Kyushu University here is building an international hub for the information technology industry jointly with other parts of Asia and business enterprises.

“We call ‘Silicon Sea Belt Fukuoka’ the sea-linked Asian route from Singapore to Kyushu via Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea, and are pushing ahead with our plan,” remarked Hiroto Yasuura, pointing to a map in his study at the public university.

Yasuura is an expert on large-scale integrated designing and is head of the university’s System LSI Research Center.

This sea-belt region produces one-third of the world’s semiconductors. Kyushu, meanwhile, with its high concentration of semiconductor-related plants in Kumamoto, Oita and other prefectures, produces one-third of the chips made in Japan, or about 6 percent of the world’s total.

“The hollowing-out theory that the production of semiconductors and other IT products is shifting to China is wrong,” Yasuura said. “China cannot easily catch up in a field requiring concentrated high-level knowledge. Kyushu, called Silicon Island, can take advantage of this knowledge accumulation.”

Business enterprises are also planning their moves with Asia in mind. Sony Corp. has moved its Tokyo-based LSI design division to the city of Fukuoka.

Yasuura is also the president of the College of System LSI, Fukuoka, an institution set up by scholars and industry to teach LSI design to new recruits at semiconductor-related companies and Asian trainees.

The city of Fukuoka has many road signs in English, Chinese and Korean. “The people in Kyushu, far from Tokyo and Osaka, are independent-minded and are directing their eyes to Asia,” said Toshifumi Yada, professor at Kyushu University’s faculty of economics.

According to Fukuoka Prefecture, 2,580 students from 76 countries and regions were studying at universities in the prefecture as of May 2000. More than 90 percent of them were from Asia. China ranked first with 1,600 students, followed by South Korea with 360 students and Taiwan with 90.

The “idea to create the network for high-quality personnel overseas,” initiated by Fukuoka Prefecture, calls for inviting excellent Asian personnel. This is patterned after Silicon Valley, where one-quarter of the founders of IT companies are Indians and Chinese.

The prefecture will send a survey mission to Shanghai to discuss the prefecture-based companies with Chinese.

Kyushu University has previously held a conference involving 22 university presidents from 13 countries and territories in Asia. It has also inaugurated the Kyushu University Asian Research Organization in an effort to prompt exchanges of scholars and students in academic fields, including the humanities.

“Laws of Asian countries are helpful for Japan, and Japanese laws can also be more helpful for Asian countries than European and U.S. laws,” said Shinichi Ago, professor at Kyushu University’s faculty of law.

Public universities are required to cement their management foundations as they are being turned into independent administrative agencies under the government’s policy. “The construction of a new campus is a good opportunity to realize that,” Kyushu University President Tisato Kajiyama said.

The campus, which is being built in a 275-hectare tract on Itoshima Peninsula facing Hakata Bay, is slated for completion in 2005. The vast wilderness thus is going to turn into a “Kyushu University Academic City” with state-of-the-art facilities.

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