Saybrook in Japan: An International Collaboration for Innovation in Applied Systems Science | Gary Metcalf | March 11, 2014 | Rethinking Complexity

Gary Metcalf describes the annual meeting at the Tokyo Institute of Technology that we both attended, as well as development of a new program of Saybrook University jointly with Osaka Prefecture University.

… at the seventh workshop and symposium about service systems science, hosted by Prof. Kyoichi (Jim) Kijima from the Tokyo Institute of Technology. The purpose of the event was “to describe visions of the society in ten years time, and to develop real ICT-based devices/products/services/networks to cope with challenges in an aging society to lead to a smart and sustainable society by co-creating new social value. In particular, Japan should be the lead market for overcoming [challenges of] an aging society…”  […]

The connection for this research into service systems goes back to a presentation by Jim Spohrer from IBM, at the 2005 meeting of the ISSS. [….]  IBM … began to work on this concept of a science of services (initially, Service Science, Engineering, Management, and Design – see a paper summarizing the ideas by Spohrer and Kwan at .)

The interest in service systems in Japan came from many of the same concerns. Having been a manufacturing-based economy for decades, Japan found itself challenged by lower-cost labor in developing neighbor countries. The need to restructure its economic base was apparent, but not simple to achieve. The focus this year on aging societies comes from additional challenges, in that Japan has the highest percentage of older people, on average, in the world. If it can develop innovations for improving the livelihood of people 80 years and older, it is possible that it could create new export markets as well. Projections, for instance, are that China will have 100 million citizens over the age of 80 by the year 2050. A looming question is the relative economic potential. How high-tech, and how costly, can the innovations be, relative to the money available to pay for them?

After a few days in Tokyo, Gary continued on to Osaka.

My visit to Osaka was to get acquainted with Prof. Toshiyuki Matsui and his colleagues at Osaka Prefecture University (OPU), following his visit to Saybrook’s RC in January. OPU has recently received a grant from the Japanese government to develop a program for Systems-inspired Leaders in Material Science (SiMS). The program will support 20 students per year from departments across OPU, with a focus on research into materials science. Students will continue work on their degrees within their own departments, with additional courses including leadership and systems science, and an international internship, as parts of the new program.


My trip to Japan provided the opportunity for a visit to OPU and the delivery of a presentation to faculty and propective students on systems sciences. What I learned again is how important language can be. In this case, it was not just English to Japanese. What I interpret as systems science, including theories and authors, was new to my Japanese colleagues. And we look forward to the opportunity to share our knowledge and understanding and develop common frames of reference.

Saybrook in Japan: An International Collaboration for Innovation in Applied Systems Science | Gary Metcalf | March 11, 2014 | Rethinking Complexity at

Osaka Prefecture University


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