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Research Development Section
Greeting from the President

Hokkaido University URA are unique in their promotion of university activities

As we approach our 150th anniversary in 2026, Hokkaido University is deeply aware of the important role universities should play in society. In August 2014, we determined to become a university “that contributes to the resolution of global issues,” aiming to boldly and steadily pursue university reforms based on our basic philosophies and long-term goals held since our founding. In order to realize this goal, we formulated the Future Strategy for the 150th Anniversary of Hokkaido University.

This strategy builds on our 2013 formulation of the “Concept to Realize Strengthened Research Capabilities.” This place presented the university’s three goals over the next 10 years: to become “a leading university that provides and implements innovative solutions to social issues,” “a university that attracts top researchers from around the world,” and “a model university with excellent research governance.” We are conducting various measures in order to realize this plan.

Despite the fact that Japan’s national universities have extremely high research capabilities, in recent years the decline in their global presence has become a major issue. In order to heighten our university’s international competitiveness, it is necessary to aim to raise the level of our managerial perspective in a wide range of areas, both in terms of research and education, public relations, and industry/academia/regional collaborations. To this end, Hokkaido University established the URA (university research administrator) position, a highly important role that stands on an equal footing with university researchers. In 2015, the university established the Research Development Section, which is involved in planning research strategy and related activities, acquiring external funds, planning international joint research, disseminate the university’s knowledge to the rest of society by promoting research findings, and other projects. The Research Development Section also promotes research across the entire university and the establishment of global research centers.

At Hokkaido University, we are undergoing organizational reform in order to strengthen our president’s governance and establish a system that enables the executive to ascertain and analyze all university data when making management decisions. In order to promote these reforms, it is essential to have staff who understand the university’s management and who are able to conduct planning that transcends the boundaries between departments, administrative organizations, and other entities: the URA are specialists who act in this capacity.

Universities in the United States were the first to institute the URA position as specialists overseeing research administration. In 2012, Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology launched a project to “establish a system to develop and secure research administrators,” adapting the U.S. understanding of the URA to reflect current conditions in Japanese universities. Today, URA in Japan are specialists who have both deep expertise in a specific research field and a strong interest in organizational management. They seek to be of use not only in their specific field, but to the university as whole.

At Hokkaido University, the URA’s duties are not limited to research, and they manage the entire university; their position is similar to that of the so called UM (university managers). Who are responsible for university manegement as well as university administration. Many URA who belong to the Research Development Section serve in multiple positions across the organization, and all play an important role strengthening the university’s research capabilities and facilitating reform. Hokkaido University has also implemented sweeping reforms in terms of the URA’s career path, and they are now promoted to chief URA and senior URA positions based on their management abilities rather than their age. In these ways, we are actively developing the URA into management professionals who play important roles in the future of our executive department.

In order for Hokkaido University to further evolve as an international research university, it is necessary to create an environment where excellent young URAs can take on challenges and demonstrate their abilities to the greatest possible extent without fear of failure. We hope to show this same fearlessness in the university’s reforms and to show the world a new model of university management that precisely embodies the spirit of Dr. Clark’s words: “Boys, be ambitious.” At the same time, the Research Development Section is an important player in the university’s management and it continues to conduct creative activities that broaden the image of URA in Japan. Please pay attention to our future activities.

Professor Toyoharu Nawa
President of Hokkaido University
December 2017

 

Research Development Section
Greetings from the Executive

As one of Japan’s leading national universities, Hokkaido University has focused on supporting science and technology, as well as higher education. Since the university was established in 1918, we have maintained high research capabilities in a wide range of fields, including our long-standing agriculture program and research in life science, medicine, and applied chemistry. However, our goal to further boost the Hokkaido University brand as a global research and education base is now facing several obstacles.

In recent years, Japan’s industrial structure has undergone significant changes. In addition to manufacturing, Japan’s main industry during the nation’s period of high economic growth, today the service industry has increased dramatically, thereby changing the knowledge and technology required in society. An era is coming where a person will not gain fame simply by learning one academic discipline; researchers must instead learn multiple disciplines and integrate different academic fields, and innovators with broad education and skills will create new societal value. Hokkaido University believes that it is urgent to reform the university’s research and education operating structures in order to provide society with high-level and outstanding researchers who can act across disciplines as our changing times demand.

The 2002 incorporation of the national universities made necessary reforms toward more autonomous university administration. University administration is different than the administration of private companies and requires management based on unique indicators that focus on research and educational activities. In order to promote this reform, it is essential to develop new staff who specialize in university administration and management, different from conventional professors and administrative staff.

To this end, Hokkaido University has established a Research Development Section (the URA’s head office) as a new organization to promote reform. The definition and role of URA (university research administrators) varies from university to university, but Hokkaido University defines URA as “university administration and management specialists.” These staff are positioned not only to aid in research and administrative operations, but also serve to promote a wide range of research and educational capabilities across the entire university and foster university reform. The Research Development Section is the hub for the university’s administrative operations and seamlessly connects researcher and clerical organizations and university and regional/industrial sectors while promoting management reform to elevate the entire university and cultivating staff who will manage the university’s administration in the future.

Currently, the Research Development Section is home to more than 10 URAs. Since its establishment in 2015, the URA in this office have accomplished great results in their respective projects. Representative examples of such successes include the promotion of the university’s Institutional Research (IR) project, establishment of the Global Facility Center (GFC), the launch of a system for sharing university equipment, and the establishment of the Arctic Research Center and other large research centers. In terms of education, URA with profound knowledge actively support researchers in important issues, such as in the establishment of graduate schools. All URA rely on their own expertise and extensive knowledge in university administration to continuously plan and draft new projects.

The work and description of the URA is still in a transition phase, and as such the definition of URA at Hokkaido University may also evolve. We hope that such administrators will become indispensable human resources for university administration and management, both at Hokkaido University and at universities throughout Japan, and that they will play an important role as professionals in university administration.

Dr. Junji Nishii
Executive and Vice President, Hokkaido University

 

Overview of the Research Development Section

Welcome to the Hokkaido University Research Development Section website. The Research Development Section is an organization of research and administration management experts responsible for planning and implementing strategies to strengthen Hokkaido University’s research capabilities.

The Research Development Section coordinates with organizations within and outside of the university through university research administrators (URA). These URA possess advanced expertise and conduct a wide range of activities toward strengthening Hokkaido University’s research capabilities, including developing management strategies and system reforms relating to research infrastructure, planning and promoting major research projects, and implementing human resources management strategies.

To mark the university’s 150th anniversary, Hokkaido University published a Future Strategy 150 vision: “A Hokkaido University that Contributes to the Resolution of Global Issues.” Specifically, the university set three 10-year goals: to become “a leading university that provides and implements innovative solutions to social issues,” “a university that attracts top researchers from around the world,” and “a model university that boasts excellent research governance.” Under the president’s leadership, the university is utilizing its unique characteristics to reform university governance and strengthen its research capabilities.

The Hokkaido University Research Development Section was established under the president’s direct administration. It is responsible for planning the university’s management strategy and implementing reforms to realize these objectives. Since becoming a national university corporation, Hokkaido University requires an independent management strategy and, in this situation, must have organizational capabilities and staff different from conventional administration, research, and education positions.

To accomplish this, Hokkaido University has introduced URA staff who are positioned as advanced administrative and management personnel. Under the leadership of the president and research executive, they promote the university’s research strategy while straddling different departments and administrative organizations. They are responsible for carrying out important work relating to the university’s management, and realizing the formation of “Independent Hokkaido University” as a national university corporation.

The Research Development Section serves as the hub for all of stakeholders in the university’s research and management strategy. Under the president’s governance, it conducts a wide range of activities together with the research executive, administrative organization, each research faculty and bureau, researchers, and domestic and international research organizations.

Click here for a diagram explaining the positioning of the Research Development Section within the university.

 

The role of the URA and three strategies to strengthen the university’s research capabilities

Hokkaido University has implemented three strategies to strengthen its research capabilities: “diversify human resources,” “create cutting-edge research and disseminating results to the world,” and “enhance societal cooperation to solve global problems.” The Research Development Section plays a central role in implementing these reforms.

(1) Promoting the diversification of staff

The Research Development Section promotes the diversity of research staff and implements university-wide measures that go beyond the faculties and bureaus in order to secure excellent personnel.

(Some) recent achievements

(2) Creating cutting-edge research and disseminating its results

To this end, the Research Development Section is planning and promoting projects to create an international landmark research center and to strengthen the research infrastructure system.

(Some) recent achievements

(3) Enhancing societal cooperation to solve global problems

The Industry Creation Laboratories was established to allow Hokkaido University and other companies to effectively share resources through industry-academia collaboration. Today, it is involved in the construction of a framework to implement “collaborative research as one unified organization”

 

URA career paths

Hokkaido University has designed a tenure-track system specifically for the URA to allow them to acquire tenure after a five-year appointment period. This system further advances the specialization of URAs and clarifies their career path, allowing them to become versatile university administrative and management personnel.

In addition to using external consulting companies and developing an ability-evaluation menu, a hierarchy has been established that enables URA with high-level management skills to be promoted to Chief URA and Senior URA. The university is also considering a framework to promote the increased mobilization of URAs and staff with related positions and to establish a path that will make it possible to transfer to the URA position from other positions.

 

Five Future Research Development Section Projects

The Hokkaido University Research Development Section is implementing the following five projects. Each project is managed by several URAs and under the direction of the leading URA. In collaboration with other organizations, the university as a whole is facilitating each project.

  1. Planning and implementing system reforms to strengthen research capabilities
  2. Implementing university administration and management to utilize university IR (Institutional Research)
  3. Constructing a top-down landmark research center
  4. Constructing a system to improve the entire university’s fundamental research stage
  5. Coordinating the university’s administrative and management specialists

 

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