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Interview

Nidec founder plans medical and business schools as Japan ages

Shigenobu Nagamori says higher education needs boost for corporate growth

Nidec Chairman and CEO Shigenobu Nagamori speaks to Nikkei Asia on Nov. 10. 

TOKYO -- Shigenobu Nagamori, the founder, chairman and CEO of the world's largest motor manufacturer Nidec, says he plans to operate medical and business schools in Japan to train urgently needed human resources as the country ages and its companies lose competitiveness to overseas rivals.

Since 2018, Nagamori has chaired the Nagamori Gakuen Education Foundation, which operates Kyoto University of Advanced Science. The university is planning to set up a new medical school as well as a business school. KUAS opened about 50 years ago but was renamed in 2019. Just this year it established its fifth faculty for engineering, characterized by strength in motor related technologies.

"I am not going to set up something that already exists," Nagamori told Nikkei Asia in an interview Tuesday on the sidelines of the Nikkei Global Management Forum. "I am interested in solutions" to "what is lacking in the world," he said.

Nagamori said the new medical school which he hopes to open in 2030 would focus on treating elderly people and providing medical services in Japan's increasingly depopulated rural areas. As Japanese are living longer, more people over the age of 60 will need medical services. "But in Japan, there are not many specialized hospitals," he added.

In his speech at the forum, Nagamori said that education is a key for Japanese companies becoming more competitive. In Japan, students typically study hard to get into famous universities, but those institutions fail to provide the right training to develop the skills required in business, Nagamori said. Nidec "would have grown two times faster" if Japan's education system was better, he said.

The country's top two universities have long been the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University. Nagamori emphasized that he wants KUAS to be superior to them. "Somebody has to open up new ways," he said.

Nagamori also said he hopes other universities will follow KUAS in staking out unique positions to lead in particular areas where they can provide students with skills to be competitive in the job market.

Japanese manufacturers in general have been losing out in competition with rivals from other countries such as China and South Korea. Nagamori acknowledged in the interview that Japanese businesses still have strengths, such as their technology and hard-working employees who devote themselves to the same company for many years. But he said that the root cause of their waning competitiveness lies in the lack of aggressive leaders.

Regarding the planned business school, Nagamori said it would "create a model to turn engineers into CEOs." Most Japanese CEOs have degrees in the humanities, he said, but suggested that ones who understand engineering will be sought after in the current age of digital transformation.

Nagamori said he is repeatedly urging university students "to be entrepreneurs."

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