During June 7-11, the Swedish-Japanese university collaboration network Mirai 2.0 held its first Research and Innovation Week on the topic “International Collaboration in a Digital Era – Fostering Innovative Minds for the Future”. More than 650 registered participants attended from universities, agencies, companies and other organisations. Mirai 2.0 consists of eight Japanese and 11 Swedish universities, and is the largest research-oriented collaboration network between the two countries. The collaboration is focused on Sustainability, Ageing, Material Science and Artificial Intelligence (AI), as well as on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and with a clear ambition to involve younger researchers. The Mirai collaboration was initiated at a university president summit at the Swedish Ambassador’s residence in Tokyo in 2015, with the first Mirai phase between 2016-2019, and with the current Mirai 2.0 phase from 2020.
The Research and Innovation Week included scientific discussions between researchers in the different thematic areas, a university president’s Leadership Summit, matchmaking between researchers and companies, and cross-thematic sessions. During the opening, the presidents of the two respective coordinating universities, Prof. Seichii Matsuo, Nagoya University, and Prof. Eva Wiberg, the University of Gothenburg gave welcoming addresses. They were then followed by opening speeches from the Swedish Minister of Business, Industry and Innovation Mr Ibrahim Baylan and the Japanese Minister for Digital Transformation Mr Takuya Hirai. The two ministers stressed the importance of research and innovation collaboration between Sweden and Japan to address societal challenges and SDGs, and on continued deepening collaboration between two mutually knowledge intensive countries to promote innovation and transformation in the rapidly changing world.
During thematic sessions researchers presented and discussed their activities, with a particular focus on building new relationships among young researchers in the bilateral cooperation. To stimulate such relations, the Mirai 2.0 universities launched an initiative for seed funding as a first step for establishing new collaborations. In addition to this, the Swedish Innovation Agency Vinnova, held a match-making event that included universities, research institutes and industry. At the match-making event Vinnova also launched a seed funding call for proposals, to stimulate new collaborations within the university network, as well as with other actor groups. The ambition in this call for proposals is to further broaden the collaboration network to involve also other actor groups, not least the private sector, to more effectively promote innovation and solutions to societal challenges. The funding for this call comes jointly from the research funding agencies in Sweden, channelled through Vinnova.
During the week, the university presidents met to discuss future directions for the collaboration at the Mirai 2.0 University Leadership Summit. The theme was “Research, Innovation and Education in a digital era, and beyond”, and there were more than 30 participants from the university president level from the universities. The summit was moderated by Science and Innovation Counsellor Michael Jacob, and included forward-looking discussions on Education, Research and Innovation in smaller group constellations, as well as in the full group with all participants. Suggestions from this summit included how Mirai can further increase the universities’ contributions to society, societal challenges and SDGs with education, research and innovation initiatives in the future developments of the collaboration network. At the closing of the R&I week, it was clear that there was high satisfaction from the participants, and a strong engagement for the continued deepened collaboration. Next year’s R&I week is planned to take place physically in Japan, if the situation allows, and Office of Science and Innovation looks forward to continuing supporting this strategic Japanese-Swedish Research and Innovation collaboration.