Sustainability and the importance of research

Tokyo from Sophia University

I spent last week in Japan, which began with the annual meeting of STS Forum (Science and Technology in Society Forum). It’s the largest global forum for cooperations and solutions in science and technology, and gathers people from the academy, business world and political world. The purpose is to build networks, and solve long-term social challenges, through open and informal discussions about the possibilities and challenges that originate from science and technology.

Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, opened the forum by declaring that the carbon dioxide emissions have to reach zero by the year 2050. This is a very hard goal to reach, and calls for politicians all over the world to collaborate, and to receive help from science and technology. A current example of how collaboration is necessary is the question of how we should deal with our waste in a sustainable way. This is very actual problem in both Japan and Australia, where the beaches are overflooded with plastic waste from the oceans.

Our Minister for Higher Education and Research, Matilda Ernkrans, also attended the forum, where she participated in a debate on sustainable societies. She emphasised the importance of research and innovation as success factors for Sweden, and that we are one of the best in the world, but that we need to do more. Not least within basic research, which she stated as an important part of Sweden’s chances to effect a sustainable development in society. She also stated that the freedom of research is an important corner stone in this work, and that research that is initiated from the bottom-up is very important. Not least in the struggle against knowledge resistance.

This was the Minister’s first visit abroad, and I think she brought a clear message to the Ministers, Vice-Chancellors, research funders, business people and more at the STS Forum.

As Vice-Chancellor, these first days in Kyoto meant that I got the opportunity to harmonise collaborations with the Vice-Chancellors in our networks, not least those in the Swedish-Japanese collaboration platform MIRAI. After these first meetings with my Vice-Chancellor colleagues, the following visits to the universities in Nagoya, Tokyo and Sophia were even more rewarding and meaningful. Many times, these recognitions, and the follow-up of conversations about joint interests, are the facts that make continued and substantial conversations on collaborations possible.

Nagoya University

The collaboration platform MIRAI is built on a long-term and continuous collaboration that focus on research and innovation. Now, the platform moves on to another stage, when the University of Gothenburg becomes chair. MIRAI is a door-opener to increased collaboration in Japan. For students, Japan is highly interesting, and we focus on universities that have an international profile and provide many courses in English. When I was in Japan, I renewed the University of Gothenburg’s declaration of intent with the highly ranked University of Tokyo. We also signed a new exchange deal with Sophia University in Japan, which makes it possible for all students at the University of Gothenburg, regardless of subject, to apply for an exchange.

President Makoto Gonokami, University of Tokyo
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