Opening of the Academic Open Space between Tohoku University and the University of Washington

University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce and Tohoku University President Susumu Satomi (both seated) at the signing ceremony (©Mark Stone/University of Washington)

Tohoku University has made significant progress in its relations with academia and industry in the United States with the establishment of the University of Washington-Tohoku University: Academic Open Space (UW-TU:AOS), the university’s fifth overseas office, and the Seattle-based institution will further act as a gateway to the United States for Tohoku University.

President Susumu Satomi, who was accompanied by Executive Vice President Toshiya Ueki among a party of some twenty representatives from Tohoku University, and University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce, signed the agreement on April 14. President Satomi took the opportunity to express his sincere gratitude to President Cauce and to the people of Washington for their support in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Commenting on the opening of the AOS, President Satomi said: “This Academic Open Space is the result of many years of outstanding collaboration and exchange in research and education. Our university has maintained an ‘Open Door’ policy since its foundation. In bringing together people from a variety of backgrounds from several disciplines, each with their own unique contribution to make, we expect that this Academic Open Space will lead to the creation of new knowledge.”

University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce was similarly enthusiastic about the opportunities presented: “Working together, our two great universities can foster innovations and advancements in fields such as aerospace, clean energy and the development of new materials, among many others, all of which are critical to meeting the demands of growing industries in both regions.”

The signing ceremony came at the end of a three-day program which provided the opportunity for a commemorative symposium, and lively and productive workshops and Q&A sessions were held on the themes of composite materials and next generation aircraft. Coming together to share their experiences and knowledge were graduate students and researchers from not only Tohoku University but also from other Japanese universities and from leading companies such as Boeing and Toray Composite Materials America. Japanese companies such as Toray, Mitsubishi Aircraft and Subaru have seen recent expansion in Seattle, which is home to some of the most prestigious global companies, such as Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks.

Deputy Chief of the AOS is Professor Tomonaga Okabe who also belongs to the Department of Aerospace Engineering. Professor Okabe, who coordinated the workshops, outlined the genesis of the AOS: “In collaboration with the University of Washington and Toray Composite Materials America, we have been organizing workshops on composite materials and next generation aircraft for the past five years. Beginning in July of last year, Professor Fumio Ohuchi (Department of Materials Engineering, University of Washington) has gone to great lengths to assist us in our efforts to strengthen our partnership, and this we have successfully accomplished through the open exchange of ideas and opinions from all sides. It is extremely pleasing that our combined efforts have led to the establishment of this Academic Open Space. Our two universities are next to each other across the Pacific Ocean and are of a similar nature and character, and I think that this will lead to us bringing out the best in each other. Furthermore, Seattle is certainly one of the United States’ foremost centers for industrial innovation and sets the trend for the rest of the world to follow. I will endeavor to develop the AOS with respect to both research and education and my hope is that the work we do here in Seattle will be disseminated to the rest of the United States and indeed the world.”

One of many informative in-depth workshops
Students explain their ideas at a poster session








The Academic Open Space brings together not only academia and industry but also government, and at the memorial symposium the part that it will play in promoting the Structural Materials for Innovation program, which is part of the Japanese Cabinet Office’s Cross-ministerial Strategic Innovation Promotion Program (SIP). Also introduced were new areas in which both universities intend to cooperate such as disaster science, clean energy technology, and in educational exchange programs.

(From left) Professor Takizawa, Dean of the Graduate School of Engineering, EVP Ueki, President Satomi and Professor Ohuchi

Professor Fumio Ohuchi, who is in charge of the AOS at the University of Washington, sees common ground for advancement in education and research: “By location, faculty expertise, industrial partners and even shared seismic hazards, there are many ways that these two universities complement one another and can work well together.” Professor Ohuchi further explained that the AOS will provide a place for faculty members and students of both universities to meet regularly either directly or online, that it will create opportunities for research and education and for the exchange of ideas, and that in this way the AOS would create new opportunities for collaboration on an international level between industry, academia and government.

Associate Executive Vice President Masahiro Yamaguchi, who is planning and coordinating activities at the AOS, was similarly enthused about these new opportunities and added: “The AOS will support not only collaborative research and student exchange between Tohoku University and the University of Washington, but will also act as our gateway to the United States. In the immediate future the AOS will enhance cooperation in materials science and aerospace design, in which both universities excel. However, we will soon expand our scope and we expect a great deal of synergy in disaster science, medical science, physics and in other fields. Later, the AOS will be in a position to acquire funding from industry and will be able to operate autonomously.”

Following the signing ceremony, the officials from both universities were joined by dignitaries from state government and by representatives of leading enterprises for a reception at the official residence of the Consul General of Japan in Seattle, Masahiro Omura. Among those invited were Schuyler Hoss, Washington State Director of International Relations and Protocol, and Moriyuki Onishi, President and CEO of Toray Composite Materials America. Addressing the eighty guests, Mr. Omura, Mr. Hoss and Mr. Onishi expressed their hopes for the success of the AOS and for continuing cooperation between government, industry and academia.

Coordination and collaboration has already begun in the planning of workshops in a number of fields, and it will not be long before the Academic Open Space becomes a bustling hive of activity.