About Dr. Shuichiro Takahashi
Dr. Shuichiro Takahashi is the original founding member and Representative Director Chief Operating Officer of Leave a Nest Co., Ltd. He received his Ph.D in Life Science from the University of Tokyo with specialization in Plant Virology. Dr. Takahashi is known as the pioneer in incubation of young researchers with industry collaboration. In this interview article, Dr. Takahashi shared his insights on researchers’ journey and aspiration in Japan.
Painful Lessons from Asia’s Science and Technology Powerhouse
Back in the olden days, being an academician in a university is the dream career for most of the school children in Japan. The Japanese hold academic researchers in high regard. About 21 years ago, the Japanese Government introduced a new policy on Post-Doctoral Programs in order to increase the number of PhD graduates in the field of Science and Technology. As a result of this policy, Japan had produced about 16,000 post-doctoral research fellows. However, these graduates couldn’t fulfill their ambitions to work in the academia since there were not enough positions at the universities. It was also unfortunate that they were unable to get jobs in their fields of expertise because the industry couldn’t create positions for PhD graduates.
Dr. Takahashi shares his observation, “This situation had caused a serious problem in the Japan academic research scene. The perception towards academic researchers also began to change. It was no longer a career of choice among the school children.” Gradually, the number of students that continued their PhD also started to dwindle. It was during this period that a group of sprightly young graduates including Dr. Takahashi who was a Masters student at that time decided to establish Leave a Nest Japan with the aim to open up career possibilities for graduates like them. They believe their knowledge and expertise can benefit the society. It is a sad fact, that fast forward 20 years later, the situation in Japan has ”not” improved. Although new career developments have emerged for post-doctoral research fellows, the problem remains significant. The take up rate for doctoral degrees is decreasing and as a result, the number of post-doctoral researchers is also decreasing. Leave a Nest is still battling with the challenge to change the mindset of Japanese researchers who prefer to stay within the realm of academia rather than industry. Dr. Takahashi said leaders from government ministry and industry must work together to strike a good balance in creating suitable positions for postgraduates to grow their career.
Bridge The Gap with Universal Values
Idea is a big asset for academia. There are several gaps in getting those ideas across to the industry. Young Japanese researchers in the past did not have the opportunity to share their ideas with big corporations. There was also lack of chance for the Research Department to communicate with young researchers during company recruitment process. Graduates may not understand the industry needs if they have no prior working experience. “Most of them will study about the industry needs when they are preparing themselves for a job interview because they have to show interest and the right attitude to fit in. However, such preparation is not natural and already too late for the candidates,” said Dr. Takahashi. By understanding these gaps, it can be concluded that communication between graduates and the industry is of the utmost importance. Leave a Nest Japan is bridging these gaps by introducing several programs to support young researchers and graduates in Japan and Southeast Asia. The essence of these programs is to connect people from different sectors and to increase the communication points between academia and industry so that both parties can understand each other.
Learn From Each Other’s Strength
Although Japan is a fully developed country, many researchers there do not have real experience about issues in society. They have lots of good hypotheses on science and technology but needed to get a good feel on how to apply their technology outside of a laboratory. On the other side, Southeast Asian researchers have deep understanding on social and environmental issues in their countries. They are passionate and wanted to find research partners that can develop solutions for the issues. Southeast Asian countries are the best test beds for technologies from Japan. Similar research subject with different potential might be spotted in Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam or Indonesia, especially those related to biodiversity. “This is actually a healthy advantage because the basis of research is to compare data. Technology may be the same but the situation to apply the technology may lead us to discover new things in our research. In the future, I would like Leave a Nest to make a lot of research collaboration programs because we can learn from each other and researchers will be able to move further in their career,” Dr. Takahashi explained.
Positioning Leave a Nest as Researchers Hub
It is challenging for Japanese researchers to start a new collaboration with researchers in Southeast Asia and vice versa but the symbiotic relationship will contribute greatly to the academic scene. With strong and vast network that Leave a Nest has in Japan and Southeast Asia, Dr. Takahashi believes that the company can become a good bridge communicator for industry and academia. When asked about his message to Southeast Asian researchers, Dr. Takahashi mentioned warmly that Leave a Nest has a relationship with over 5,000 active young researchers in Japan who are eager to collaborate with Southeast Asian researchers. “Please contact us to discuss about your passion and deep-issue in research. We will introduce you to Japanese researchers and companies.” His vision is to make Leave a Nest as a big hub for researchers to discover new things, new career opportunities, and all things about research. “I believe we can become such a hub.”