Education & research

Study Abroad Program for students

Clare Hall, University of Cambridge Summer Visiting Student Program

2017 Academic Year

How Can Outcome of Research Project Be Internationally Introduced to the Real Business?
Kohei Nishiyama: Doctoral Student, Department of Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies, Graduate School of Engineering, The University of Tokyo

I have had an opportunity to stay at Clare Hall of The University of Cambridge in the summer of 2017. The Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Tokyo has given me a grant to stay one month in the UK as a visiting student.

As part of my PhD dissertation, I took this opportunity to present the outcome of my research. One month stay in Cambridge gave me enough time to present my research beyond the boundaries of both nations and sectors. The fact that I was based in Clare Hall made it easy to travel to other cities in Europe. Also being a visiting student at Clare Hall provided greater opportunities to conduct interviews with corporations.

My research highlights the role of users in corporate process relating to new product development. I have chosen LEGO IDEAS, (former LEGO CUUSOO) as a case study for my PhD dissertation. LEGO IDEAS is an user participatory online platform provided by the European toy manufacturer, LEGO System, The key finding of the research was that when a reward system is designed to incentivize users to support corporate activity, users change their behavioral pattern to help corporation meet its goal.

While I was in the UK, I wanted to learn how experts in the manufacturing industry would perceive my research results. So, I decided to conduct a series of interviews with experts in the area of new product development. I visited Dr. Benn Lawson from Centre for Process Excellence & Innovation at The University of Cambridge (CPEI) who leads the process of research in how suppliers could take part in innovation process through new product development. By meeting with Dr. Lawson, I quickly came to learn that innovative products are dependent on their sourcing activities. Although approaches differ, we discovered common areas of interest. We both found interests in the area where manufacturing and consumption are interconnected. Our talk was mostly centered in the mobile phone industry, but interestingly enough, the automotive industry is becoming much closer to the mobile phone industry.

I also had a privilege to visit LEGO System and meet with LEGO IDEAS team. I was glad to learn that the team was able to find some practical implications from my research studies. In particular, I made two points in my presentation: 1) incentive system for users to participate; and 2) the management of voting mechanism on online platform.

The notion of manageable user behavior suggests that users and corporation can build new kinds of relationship that were un attainable with consumption. The discovery of research potential on management of user behavior opens doors to new research themes such as the mechanism design of participatory process with outside actors.

A simple voting mechanism could signal the desired feature that users need amongst many alternatives for new products. The case study of LEGO IDEAS suggests that user could add value in the new product development not only in bringing new ideas but also reducing the risk of failure. A corporation could offer an online platform where users who intend to purchase the product communicate their preferences for the future product. These online platform mechanisms allow corporations to find ideas for new products with maximum profit when commercialized.

With these new findings from the case study of user involvement via voting mechanism in new product development process, we may ask ourselves whether the origin of the innovation factors in. Could it be that as long as users are given opportunities to vote to express their intention for purchase, the origin of innovation, be it the users or supplier, does not matter?

Despite the numerous fruitful meetings, I was left with more questions than I started with; a sign that this research trip was a success. As long as these questions are meaningful ones, there are rooms for further research activities. I came back to Tokyo with excitement and intention to continue to conduct studies to better understand how corporations are involving outside actors to their R&D activities to enhance their product development capabilities.

I believe that most of what I was able to achieve was made possible because I had a privilege of being a visiting student at Clare Hall. I am grateful for all the opportunity given to me and the kind support I received in Europe.

(November 30, 2017)


Research on the Management of Online Platform

photo 03

My research question is, "how can corporations increase the value created by the user participation on the online platform?" As the internet becomes part of everyday life for individual users, the role of users are shifting away from just being consumers. I am extremely interested to find out ways to enhance participation of massive number of users as a new kind of resource to the society. I believe that key technologies are already available and the only thing we need to do is to master these technologies.



photo 12

I have used LEGO IDEAS (former LEGO CUUSOO) as case for my PhD dissertation. LEGO IDEAS is a crowd sourcing online platform that Danish toy manufacture, LEGO System provides. I was happy to learn that LEGO IDEAS team liked the insights I have found through my research. This snap shot was taken together with Dr.Yun Mi Antorini and Mr.Tormod Askildsen.


Clare Hall

photo 01 photo 02

As a visiting student, I had the luxury of having a room in the Clare Hall. This room in Clare Hall has become a hub for my research activities in Europe. Clare Hall is one of the few colleges in The Cambridge University that has a private swimming pool. I came to become a frequent visitor to this swimming pool between my research works.