagata said, but his explanation made clear what my company’s policy should be.
74:30 - Then let’s work together outside of the fund.
74:35 - Yes, I have already been consulting with Real Tech.
74:41 - Not even just with Real Tech, but also with Euglena.
74:44 - I think there are a lot of things we can do together in life science field.
74:48 - When we think of issues, business, and curiosity mixed together, I think it is ideal not to fight over territory, but to build each other up. That kind of relationship is ideal.
75:04 - I’m a director of a data science company but I don’t ask for director compensation.
75:13 - I ask for knowledge exchange instead. The money is most commoditized in the society so its value will diminish.
75:23 - But knowledge which has not been written in papers are more valuable.
75:28 - So how the organizations connect to each other and share their knowledges is important in business and science going forward.
75:37 - When I say, “Let’s work together,” people might think I’m talking about investment.
75:46 - But if people don’t assume that and think there are many other ways to collaborate, then we can create a more interesting society.
75:50 - I agree with you. I have a question for Professor Yoshimori.
75:58 - Earlier, we talked about curiosity. How did that lead you to address the issue of aging? Did it take like 20 years or so? It’s been 25 years since I started researching autophagy.
76:19 - I wasn’t until a few years ago that I started thinking about social implementation of my research.
76:25 - Before that I had just worked on research without thinking about those issues.
76:29 - Then I met Mr. Naruke and other people who are not from the science field.
76:37 - That really stimulated me to move in this direction.
76:43 - It’s been only several years since I made a shift.
76:48 - As mentioned already our aging research has been brought to the commercial domain only two years ago.
76:56 - So, this business really just started, and we are now starting to see the research being implemented in the society.
77:03 - That is how we ended up launching this venture.
77:08 - So, it was rather a sudden move. And I have attended many international conferences, though I cannot now during the pandemic. But in a typical year I would attend about 10 international conferences.
77:25 - In the US, someone approached to me at the academic meeting of the basic research of autophagy.
77:32 - I was talking to him assuming that he was a scientist but later discovered that he a CEO of a venture capital.
77:39 - And we had a very good knowledge about autophagy, and we talked about science.
77:47 - At the end of the conversation, I learned that he was a venture capitalist.
77:52 - Then he did actually launch a venture specialized in autophagy.
78:00 - I was also invited as well by them. And back then, I really didn’t think about starting a business myself. So, I was considering joining them.
78:08 - Because they also made all the preparation needed for the lunch and the scientist didn’t really have to make any nonscientific tasks.
78:17 - A number of professors in the US that I personally know joined that venture.
78:23 - That is something very different from Japan.
78:27 - Situation is changing in Japan, though I had been receiving support from the universities.
78:36 - But that was something that I couldn’t get at all in the past.
78:39 - Even if a basic researcher thought about launching a business they typically didn’t know how to begin with.
78:48 - And no one would teach them how or give them any support.
78:52 - Things are changing in Japan, but we are still lagging behind the US in terms of ecosystem.
78:58 - Before I launched my business a major venture capitalist offered some funding to AutoPhagyGo.
79:09 - I was asked to explain about my research. That was when I felt that there was a major difference between the US and Japan.
79:19 - I would assume that not all the venture capitals in Japan are like that especially RealTech Fund.
79:26 - But I think this represents how the venture capitals are in Japan.
79:30 - It is a very interesting anecdote. Japan is where autophagy research started, so it has had advantages.
79:44 - But it was the American market that had eyed on commercializing this research at first.
79:52 - This is rather shocking, isn’t it? I understand that the situation has been changing in Japan but why are the Japanese investors lacking their interest or curiosity in scientific research? Mr. Nagata, any comments? First of all, this is something that people should never say to scientists.
80:18 - I am sure that some people said it to Dr. Yoshimori too.
80:20 - But it is “I am a humanity person. ” As though it were a separate race of human being.
80:28 - No one would say that he is not an athlete when watching a sport game, for example.
80:32 - So, I think it is very important at first to gain 80% of the knowledge and show the respect to the scientists.
80:39 - In terms of this, the biggest challenge in venture capitals is the level of expectation is lower than it is in the US or Europe.
80:49 - Then what happens when the expectation is lower is that the scale of the investment tends to be smaller.
80:55 - And they will be satisfied with a certain level of a short-time return.
81:02 - In such as case, more investments are made in a quicker IPO, and some return with a sale of 1. 2 billion yen in the Japanese market of 120 million people.
81:17 - But the market for the American businesses is global and larger with web marketing opportunities in English speaking countries.
81:26 - So, their expectation of ROI tends to be much higher.
81:30 - The only area Japan can possibly win in this global competition is technology.
81:38 - I don’t really imagine another Google being created in Japan.
81:42 - But I think there is a good chance of having the second FANUC or a small version of Mitsui Chemicals.
81:52 - So, the investors need a firm design of returns and the process needs to be technology- centered. Such literacy needs to be enhanced.
82:04 - And I think there is too much division between science and humanities in Japan.
82:10 - When I was in a college, I was in a department which is considered to be humanities field.
82:16 - All the members except for me at RealTech Fund have either masters or doctorates degrees and they also have their own fields.
82:22 - But I need to make the final decisions of investments, so I learn about all technologies and read the research papers thoroughly.
82:31 - Just because I am not smart enough to understand science that does not mean that I am not a scientific person.
82:36 - I was just interested in studying a certain area and that’s what I did.
82:38 - So, we should try to bring up our knowledges of various fields to the 80% level and I think I am doing that.
82:43 - And that is the premise that needs to be first established as a common understanding.
82:51 - Finally, I think people think it’s easy to understand about Mercari but not autophagy.
83:00 - But most people probably do not know what is going on in the Mercari server.
83:07 - In other words, they do not know what kind of amazing job the engineering people are doing but understand the service side as consumers.
83:16 - What RealTech Fund is doing is to try to have the same perspective as the consumers on the technology side including autophagy, shifting from trying to educate people on autophagy to educating them about the benefits of services that would become available with autophagy.
83:40 - So rather than telling them that you are studying superstring theory, tell them this can lead to the invention of a teleportation door. This would help them understand it.
83:48 - Many Japanese researchers don’t like doing that.
83:52 - Some researchers expect people to raise their literacy level to the researchers’ level.
83:56 - I think we need to find a way to meet in the middle.
84:01 - Mr. Baba, would you like to add any points? I cannot agree with him more.
84:10 - I try to translate the market centered issues for engineers, and they use highly technical terms too.
84:25 - So, I have to learn the terms they use too to translate between humanity people and scientific people.
84:34 - I hope that they gradually take steps closer to each other and change the situation.
84:38 - Having someone like Mr. Nagata or Professor Yoshimori who have connection to the market would work out well.
84:45 - I really don’t like the term exit strategy though I just used it and I regret that.
84:52 - Prof Yoshimori talked about being approached at an international conference in the US by someone who turned out to be a venture capitalist and not a scientist.
85:08 - That reminded me when I was in Europe for my previous job.
85:13 - I worked on a government R&D project called “Anshin Japan Project” in areas of nursing of the elders and regional communities.
85:25 - And at the time I attended a networking party.
85:32 - Those who attended the project were mostly researchers from research institutions or academia from universities.
85:42 - And those who attended from the businesses sector were from R&D department and the researchers.
85:51 - And I had a business card with the title of business director or something.
85:59 - I think that that was around the time when the Democratic Party of Japan won the government and became the ruling party, and the project was discontinued.
86:05 - I was politely shunned by some of the participants that I was coming for the business opportunities.
86:12 - It was an R&D project but because I was from a business sector, they were sounding as if they had a more sublime purpose than my business purpose.
86:25 - I thought that was strange. It was a government project, so the government wasn’t really thinking that.
86:36 - They were trying to attain a higher level of sustainability for the government R&D project which will not be able to continue once the funding is discontinued.
86:46 - They were trying to utilize the capabilities of private sector to address social issues.
86:50 - The project may be incubated for 3 to 5 years, but eventually it needs to show profitability to attract investment from the private sector to be sustained.
87:01 - That is what the minister was emphasizing. But back then the academic and business culture were excluding the market-driven people.
87:16 - That is what reminded me of from listening to Professor Yoshimori’s episode.
87:18 - The situation might have changed over the 10 years though.
87:21 - Academia and industry have to try to bridge the gap by communicating more in the same language.
87:33 - As mentioned earlier with natural science and the humanities, with multidisciplinary research like that, The combination and collaboration of designers, engineers, businesses, software, hardware, front end, and back-end lead to new things.
87:54 - So it’s not about the transition from early science to engineering, social implementation, and then commercialization.
88:04 - It is not this kind of funnel-shaped process.
88:09 - It is rather about starting all of them from the beginning.
88:13 - That is how the research can be applied perfectly to issues like aging that Dr. Yoshimori mentioned earlier. And then it can move to a different stage.
88:23 - That kind of combination is important, I think.
88:28 - As Dr. Kitano said, we need to create an ecosystem or vision for a long term of decades like 50 years.
88:43 - In order to do that as Mr. Baba mentioned people of various disciplines have to come together and have discussions and have daily communications.
88:57 - We need to create an opportunity for that to happen.
89:01 - I think OIST is actually trying to create that kind of an environment.
89:06 - There’s been a lot of interesting discussions about the investment today.
89:24 - How should we position the investment? Yesterday, we talked about how the national government seems to consider investing in science and technology a cost in the context of Japan’s research environment.
89:41 - If it is considered as a cost, we would tend to try to reduce it.
89:47 - But the listening to what Mr. Nakata said science and technology investment should not be construed as a cost.
89:56 - And this probably applies not just at the government level, but also at the company level as well.
90:05 - Mr. Nagata, what you think? How should investment be considered on the business side? You can consider anything as a cost or investment.
90:18 - It’s up to that person. Some consider human resources as a fixed cost.
90:26 - Some others look at it as an investment for future business.
90:31 - The difference depends on the management philosophy.
90:34 - I don’t think that we’re cutting costs when we lose people.
90:40 - I consider that as a loss of investment resource for the future.
90:44 - Same thing applies to R&D. If someone considers it as a cost, then they probably don’t have a clear reason for doing that research.
90:56 - I think that driver for R&D should always be curiosity.
91:08 - If researchers are given research funds and told to create a certain social impact or profitability, the internal energy is lost compared it to internal motivation.
91:22 - That is not how it should be. We need to maintain an environment that’s conducive to curiosity-driven research.
91:28 - But the ones who prepare the environment can have two sides.
91:33 - While having that understanding, a company or a government can think of it as an investment that generates return in a long-term.
91:39 - It is necessary to keep investing with vision, results, and past success models in mind.
91:55 - This is the logic that is necessary for those who provide the funding.
92:03 - On the other side, I think researchers shouldn’t complain too much if they are not funded for what they are doing out of curiosity.
92:16 - It’s not right to complain about not getting money for what you are choosing to do.
92:22 - If a painter wants to paint but no one is providing a canvas for him, he perhaps should work to afford the canvas.
92:29 - I think this has to be approached from both sides all the time.
92:36 - It sounds difficult. I have been reporting on basic science for a long time and Dr. Kajita yesterday talked about his research on neutrino, elementary particles.
92:52 - He said that neutrino hasn’t been socially implemented and there’s no outlook that it will be anytime soon.
93:01 - Nobody knows what will happen in a century.
93:04 - But the general public tends to look at things from the viewpoint of whether it’s useful or not.
93:13 - So, what should be done to have the government to invest in things that apparently don’t lead to any business? Do you think that scientists should try to explain convincingly? May I comment on that? I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Nagata.
93:38 - I have been driven fully by curiosity, but science has two layers.
93:46 - The first layer is the research you do regardless of its usefulness.
93:53 - That’s the absolute foundation. And my mentor Professor Ohsumi always told me that sciences are culture.
94:00 - Whether it’s useful or not, you do the research based on your intellectual curiosity like art or sports or other cultures.
94:11 - And I quite agree with that assessment. But there’s the second layer.
94:18 - Great innovations have been generated from that foundation.
94:23 - This is proven by history though the government officials and politicians have difficulty understanding.
94:29 - But this is a matter of probability. Many research that are not useful generate some that are very useful.
94:36 - And it’s very difficult to predict especially in our field of life science.
94:41 - So, the government or the investors have to really fund all of the opportunities.
94:48 - If it can be made useful, of course it’s better.
94:57 - As was Mr. Nagata mentioned earlier, researchers shouldn’t just be saying that it’s culture so just continue to fund us but don’t question us.
95:08 - That is outdated. The researchers really have to make an effort to gain understanding from the funder, especially the general public.
95:21 - But it was many, many years after I became a researcher that I started to think this way.
95:27 - I used to not care about this kind of things.
95:31 - I used to think that people would not try to understand it anyway.
95:33 - But I realized that I needed to change that to gain understanding about social implementation and science as a culture.
95:43 - I mean if it’s culture it has to be shared by the population.
95:47 - So, the scientists have to communicate and explain.
95:52 - I have written a book recently and this is the biggest reason that I wrote it.
95:58 - I have to try to gain the people’s understanding.
96:03 - I think it’s my responsibility as a researcher to make that effort.
96:05 - I think that was an encouraging comment as a scientist.
96:11 - Now we have only three minutes left. I’m sure that the viewers want to continue to listen to this discussion.
96:21 - And I’m sure that the panelists also have many other things unsaid yet.
96:24 - Is there any message that you really want to convey as your final message? Maybe I ask each panelist to give us the final closing comment.
96:32 - Mr. Baba, would you please go first? I don’t necessarily have anything to be emphasized any more.
96:39 - But I think that some people might misunderstand Dr. Yoshimori’s comment about continuing his research based only on his curiosity regardless of its usefulness.
96:57 - Because it’s not that he doesn’t care if his research is not useful.
97:01 - It is actually rather that he has been working on his research that seemed useful, but he was convinced it would become useful.
97:06 - The human history proves that with arts and music changing people’s perspectives.
97:11 - And that revolution led to development of technology and economy and changed the way people lived.
97:17 - So, if we want to change our perspectives it is important to invest in something that seems useless from the perspective of before the change.
97:24 - Then after the perspective has changed you suddenly realize that it was useful.
97:27 - So, you have to have the conviction to continue to work on something for that to be appreciated.
97:31 - It doesn’t mean that the researchers who are doing research out of curiosity don’t want people telling them what to do.
97:37 - It means that that kind of curiosity leads to higher probability of success.
97:44 - Even if there’s no money coming in and it’s not appreciated, and they don’t see the exit of it, they can keep going till the end just with that curiosity as their motivation.
97:54 - Then adding some energy like money and a team to it at a certain timing can lead to successful commercialization.
98:04 - I think the words curiosity and usefulness are very important words to be interpreted correctly.
98:16 - Many people in businesses may argue that culture is not something that one should be invested in.
98:25 - But as Mr. Nagata explained, there is profitability in this.
98:29 - And this in fact can be a safer investment with higher probability of success.
98:34 - And I agree with his viewpoint. Thank you.
98:41 - Thank you. Now, Dr. Yoshimori, please.
98:45 - To put it briefly, I would like to ask nonscientists including investors, people in the business sector, and the general public to please love researchers.
99:01 - Yeah, love is a keyword. We really ask for your love.
99:10 - Secondly, I believe that some of the researchers are tuning in this afternoon as well.
99:14 - As we have discussed earlier, don’t take the money for granted.
99:19 - Don’t imagine that you can somehow conjure up some funding for your research.
99:28 - And that is the message that I have to deliver to basic researchers in the basic research area. Thank you.
99:35 - And Mr. Nagata, please. First off, on the business side, we really have to raise the level of the recognition as we discussed.
99:48 - That in turn requires the leeway for non-idealistic fact.
99:57 - For example, what system engineers were doing 30 years ago wearing tattered clothes and what Google employees are doing now may be the same thing.
00:07 - But people perceive them very differently. And MIT and Tokyo Institute of Technology have different images or connotations even though they are engaged in the same activities.
00:17 - We on the business side need to make some changes based on this fact.
00:22 - And academia also has a responsibility to deliver the message that science can be profitable.
00:31 - To those on the science side, I want to tell that when Euglena was launched, it wasn’t really supported or cheered upon.
00:43 - We had no jobs and no money, but curiosity and an entrepreneurship in ourselves kept us going.
00:49 - Listening to the discussion, it impresses on me that we really have to think about our own responsibility first before thinking about the responsibilities of others.
01:00 - To put it another way, You want to climb Mt. Everest. You need 1 million yen.
01:03 - Even if it costs everything but your life, you want that 1 million yen to do it.
01:10 - Because that is the kind of team we are, and that is why I can be here today, talking to you.
01:18 - As you continue your research, you may face financial, systemic, or other difficulties in society, but it is your intellectual curiosity, belief, and passion that drives you till the end. That is what curiosity really is.
01:36 - And that is what you first have to do and what you have to maximize before turning to what are other people’s responsibilities.
01:44 - That will lead us to progressive essential discussions in Japan.
01:49 - And we want to be the example to the researchers to encourage them and that is why we are continuing our business and investment.
02:00 - Let us work together to create the society to fulfill the intellectual curiosity.
02:05 - I think that changing the society is part of our responsibility as well.
02:09 - I want to work with researchers to enjoy creating such a society.
02:14 - Thank you very much, everyone. With this, today’s panel discussion is closed.
02:20 - Today, Dr. Kitano talked about Moonshot ecosystem for his keynote speech followed by the panel discussion on how to connect science to business opportunities.
02:31 - We also tried to define ideal investment for such scientific R&D and what kind of communications are necessary.
02:40 - And as was the case with yesterday, curiosity proved to be the keyword.
02:44 - Conviction and love were also important keywords as well.
02:50 - Again, I would like to express my appreciation for all the panelists for meaningful discussion.
03:03 - Now, with the remaining time, allow me to introduce OIST initiatives that is closely connected to today’s theme of Science X Business.
03:18 - As introduced yesterday, over a short span of 10 years since the inauguration, OIST has become one of the top 10 research institutes.
03:29 - Ahead of this Forum, I interviewed President Peter Gruss about the vision of OIST with its research capability.
03:39 - Professor Gruss said that he wants to develop OIST into an R&D cluster like CalTech.
03:45 - CalTech was also touched upon by Dr. Kitano as well.
03:49 - It is a nickname of California Institute of Technology in the US.
03:53 - It is a prestigious university of science and technology.
03:56 - But it only has a faculty of 300 members and that can be a very good goal for OIST to chase after.
04:04 - What exactly is exactly an R&D cluster? By that he means that he wants to create lots of satellite facilities to produce new products and services which will eventually lead to creation of businesses like Google or Facebook that can lead the transformation of technology and the society around OIST.
04:25 - The research of OIST has already spun out 150 patents with 15 startup companies.
04:33 - And in the future, he wants to build an Innovation Park next to the campus and accept innovative companies so that they can casually exchange opinions and collaborative research and create new industries for Okinawa.
04:49 - I was very surprised to hear about this grand plan.
04:53 - When President Gruss said “for Okinawa,” it reminded me of when I had an opportunity to visit OIST in summer of 2015.
05:02 - International researchers were passionately repeating what President Gruss also said.
05:10 - OIST was established with a part of Okinawa Promotion Plan Budget and one of the missions of OIST is to contribute for the autonomous development of Okinawa.
05:21 - I felt that it is more than just a slogan, that this mission is widely shared by the faculty as well as research members of OIST.
05:38 - I hope that you enjoyed the Day 2 OIST Forum 2021.
05:44 - Tomorrow March 4, 2021 will be the last day of this event.
05:48 - On Day 3 the event will be starting at noon with the theme of Science X Sustainable Future: Update SDGs The theme will be “Science and technology for solving deep issues. ” Please join us again tomorrow on Day 3.
06:02 - Finally, I would like to ask the audience to spend some time filling their questionnaire forms before signing out after the event to help us improve the future events.
06:14 - There will also be a 5-minute video clip for you to enjoy.
06:24 - Thank you very much again for your participation in Day 2 of OIST Forum 2021 Science X Sustainability.
06:33 - Please join us again tomorrow. .