Kicking-off towards deepened university collaboration

The next phase of the strategic university collaboration Mirai has now had its’ kick-off, bringing eight Japanese and eleven Swedish universities closer together in research and innovation in Mirai 2.0. In the Autumn of 2015, Swedish and...

The next phase of the strategic university collaboration Mirai has now had its’ kick-off, bringing eight Japanese and eleven Swedish universities closer together in research and innovation in Mirai 2.0.

In the Autumn of 2015, Swedish and Japanese university presidents met in the Swedish Ambassador’s residence in Tokyo, to discuss how to create deeper and more strategic collaboration. This meeting resulted in the three-year project Mirai, funded by the Swedish funding organisation STINT, and by the eight Japanese and seven Swedish universities joining in the Mirai initiative. From April 2017 until March 2020 researches at the universities have been collaborating actively within the areas of Sustainability, Materials and Ageing, as well as horizontally including Innovation and Entrepreneurship initiatives in the themes.

During phase 1, Mirai has held several workshops, doctorate courses, delegation visits to JP and SE, as well as yearly Mirai seminars alternating in Japan and Sweden. The Swedish embassy in Tokyo and OSI has continuously supported the collaboration by taking part in delegation visit meetings in Japan, workshops, seminars, and inviting to receptions. During the 2018 celebrations of 150 years of diplomatic relations, OSI and STINT organised a renewed university presidents meeting, addressing long term continuation of the collaboration, this time also with participation of heads of research and innovation funding agencies from both countries. The meeting addressed higher education, research and innovation, with ambitions for responding to societal challenges and SDGs. Interest for i.e. research schools, involvement of younger researchers and of industry was brought up at this high-level meeting. The cover photo for this blog is from this meeting.

The interest from universities to continue collaboration has now resulted in the kick-off of Mirai 2.0 in October, now involving eight Japanese universities and eleven Swedish universities, which is well more than half of all universities in Sweden. Due to the corona pandemic, the kick-off was held online and prepared by pre-recorded videos from the universities, ministries, funding agencies and embassies in Japan and Sweden. Below is at screenshot from the video message from the Swedish Ambassador Pereric Högberg and Science and Innovation Counsellor Michael Jacob, expressing continued commitment to support this important collaboration.

Mirai 2.0 will continue to build on the earlier thematic areas Sustainability, Materials and Ageing, and at the General Assembly meeting preceding the kick-off, Artificial Intelligence was added as new additional area. The collaboration will also continue to have Innovation as a horizontal priority, and extend it with also Entrepreneurship. Further, an ambition to involve industry in the collaboration is part of the continued development. To better support long term relations and development of researchers, special focus will be on bringing younger researchers together, with more senior scientists in advisory roles.

The involved universities in Mirai 2.0 are illustrated in the figure below. From the Japanese side, Nagoya University continues as coordinator, and from the Swedish side Gothenburg University takes over the coordination role from Lund University. Umeå University was of course extra excited during the kick-off, since the timing coincided with the announcement of this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry, where the new laureate Emanuelle Charpentier was active while making the breakthrough research publication. During the announcement, she elaborated on the importance of being there during the important CRISPR work.

At the kick-off, different universities showcased a number of success stories from the phase 1 period in the different focus areas. Also, a key-not was presented by Prof. Suga from University of Tokyo, co-founder of the successful start-up PeptiDream, as an illustration of the importance of basic science bridged to innovation.

The second day of the kick-off involved scientific presentations around addressing the Covid-19 pandemic, and that seminar showed the advantage of collaborating inter-sectorial, with perspectives ranging from detailed scientific work in medicine, to social scientific approaches, clearly showing the complexity of the global challenge, and also indicating how we with joint resources and a high level of knowledge can address it, to benefit of humanity.

From OSI Tokyo and the whole Embassy, we wish Mirai 2.0 all the best, and will continue to follow the development and support further progress in the ways we can.