Re-inventing Japan Project Type A: CAMPUS Asia Support for the Formation of a Core Center

A Cooperative Asian Education Gateway for a Sustainable Society: Expanding the Frontiers in Science and Technology of Chemistry and Material

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In 2011, a brand new research program—A Cooperative Asian Education Gateway for a Sustainable Society: Expanding the Frontiers in Science and Technology of Chemistry and Material—comprising a triangular partnership among Japan, China, and Korea was selected to be part of the CAMPUS Asia program for a five year period. Taking part in this program are Nagoya University and Tohoku University in Japan, Nanjing University and Shaghai Jiao Tong University in China, and Seoul National University and Pohang University of Science and Technology in Korea. I am delighted that the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, and the relevant departments in the Chinese and Korean governments were able to see the merit of the issues this trilateral partnership wishes to tackle and provide us with funding and support.

The world today is being globalized at an ever-increasing rate. Our society is in ever greater need of talented people with a global outlook and global experience. In the triangular region of Japan, China and Korea, there is already considerable scientific and technological activity, and the economic pressures on this region to perform are considerable.

As humankind seeks to develop a sustainable society, the role of chemistry and materials science research has become critical in tackling the technological issues that we face, as exemplified in problems of energy resources and the environment. For example, the development of catalysts that are highly efficient but run on low energy; of methods to produce chemical products from raw materials other than petroleum; of non-conventional highly effective pharmaceuticals; of methods allowing us to understand the structures and functions of organisms and recreate them artificially; of high-performance photo, thermal, and electrical energy conversion materials; of functional materials (organic, metal, inorganic, macromolecular) that can contribute to improved quality of life and the streamlining of industry; of special materials designed to protect and assist in natural disaster. Chemistry is key to all such development and research.

At the heart of this program is structured exchange between students, particularly graduate students. It will promote research and education partnerships among universities in three countries with the potential to top-level research in chemistry and materials science. This will allow us to invigorate these fields, to form a research hub spanning three countries, and to foster a new generation of leaders in chemistry and materials sciences fully equipped with global experience and confidence.

A total of ten programs were chosen in 2011 as part of the Japan–China–Korea Triangle Exchange Program, but this program stands out from the others for two specific reasons. First, of all these programs tackling science and engineering-related issues, it is the only program to focus on education in chemistry and materials science. Second, it is the only program to have established partnerships among two Japanese, two Chinese, and two Korean universities, giving it greater balance and wider scope than other programs. In particular, no other applications were received from similar such joint consortiums involving two Japanese universities. The program is designed to be flexible and adaptable to the needs and wishes of the many faculty and students involved.

‘A Cooperative Asian Education Gateway for a Sustainable Society: Expanding the Frontiers in Science and Technology of Chemistry and Material’ is more than just a simple program of international exchange. It will include a varied line-up of video conferencing for real-time exchange, multiple intensive seminars, and symposia. Students will be encouraged to take part in such opportunities wherever possible, since they are designed to prompt ideas and possibilities for joint research as well as deepen research understanding and educational opportunities. Chemistry is a field in which practical experience and firsthand knowledge is particularly important. Students need to be given strong and stable guidance when interacting and exchanging information with the laboratories of universities overseas and gaining practical experience. To ensure this, adequate systems of support will be developed, and competent teaching assistants and tutors will be put in place to support students in their development.

The path we are embarking upon is not free from obstacles. There is the issue of language, of course, as well as differences in semester scheduling among the three participating countries. This may cause some difficulty in the operation of practical programs of exchange and credit transfer. With mutual understanding among the partner universities and countries, with the wisdom of participating faculty, and with the enthusiasm and vitality of talented young students, these are problems that can surely be overcome. Students will only spend a reasonably short period of time overseas at partner universities, but despite this it is my hope and indeed the goal of the program that the experience will prove to be a turning point in the lives of these young chemists and materials scientists; I look forward to seeing program participants grabbing this opportunity with both hands. This program must seek to contribute to the formation of an Asian—a global—research center for chemistry and materials science able to aid the realization of a more sustainable society. It must promote research and education in chemistry and material science and produce a new generation of outstanding graduates. I look forward to working with everyone involved in the program and would ask for the understanding and support of everyone involved.

Takahiro Seki
Professor, Nagoya University

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