Since its foundation in 1935, RIEC has made a series of pioneering achievements in laying the foundations of modern information and communication technology (ICT), including perpendicular magnetic recording, semiconductor devices and optical communication, and has played a world-leading role. Building on this tradition, we will continue to research the scientific principles and applications of integrated science and technology to meet the current and future needs of society and to realize a new paradigm of communications that enriches people’s lives.
32 years ago, then-director Professor Jun-ichi Nishizawa said in his address at the 50th anniversary ceremony, ‟Study in research areas must begin while they still have no name.” Even today, when academic fruits have come to be evaluated by various indices, this is the basis of our activities. What is well respected in the outcomes of research at universities is the creation of new research areas and new technologies.
In modern society, information processing and communication are being continuously conducted in various forms between people, between machines, and between people and machines, which form the foundations of modern society. In recent years, the main focus has been on the Internet-of-Things (IoT), Big Data, and Artificial Intelligence, which can collect and analyze huge amounts of data to efficiently utilize the limited resources available to us, such as energy and food, and further expand the horizons of society. These exciting developments have given society a handle that has never been available before.
In order to make these expectations based on ICT a reality, we are conducting research in the following areas along with basic research that lays the foundations for future ICT: (1) developing high speed, high capacity, and ultra-low energy ICT, (2) creating resilient and disaster-tolerant ICT, a requirement that was demonstrated only too well by the impact of the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, and (3) solving real-world problems that involve huge amounts of data yet require a real-time intelligent response.
To meet these needs, RIEC conducts research encompassing areas from basic materials and information science to integrated systems comprising devices, circuits, architecture and software that generate, recognize, transmit, store, process, and control information. To this end, RIEC has been organized into four Research Divisions, two Laboratories, and one Center. We have been certified by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) as a Joint Usage/Research Center for collaborative research in information and communications technology and are engaging in joint research projects with outside researchers. Thanks to your support and patronage, we achieved one of the highest rankings in the final evaluation of the 2nd term, and last year embarked on a 6-year 3rd term. We are soliciting a full range of joint research projects including those centered on collaboration with industry, on international development, and on younger researchers. This year we are conducting more than 100 joint research projects with more than 1,200 participants.
In the RIEC five-year action plan formulated in 2013, it was announced that we would further develop our research and development capabilities by promoting international research as well as diversity through recruitment. This fiscal year is the last year of the five-year action plan. In 2016, we played a leading role in establishing two centers, which are outlined below. In addition, 10% of our faculty members are now from overseas, reflecting the global nature of ICT fields. We have also continued to hire female scientists and send young researchers abroad for collaborative work.
In addition to these activities, we have been promoting the government-funded Brainware LSI Project since fiscal 2014, which aims to create LSIs based on new concepts that are capable of human-like judgment. This program is creating advanced information processing LSIs, such as those of artificial intelligence, which can be used to apply artificial intelligence to real-world situations.
Within the university, we are also expanding R&D projects centered around RIEC. In March 2010, Tohoku University established the Center for Spintronics Integrated Systems, where RIEC members and others are working on a collaborative project between industry, academia and government to develop low-power logic integrated circuits using spintronics technology with the support of the government’s ImPACT program. In October 2011, in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake, Tohoku University resolved to set up the Research Organization of Electrical Communication under the leadership of RIEC. As one of the eight major projects underway at Tohoku University’s Institute for Disaster Reconstruction and Regeneration Research, research and development for the creation of disaster-tolerant ICT is being carried out through collaboration between industry, academia, and government. RIEC also played a key role in establishing the Center for Innovative Integrated Electronic Systems in 2012 to develop and realize advanced integrated systems on a chip. Furthermore, in 2016, two additional Centers were established. One is the Yotta Informatics Research Center based on a project for handling the “quality” of information to meet challenges “beyond big data” involving researchers from both arts and sciences fields. The other is the Center for Spintronics Research Network, which was funded by the government to establish a worldwide network for spintronics research. Tohoku University is one of the four key universities (together with the University of Tokyo, Osaka University, and Keio University) to operate this network.
RIEC will respond to present-day needs, open up new worlds of communication for the future, work together with industry to create core technologies leading to the development of new industries, and, through these efforts, will offer a world-class education environment. In addition to providing innovative solutions to problems through the application of ICT, we will continue to work hard to open up a new era of academically rooted innovation befitting a university. Through these activities, we will contribute to the “quality of society” (a phrase proposed by Shunichi Iwasaki, Professor Emeritus of RIEC).
As always, your suggestions and comments are most welcome.