February 3, 2017

Competition and collaboration

Yoichiro Matsumoto, Executive Director, RIKEN

The Japanese government granted RIKEN the special status of Designated National Research and Development Institute on 1 October 2016. Under this new classification, RIKEN President Hiroshi Matsumoto has pledged to turn RIKEN into a global research partner. “RIKEN will strive to make dramatic breakthroughs in an environment of fierce international competition, plant the seeds of innovation, and contribute to solving pressing social problems. RIKEN will also seek to become a central institution exerting strong leadership in Japan's innovation system by forging ties with industry and universities and working with the government to realize its policies.”

RIKEN has a long history of collaborating with business and academia. Masatoshi Okochi, our third president who led the institute for 25 years, was a strong proponent of forging internal and external ties. He founded companies to market RIKEN's inventions and launched the chief scientist system to encourage cooperation between researchers.

With humanity facing many threats to its survival, we need collaboration now more than ever. Strategic networks must be built between disciplines and organizations that have become entrenched in narrow, isolated approaches to science. To make this possible, research institutes must become more competitive in areas such as human and institutional resources, research funding, facilities, global openness, clarity of vision and management efficiency. An environment of intense and open competition will foster win–win relationships. But institutions must also be careful to take a long-term, inclusive and sustainable approach to research.

Global agendas such as the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations are so complex and intertwined that no individual research institute can tackle them alone. This recognition has led to the establishment of numerous research networks in various fields all over the world. We need to move towards establishing a ‘network of networks’ that enables the highest level of cooperation among institutes on a global scale. Committed to this goal, RIKEN is transforming into a global hub for science and innovation.

(From RIKEN Research 2016 Winter issue)