Telecommunications visionary Semmoto gives UF Engineering its first named chair

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Sachio Semmoto

UF alumnus Sachio Semmoto, Ph.D., pioneering serial entrepreneur and futurist

Renowned UF alumnus Sachio Semmoto, Ph.D., pioneering serial entrepreneur and futurist, was the guest of honor in a recent ceremony at the Malachowsky Hall for Data Science and Information Technology for the official creation of the Sachio Semmoto Chair of Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) at the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering.

The named department chair is the first of its kind for the college, honoring Mark Tehranipoor, Ph.D., the Intel Charles E. Young Preeminence Endowed Chair Professor in Cybersecurity, as its inaugural holder.

“Dr. Semmoto is an extraordinary example of the type of engineering alumni we produce at UF. He has transformed the field of telecommunications as we know it, and he is inspiring the next generation of forward-thinking students,” said UF President Ben Sasse. “We are thrilled to have Dr. Tehranipoor as the first named department chair as we continue to take Gator Engineering to the next level, showing just how much our graduates can change the world.”

From left: Forrest Masters, Ph.D., interim dean, Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering; UF alumnus Sachio Semmoto, Ph.D.; Mark Tehranipoor, Ph.D., the Intel Charles E. Young Preeminence Endowed Chair Professor in Cybersecurity and inaugural holder of the Sachio Semmoto Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

“Personally, as the ECE department chair and holder of this endowment, I can’t overstate the significance of Dr. Semmoto’s contribution,” Dr. Tehranipoor said. “I believe this endowment will have a transformative impact on our department and its leadership indefinitely because this is a position that becomes quite attractive for many to follow to become the chair of the ECE department.”

Dr. Semmoto earned his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Kyoto University, Japan, in 1966, and his master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Florida in 1968 and 1971, respectively.

Currently serving as the executive chairman of RENOVA, Inc., a renewable energy power company headquartered in Tokyo, the revered entrepreneur began his career with Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation in 1966. He is a distinguished professor of green entrepreneurship studies at the Graduate School of Management at Kyoto University.

Dr. Semmoto’s three-plus decades of senior corporate leadership positioned him as a major player in helping to completely restructure Japan’s telecommunications sector, in 1984 co-founding Japan’s first private telecom startup, DDI — now KDDI Corp. — which now holds a massive market cap of approximately $85 billion.

Under his agile leadership, RENOVA grew from a private startup into Japan’s premier leader in renewable energy. The company realized a public listing on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in 2017.

“I can’t think of a more fitting name to elevate ECE’s department chair than Dr. Sachio Semmoto,” said Forrest Masters, Ph.D., interim engineering dean. “His impact, insights and entrepreneurism are shaping our shared future and inspiring our students, faculty and staff.”

In addition to celebrating Dr. Semmoto’s philanthropic support of Gator Engineering through this $3 million endowed chair, the event recognized the commemorative naming of the Sachio Semmoto ECE Headquarters Suite in Malachowsky Hall and the establishment of the Dr. Sachio Semmoto Professorship in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Warren B. Nelms Institute for the Connected World that was funded through a prior gift to the department.

Dr. Semmoto’s intimate connection with the Nelms Institute goes back to its inception in 2017 when he established the Semmoto Professorship through a $1.5 million gift that endowed the institute’s directorship. The current holder of that mantle is Swarup Bhunia, Ph.D., who also attended the event.

A moderated Q&A session earlier in the day allowed key electrical and computer engineering faculty and students to dialogue with Dr. Semmoto about his deep commitment to UF and to draw from his global perspective and insights as a celebrated technological pioneer in Japan and beyond.

The endowment comes at a pivotal time in the history of the university and ECE. UF is working to establish itself as a top AI university in the country. And the department is firmly established as a leader in cybersecurity and semiconductor innovation by virtue of its world-renowned faculty who lead groundbreaking research through the Florida Institute for National Security, the Florida Institute for Cybersecurity Research, and the Florida Semiconductor Institute.

Indicating he hopes his latest philanthropic gesture strategically leverages relationships with the global business leaders in AI (NVIDIA) and semiconductor production (TSMC in Taiwan) to position UF’s growing preeminence in those disciplines, Dr. Semmoto said breakthroughs in AI and semiconductor technology are analogous in impact to the world as the advent of oil production at the turn of the 20th century.

“Oil was everything — the most important, basic element of society,” Dr. Semmoto said. “The semiconductor replaced that. Without it, no technology in our lives could be supported. It will be the leading factor for the next 100 years.”

Now spearheading RENOVA’s endeavors to foster innovation in large-scale renewable energy plants, Dr. Semmoto named the development of sustainable green technology as the third pillar of technological advancement — along with AI and semiconductors — that will define the Fourth Industrial Revolution.