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Message from the Director

It is the mission of RIEC (Research Institute of Electrical Communication) to realize a new paradigm of communications that enriches people’s lives. Communication plays various important roles in human society. Information communication technology (ICT) has been drastically changing the way we deal with information, overriding our biological limitations and expanding the world of communication from among people to among things as well as between people and things. RIEC is determined to work for future society with further advanced ICT, contributing to the welfare, safety, and security of human beings by opening up a new era of academically rooted innovation befitting universities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has spread throughout the world since the end of 2019, mutating several times. The spread of infection is still continuing worldwide, and global efforts are being made to resolve it. In addition to our efforts in the COVID-19 crisis as members of the human race, RIEC would also like to fulfill its responsibility as a research institute in the field of ICT, recognizing the impact of repeated exposure in information spreading particularly during the pandemic or other difficult social conditions, as well as the importance of future technologies for the world through Web conferencing, telelearning, remote medicine and counseling, and other distant communications via the internet. These are the direct and indirect issues that RIEC should address.

It is also important to recognize that we are in a situation where we should make a variety of efforts Japanese universities have never made before to improve the research environment and activities. Under these circumstances, RIEC will first try to solve problems to realize a sophisticated ICT society, and secondly investigate basic problems, which can be applied to ICTs in the future. RIEC has been trying to solve many problems in the research fields of ICTs, and it is RIEC’s responsibility to continue contributing to the building of a future ICT society.

As described below, RIEC has been responding and will continue to 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, offer a world-class educational 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 and to contribute to the welfare, safety, and security of human beings and society by realizing a new paradigm of communications that enriches people’s lives.

Since its foundation in 1935, RIEC has made a series of pioneering achievements in laying the foundations of modern information and communication technology, including magnetic recording systems, semiconductor devices and optical communication technologies, and has played a world-leading role. We cover the research fields of materials, devices, communication systems, networks, human and software engineering and sciences related to ICT to promote the fusion of research fields between hardware and software sciences and also the integration of the arts and sciences.

RIEC is organized into four research divisions, two laboratories, and one center. The three research facilities have different scopes in terms of research period: the divisions focus on long-term projects, the laboratories on medium-term projects, and the center on short-term projects. The Information Devices Division carries out research into materials and devices for communication technology. The Broadband Engineering Division examines the development of new technologies for the transmission and storage of vast quantities of data. The Human Information Systems Division conducts research into intelligent information processing. The Systems and Software Division is developing advanced systems and software for a new ICT society.

There are two research laboratories. The Laboratory for Nanoelectronics and Spintronics is carrying out fundamental research into high-performance semiconductor devices and advanced nano-spin science, and the Laboratory for Brainware Systems is working towards its long-term goal of seamless fusion between the real and virtual worlds at the human-computer interface. The Research Center for 21st Century Information Technology (IT21 Center) promotes short-term collaboration with industrial and academic partners in fields developed in the research divisions. In addition to these organizations, RIEC has established two new laboratories in the Division for the Establishment of Frontier Sciences to open new fields in our institute in future. One is the multimodal cognitive system established in collaboration with the Graduate School of Letters in 2018 and the other is the Spintronics/CMOS-hybrid brain-inspired integrated system established in collaboration with the Graduate School of Engineering in 2019.

In FY2010, RIEC was 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 is engaging in joint research projects with outside researchers. We are funding a variety of joint research projects, prioritizing collaborations with industry, international development, and younger researchers. We have successfully completed the third medium-term target period (from FY2016 to FY2021) and as a result of the term-end evaluation, RIEC received approval to continue its activities. Currently, we are promoting the 4th medium-term plan from FY2022. In FY2021, we conducted more than 100 joint research projects with a total of over 1,000 participants.

Since 2014 we have been promoting the government-funded Brainware LSI Project, which aims to create new paradigm brain-inspired LSIs with 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. First, when Tohoku University received confirmation of its Designated National University title in 2017, spintronics research, which has been led by RIEC members, was recognized as one of the four top-level research fields of Tohoku University. The Center for Spintronics Integrated Systems, which executed the FIRST and ImPACT programs, has been reorganized and renamed the Center for Science and Innovation in Spintronics for further development through cooperation among three centers: the Center for Spintronics Research Network for collaboration with Japanese universities, the Graduate Program on Spintronics for educating global leaders in spintronics, and the Center for Innovative Integrated Electronic Systems for enhancement of global competitiveness in the field of next-generation integrated electronics systems. Second, 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. Third, in 2016 we established the Advanced Institute of Yotta Informatics, where interdisciplinary research groups conduct projects for handling the “quality” of information to meet challenges beyond big data involving researchers from both arts and sciences fields. The institute has been supported by the government since FY2018. Fourth, in FY2019, the JST-OPERA program proposed by our members, “Creation of electric power and information and communication converged network infrastructure technologies based on overall optimization of autonomous decentralized cooperative DC microgrids,” started in collaboration with the university. Furthermore, in FY2021, RIEC conducted six JST-CREST projects, four JST-Sakigake projects, a NEDO project, and a NICT project. We have also started to plan reconstruction of the RIEC 2nd Building in FY2021, incorporating novel concepts such as open innovation spaces.

In 2020, we created a future vision of RIEC, considering research fields to enrich people’s lives through information communication technologies by accommodating diversity and overcoming barriers of time and space. We will work hard to realize this vision and would very much appreciate your continued support and encouragement.

Prof. Takahiro Hanyu, Director
Research Institute of Electrical Communication (RIEC)