Constructing a system to improve the entire university’s fundamental research stage

 

Constructing a system to improve the entire university’s fundamental research stage

Overview of activities

In order to make research sustainable, it is essential to acquire research funds from outside the university, including Grants-in-aid for Scientific Research (KAKENHI). In the Research Development Section, we share information with Hokkaido University researchers to help them in planning research and acquiring research funds. This includes supporting their applications for competitive external funds. Moreover, we seamlessly plan and implement strategies to aid research at every stage from finding funding to utilizing research findings, and we are constructing a system to improve various fundamental research projects being conducted throughout the entire university.

With the aim of improving the adoption rate and KAKENHI amount allocated per adopted project, we share information with researchers and plan and implement university measures to support researchers’ applications.

For example, for the past three years (since fiscal 2015), we have offered advice and correction assistance for applications to Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research. People with an abundance of teaching experience at Hokkaido University are assigned as advisors to grant applicants to correct their application documents. Each year, there have been more than 100 advisors and applicants using this system; particularly for Scientific Research (C) and Young Scientists, the acceptance rate of those using this program exceeded that of people who did not use it.

We are also implementing various measures to support the acquisition of other competitive external funds, including holding application support seminars and mock interviews.

In addition, we hope to encourage interdisciplinary research to “sprout” and take root. To this end, we are collecting research information from university departments and divisions and from individual researchers, and compiling this information in an easily accessibly form in our offices. Moreover, in order to transcend the framework of departments and divisions and existing research groups, approximately once each quarter we hold the HU (Hokkaido University) Cross-Road Gathering, a workshop for researchers on a specific theme, with the aim of promoting interactions between scholars in different departments.

 

List of activities

Strategic planning for Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research

To improve the adoption rate and increase the amount allocated per adopted project, we offer the Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research Correction System, in which people with experience teaching at Hokkaido University correct researchers’ application documents. For applicants with large research projects, we assign reviewers with experience in the same types of projects, and they conduct mock hearing reviews with the applicants. Moreover, we have established an internal website to explain the changes to the application system and regularly disseminate useful information, such as the availability of interviews with experienced reviewers and people with experience in large research projects.
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Strategic planning to acquire other competitive external funds

We also support researchers hoping to acquire competitive external funds other than Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research, including holding application support seminars and mock interviews. In 2017, we provided support for applications to the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) Precursory Research for Embryonic Science and Technology (PRESTO) in Strategic Basic Research Programs, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Program for Advancing Strategic International Networks to Accelerate the Circulation of Talented Researchers, the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED) Development of Medical Devices through Collaboration between Medicine and Industry, and the Human Frontier Science Program.
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Liaising with departments and divisions

We collect research information from departments and divisions and, together with individual researchers, we are establishing an information-sharing environment within the Research Development Section. Currently, information on each URA, researcher, department and division, and research project is already being shared by individuals. We aim to make this process even smoother, such as by introducing balanced Information Technology (IT) tools in addition to facilitating the direct exchange of information.
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Developing a research promotion system to integrate different fields

Once every quarter, we hold the HU Cross-Road Gathering, a seminar for researchers within the university. This gathering is based on a different specific theme each time, and we ask researchers and stakeholders from both within and outside the university to present. It is a roundtable discussion that takes place in a very relaxed atmosphere; participants freely join in the discussion with a drink in hand. These seminars have resulted not only in joint research projects and coauthored papers, but quite a few projects born in these seminars ended up acquiring external funds.
View details

Promoting research based on the researchers’ AMBITIOUS ideas

The grants for scientific research provided by the government and other competitive funds are mostly allocated to research that can produce results and enter industry in a comparatively short period of time. On the other hand, it tends to be difficult to find funding for challenging research projects that are unique and have an uncertain timeline, such as attempts to rethink basic approaches to science. Hokkaido University URA and researcher volunteers have established a website called “Support from Donations! Hokkaido University’s Research,” with the aim of funding ambitious research and facilitating exchanges between researchers and donors.
View details

Feasibility studies to utilize research findings

With the ultimate goal of building a framework to circulate human, physical, and management resources between universities and venture companies originating in universities, we provide support for the commercialization of promising research within the university. We collaborate with financial institutions and others to conduct market research and feasibility studies to this end.
View details

Strategic planning to expand the functions of Hokkaido University and Hokkaido University Hospital

We are helping Hokkaido University Hospital realize its philosophy of “contributing to society through developing and providing advanced medical care and cultivating the next generation of medical professionals.” In particular, in addition to seeking competitive funds, we are planning strategies to acquire funds and develop research projects, with a focus on collaborative research between industry and academia.
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Team members

Naosuke Okada

Senior Research Manager

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<Projects he is responsible for>

Maho Amano (Chief Officer)

URA

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<Projects she is responsible for>

Yuuki Komata

URA

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<Projects he is responsible for>

 

Details of activities

Strategic planning for Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research

To improve the adoption rate and increase the amount allocated per adopted project, we offer the Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research Correction System, in which people with experience teaching at Hokkaido University correct researchers’ application documents. For applicants with large research projects, we assign reviewers with experience in the same types of projects, and they conduct mock hearing reviews with the applicants. Moreover, we have established an internal website to explain the changes to the application system and regularly disseminate useful information, such as the availability of interviews with experienced reviewers and people with experience in large research projects.

<Examples of activities>

Planning and managing the Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research Correction System

Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (known as KAKENHI in Japan) are competitive research funds that cover every field, from the humanities and the social sciences to natural sciences, with the aim of developing next stage “scientific research” of all types, from fundamental to applied research, based on researchers’ free ideas (from the website of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, “Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research”). The program has an annual budget of approximately 230 billion yen and received more than 100,000 applications in fiscal year 2017. It is Japan’s largest source of external research funds. Strategies to improve the chances of one’s research receiving this grant is a major question for researchers and research institutions.

Since fiscal year 2015, the Research Development Section has been managing an advice and correction system for applicants to the Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research. We use people with an abundance of experience in teaching at Hokkaido University (including people who left their position, as a specially appointed professor for instance, within the last nine years) as advisors to correct researchers’ application documents. Each year, more than 100 people participate as advisors, and another 100 as users. The system is particularly effective for Scientific Research (C) and Young Scientists researchers; the acceptance rate of those using this program significantly exceeds that of those who do not (Table).

The number of new users and adoption rate for the Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (KAKENHI) Correction System, fiscal year 2015–2017

In 2017, we improved the system based on a questionnaire distributed to those who used the program in the previous three years. In the new system, the list of advisors is published in advance and users can designate their desired advisor and have their questions answered beforehand. We have also started using two advisors and offering double corrections. We expect that this will allow for more detailed feedback, which will led to an improvement in users’ ability to prepare the application forms.

Planning and managing hearing support for large research project applications to Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research

For large research project items that require an interview, such as Scientific Research (S), we appoint researchers as advisors who have experience with similar projects. These advisors conduct mock interviews with the applicants. In 2017, out of a possible 23 applicants, mock hearings were held with seven, and one received grant funds.

Constructing a Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research adoption records sharing system

We are advancing the construction of a system to share Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research adoption in order to show researcher examples of successful applications and thereby increase the number of grants receiving funding. Our plan is to find a safe and useful system that allows researchers to provide necessary record documents while protecting important research information.

Supporting the acquisition of Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (Japanese) and the establishment and management of KAKENHI@hokudai (English)

Useful information on Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research, such as the application guidelines and support schedule for applications, is published on Hokkaido University’s official website. The university also disseminates more detailed information on an internal site titled “Unpublished information held by the URA responsible for Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research,” including information on the availability of interviews with experienced reviewers.

https://kkyoka.oeic.hokudai.ac.jp/kakenhi-hokudai/
English version, KAKENHI@hokudai https://kkyoka.oeic.hokudai.ac.jp/en/kakenhi-hokudai/
Screenshot of the support contents for acquiring Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research

Planning and managing Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research policy seminars and strategy symposiums

Click here for information on other seminars

Date held Theme
August 5, 2015 “Researchers, Be Ambitious: Trends In and Prospects For the Reforms to Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research”
July 29, 2016 “The Current State of Reforms to Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research”
July 13, 2017 “Briefing for Researchers on Reforms to Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research”
August 9, 2017 “What Researchers Should Know About to Acquiring Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research for Large-Scale Projects”

 

Strategic planning to acquire other competitive external funds

We also support researchers hoping to acquire competitive external funds other than Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research, including holding application support seminars and mock interviews. In 2017, we provided support for applications to the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) Precursory Research for Embryonic Science and Technology (PRESTO) in Strategic Basic Research Programs, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Program for Advancing Strategic International Networks to Accelerate the Circulation of Talented Researchers, the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED) Development of Medical Devices through Collaboration between Medicine and Industry, and the Human Frontier Science Program.

<Examples of activities>

We have held the following application support seminars. These seminars include lectures by experienced reviewers, people who have received funding in the past, and funding agency staff.

List of the application support seminars on the acquisition of competitive external funds other than Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research *

Click here for information on other events

Date held Targeted external funds
March 26, 2014 JSPS Program for Advancing Strategic International Networks to Accelerate the Circulation of Talented Researchers
March 23, 2015 JSPS Program for Advancing Strategic International Networks to Accelerate the Circulation of Talented Researchers
September 16, 2015 All AMED (Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development) projects and programs
March 8, 2016 JST Strategic Basic Research Programs (CREST and PRESTO) (within HU Cross-Road Gathering)
March 14, 2016 AMED Project to Develop Research Findings in the Medical Field (Program to Develop Advanced Measuring Analysis Technologies and Devices 2017)
March 23, 2016 JSPS Program for Advancing Strategic International Networks to Accelerate the Circulation of Talented Researchers
July 12, 2016 Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Strategic Information and Communications R&D Promotion (SCOPE)
March 1, 2017 AMED) Project to Develop Research Findings in the Medical Field (Program to Develop Advanced Measuring Analysis Technologies and Devices 2017)
March 22, 2017 JSPS Program for Advancing Strategic International Networks to Accelerate the Circulation of Talented Researchers
May 9, 2017 JST Strategic Basic Research Programs (PRESTO)
October 27, 2017 The Human Frontier Science Program

* Includes the URA Advanced Seminars and HU Cross-Road Gatherings

 

Liaising with departments and divisions

We collect research information from departments and divisions and, together with individual researchers, we are establishing an information-sharing environment within the Research Development Section. Currently, information on each URA, researcher, department and division, and research project is already being shared by individuals. We aim to make this process even smoother, such as by introducing balanced Information Technology (IT) tools in addition to facilitating the direct exchange of information.

<Examples of activities>

Effectively utilizing the human networks of the URA and researchers, departments and divisions, and projects

The human networks of each individual researcher, department, and division are a valuable resource when planning and promoting research projects and, to a certain extent, this information is already being shared within our section. However, this mostly relies on human networks between researchers and between departments and divisions; problems remain regarding the comprehensiveness of the coverage and the speed of its transmission. URA are collecting research information from different departments and divisions and holding interviews with individual researchers in order to gain information we can consolidate into one easily accessible resource in the Research Development Section office. We are also sharing some information online, including researchers’ names and contact information.

 

Developing a research promotion system to integrate different fields

Once every quarter, we hold the HU Cross-Road Gathering for researchers within the university. This seminar is based on a different specific theme each time, and we ask researchers and stakeholders from both within and outside the university to present. It is a roundtable discussion that takes place in a very relaxed atmosphere; participants freely join in the discussion with a drink in hand. These seminars have resulted not only in joint research projects and coauthored papers, but quite a few projects born in these seminars ended up acquiring external funds.

<Examples of activities>

HU (Hokkaido University) Cross-Road Gathering

The HU Cross-Road Gathering is planned to encourage interactions between Hokkaido University researchers. It is organized by the Research Development Section and held around once a quarter. Two researchers/stakeholders, either from within or outside the university, are guest speakers and speak on a specific topic designed to facilitate the later discussion. After the talks, the audience is invited to join a roundtable discussion that includes refreshments. An average of 20 people have participated in each meeting.

While the topics have been diverse, they can be broadly divided into the following two types: (1) matters directly relating to research, including the creation of new research, introductions by researchers in the various fields, and how to resolve common research problems and (2) questions of improving the research environment, including making it easier to advance research projects through the sharing of information on common problems and concerns, such as methods of acquiring external funds. Participants’ positions are also diverse, ranging from undergraduate and postgraduate students to professors. In the questionnaire conducted after the meeting, 87% of participants responded that they were “extremely satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with the meeting or that it was “helpful.” Several participants have joined together to publish papers and some have acquired Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research.

Themes and dates of the Hokkaido University Crossroad Workshops, Click here for other event information

Date held Theme (trend)
1 March 17, 2015 ”The Future of Robotic Research” (directly related to research)
2 July 29, 2015 “Crossover of Advanced Technologies and Medical Safety” (directly related to research)
3 December 30, 2015 “Cell Mania and Young Acquaintances” (directly related to research)
4 January 14, 2016 “What about an ASEAN Office?” (directly related to research)
5 March 8, 2016 “Come on, let’s apply to PRESTO and CREST!” (improving the research environment)
6 March 9, 2016 “HOKUDAI-style! Encountering the Unknown—Fusion-H Report Meeting” (directly related to research)
7 June 6, 2016 “Competitive External Funds Are a Concern for Everyone. How Are You Going About It?” (improving the research environment)
8 January 19, 2017 “Drone×○○” (directly related to research)

 

Analyzing successful interdisciplinary research projects

In order to promote interdisciplinary research projects at Hokkaido University, we are conducting awareness surveys among researchers within the university and others, with the aim of planning better measures.

 

Promoting research based on the researchers’ AMBITIOUS ideas

The grants for scientific research provided by the government and other competitive funds are mostly allocated to research that can produce results and enter industry in a comparatively short period of time. On the other hand, it tends to be difficult to find funding for challenging research projects that are unique and have an uncertain timeline, such as attempts to rethink basic approaches to science. Hokkaido University URA and researcher volunteers have established a website called “Support from Donations! Hokkaido University’s Research,” with the aim of funding ambitious research and facilitating exchanges between researchers and donors.

<Examples of activities>

“Support from Donations! Hokkaido University’s Research” website

The government’s grants for scientific research and other competitive funds are mostly allocated to research that can produce results and be applied in a comparatively short period of time. In contrast, it can be difficult for challenging to find funding for exploratory research for which some time is required before results appear. Therefore, an increasing number of researchers are concerned that unique and ambitious long-term research is less likely to be conducted in the future.
In April 2017, the Research Development Section and other researchers launched a website called “Support from Donations! Hokkaido University’s Research,” to accept donations for “ambitious researchers” conducting exploratory and challenging research. We are establishing opportunities for exchange between researchers and their supporters and are planning on a regular Information Exchange Meeting and annual lecture for donors. In the six months before September 2017, the website had received donations in excess of 3.5 million yen.

The responsible URA investigates the current fundraising situation both domestically and overseas and shares this information with researchers. This information is reported in the media, including in newspapers (two companies) and on television (one company, three times). We are also continuously and diligently disseminating information on our website and Facebook page. Going forward, the plan is to establish a system that can further increase awareness within the university and continuously promote “ambitious researchers.” We are anticipating a growing number of participating researchers in the near future.

Responding to Crowd Funding

To acquire research funds using crowd funding, we are gathering information from other sources, including departments and divisions within the university, crowd funding-related companies, and people with crowd funding experience at other universities. We plan to center a future HU Cross-Road Gathering seminar around a briefing and opinion exchange meeting for interested researchers.

 

Feasibility studies to utilize research findings

With the ultimate goal of building a framework to circulate human, physical, and management resources between universities and venture companies originating in universities, we provide support for the commercialization of promising research within the university. We collaborate with financial institutions and others to conduct market research and feasibility studies to this end.

<Examples of activities>

Constructing a “venture ecosystem”

With the goal of circulating human, physical, and management resources between universities and venture companies originating in universities, we collaborate with companies and financial institutions to conduct market research and commercialization feasibility studies. In addition, we provide support for the early stages of commercialization for promising research.

In September 2017, Leave a Nest Co., Ltd. sponsored a business plan contest, “The Fourth AGRI-TECH Grand Prix,” with the aim of discovering technological seeds and entrepreneurs in the real-tech area (food, agriculture, water resources, biomass, etc.) (from the official AGRI-TECH GP website). A Professor of the Faculty of Science,won the Grand Prize He combined remote sensing from ultra-small satellites and drones with ground measurements to observe the conditions of soil and crops in farms, with the aim
of diagnosing growing conditions and yield, pest prevention, and the environmental conservation of agricultural land. We supported the Professor by introducing him not only to collaborating companies but also to venture funds and events.

 

Strategic planning to expand the functions of Hokkaido University and Hokkaido University Hospital

We are helping Hokkaido University Hospital realize its philosophy of “contributing to society through developing and providing advanced medical care and cultivating the next generation of medical professionals.” In particular, in addition to competitive funds, we are planning strategies to acquire funds and develop research projects, with a focus on collaborative research between industry and academia.

<Examples of activities>

Starting in August 2017, Sapporo City launched a survey research project on the industrial availability of DNA repository (biological sample repositories). Based on the data obtained from this survey, we will clarify the methods and other aspects required to create new business relating to genome medicine and create an industrial cluster. Moreover, in cooperation with the Clinical Research Development Center at Hokkaido University Hospital, we are considering the development of cutting-edge genome medical technologies and their use for patients.

 

Other related events

Click here for information on other events

Date held Event
September 18–20, 2013 Seminar on Acquiring External Funds
August 8, 2014 The Twelfth Hokkaido University Young Researchers Exchange Meeting (introducing support for Grants-in-aid for Scientific Research applications)
May 25, 2015 Seminar on Japan-Europe for Research: “International Cooperation, Funding opportunities, Mobility”
November 6–9, 2017 Seminar for Researchers on Writing Skills and Tips for Writing Press Releases
December 21, 2017 Global Networking Seminar: “Tips on Global Networkinig for Researchers to Increase International Coauthored Papers”

 


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