Dr Kenji Takeda, Director, Azure for Research
I am privileged to serve on funding agency advisory committees and teams in the UK, Europe and around the world, to share some of the learning I have gained from straddling academia and industry.
After completing a MEng and PhD at the University of Southampton, Kenji stayed in Southampton to pursue his academic career. After more than 15 years as a Senior Lecturer in Aeronautics, where he also took on the role of Education Engineer on the BLOODHOUND SSC Programme Ltd, Kenji took a significant step and accepted a position at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, UK.
Many of the biggest advances in science are at the boundaries of traditional research disciplines and, to Kenji, Microsoft seemed like one of the most exciting places to explore what the future could look like. He explains that the company not only provides strong support for researchers, but that there is a culture of innovation and a pace that means technology can move from the lab into real-world applications at a staggering speed.
Kenji continues his university research developing state-of-the-art capability for improving science and engineering processes, and particularly extending this into healthcare. He highlights, “My role is to act as the interface between Microsoft Artificial Intelligence and Research and academia, particularly focussing on cloud computing, AI, improving healthcare, and advanced technology.”
When moving to Microsoft, Kenji experienced a slight paradox - on the one hand it was quite comfortable but on the other there was a culture shift that he had to adjust to. He explains that the atmosphere around the lab is reassuringly familiar, with research talks every day, whiteboards full of equations everywhere, and a real buzz in the air.
When asked what really excites him about his work at Microsoft, Kenji explains: “We do deep research, which is the foundation of all our work, but it is the incredible pace of innovation to get this into the hands of millions of people that is the real differentiator. Disruptive ideas are encouraged and we work with researchers in the leading universities across the globe. While we are a core part of the global research community, our drivers go beyond those of academic research.”
The last five years has been a tremendous journey for Kenji. Pursuing a braided career has provided him with growth and learning opportunities that he would never have encountered in academia alone. He believes access to a global perspective, focus on impact, and being on the leading edge of disruptive technology have expanded his horizons enormously.