Thursday, April 02, 2009

PG Alum Bill Bockman '06 wins Miki Award

From Bill Bockman '06. Congrats!

I am grateful and excited to have been selected to be the University of Puget Sound's Miki Scholar for 2009-2010. Former Prime Minister Takeo Miki (PM from 1974-1976) spent time in Seattle in his early years and I believe his daughter and grandchild attended UPS. As part of my fellowship I intend to study government efforts to promote light emitting diode (LED) manufacturing on the Island of Shikoku. I expect this to be an extremely interesting project because of (1) depopulation and migration out of Shikoku causing workforce challenges, (2) intense competition from firms in Taiwan, Korea and China, and (3) the LED industry's status as an emerging field in energy saving technology. A recent collaborative effort between the Tokushima prefectural government, leading LED firms and academia has been called "LED Valley."

Since graduating UPS in 2006 I have been at the University of Washington's Jackson School in the Japan Studies Program. When I first started taking Japanese class in middle school I wanted to go the UW, study electrical engineering and take the university's Technical Japanese program. Although I ended up changing course on the engineering front, since being at UW I have had succeeded in taking Technical Japanese courses. I highly recommend TJP to anyone considering taking advanced Japanese language courses. The curriculum is very well developed and focuses heavily on cultural and business practices as opposed to being solely focused on technology related topics.

The high brightness blue LED was invented in Shikoku by Shuji Nakamura of Nichia corporation in 1993. Despite having only modest research and personell budgets, Nakamura succeeded where leading firms such as 3M, Hewlett Packard, Matsushita and the like had been trying for decades. Nakamura and his invention would become infamous in Japan because of lawsuits between him and his employer during subsequent years. Nichia paid Nakamura a mere $300 bonus for creating an invention that would open up a new multi-billion dollar industry! Instead of being promoted and given expanded resources to pursue further research, he was forced into the dreaded madogiwa zoku to stamp papers all day. Currently Shuji Nakamura is a professor of Materials Science at the University of California Santa Barbra. A Tokyo court awarded him approximately $800 million dollars in a counter suit against Nichia, after an appeal the award was reduced to $8 million, still an improvement over $300 dollars. Nakamura and other developments in the LED world are profiled in a recent book by technology journalist Bob Johnston.