Interview with Shuji Nakamura -- "The more I fall into the quagmire, the more ideas I get" (page 3)

Interview with Shuji Nakamura

Apr 9, 2001

Engaging in competition by starting from scratch

Q: What is your current objective in your life?

A:For the time being, I want to be able to do my work on the same level as other professors around me. It will probably take me five years. Meanwhile, I am planning to invent the next type of a devise by using GaN that I have researched up to date so that I can give myself sometime to adjust to the new environment. In this way, it would be easier for me to raise funds from companies. For example, I could develop white LED for lightning. But I would eventually want to develop a new device from a totally new material, not from GaN. That would be the real start of my research.

Q:Don't you have any desire to stick to GaN that you invented?

A:I don't think I want to do anything any further with GaN personally. As with the time when I developed GaAs (gallium arsenide), many researchers began to choose GaN as their research theme. Once other researchers started entering into the same field, they would have to engage in fierce competition to show their research achievement. It will be even harder for me to engage in such competition, as it will take one year for the completion of my laboratory. What is more about GaN is that it has already passed the stage of its basic researches. GaN will be developed further mostly with the current technology available. That is why I feel that I want to move onto something totally new with a totally new material just like when I started my research on GaN, which no one else at that time paid attention to. But at this moment, I have no idea about what to develop and what material to use for my next new research.

Q: So, despite the remarkable accomplishment you made with GaN, do you still want to cast it away and engaged in a new race from scratch?

A:Even when I look over my past, the cycle of my research has been three to four years. It is my nature to feel that I am behind when I don't start doing something new.

Q:Mr. Linus Torvalds felt that he wanted to do something new when his invention "Linux" was gradually being commercialized in the market, and he decided to work at Transmeta Corp. of the U.S. You are similar to him in that way?

A:I agree.

Q: Aren't you interested in whether your research accomplishment will successfully be commercialized in the market?

A:Of course, I am interested in that. But I feel that if I remain at the level of commercialization, I will become "dumb."

Q: Do you have confidence in developing something remarkable like your last invention of blue LED?

A:I don't have strong confidence, but when I put myself in a predicament, I usually get power from the bottom of myself to climb up. All four or five research accomplishments I made were the products of my ideas that came into my mind during my quandary period. I believe that when I put myself in the same sort of environment, I will be able to exert my real power again. That is probably the main reason why I came to the U.S. I cannot converse well in English and I have to take time ten times as much to read literary documents compared to native English speakers around me. In my case, I cannot do anything new when I am totally happy, but only fail. For example, when I finally led my invention to commercialization, I suddenly felt relieved and ended up producing piles of defective products.

"I would want to use a new material, if I were to start up a new business."

Q: Do you have a desire to start up a business?

A: When I first arrived here, I received a number of phone calls from investors for a couple of months. They said they would give me a couple or several hundred millions so that I should start up a business. But I rejected all the offers. Whether I will be able to start up a new business depends on the result of my researches. If I produce good results, I will have a good chance of launching a business.