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Messages from the President

New Year's Greetings (January 4, 2024)

I would like to offer my best wishes for the New Year.

I also would like to express my condolences to those who lost their lives in the Noto Peninsula Earthquake in 2024 and my deepest sympathies to everyone affected by the disaster. I pray that peace will return to everyone in the disaster-stricken area as soon as possible.

Last year we had an extremely hot and humid summer, making us painfully aware of how fast global warming is progressing. Although COVID-19 was reclassified in Japan into category 5, the same category used for influenza, the impact on our lives has not disappeared, as we have seen the double spread of the flu and COVID-19. Above all, we have seen a serious deterioration of the international order in recent times, and it is heartbreaking to see the daily news of conflicts that continue to cause enormous civilian damage and unspeakable impoverishment. Unfortunately, the situation around the world is not getting any brighter.

Humanity has long used its wisdom to devise new technologies to overcome the limitations of nature and the disasters that it brings. But on the other hand, there are countless examples of how such technologies themselves have increased the threats to humanity. The global challenges we face today are ultimately the result of our own actions. We must recognize, precisely at this time, that their effects will continue to be felt for generations to come. Therefore, it is our responsibility to solve them, and this will require solidarity and cooperation of all of humanity. It will be difficult to find solutions to these complex and enormous problems in the midst of incessant strife and grave conflicts. However, on a positive note, the spirit of intellectual curiosity and the joy of discovery that is the driving force of scientific research knows no borders. This is why I believe that we must use the empathy that science promotes as a driving force to create "new wisdom" and overcome these difficulties.

From 2025, RIKEN will enter the period of its Fifth Mid- to Long-Term Plan. We are now in the final stages of formulating the framework for what we should aim for and how we should conduct our activities over the next seven years.

I would like to take this opportunity to look back at the beginnings of our institute, RIKEN.

The origins of RIKEN go back about a century ago, when the famed chemist TAKAMINE Jokichi told SHIBUSAWA Eiichi, who is known as the father of Japanese capitalism, that "The future will surely be an era of physical and chemical industry rather than machine industry.” Beginning with the Meiji Restoration, Japan had adopted an industrial development model that was centered on heavy industry. RIKEN was established in 1917, a half century after the Meiji Restoration and in the midst of World War I, which broke out in 1914. At that time, imports of medicines and materials from the West were disrupted and people started to realize that Japan needed to break away from the industrial model predicated on the import of technologies from advanced countries. Japan, as a country with limited natural resources, needed to develop its own industry not through imitation but through originality, and people began to recognize the importance of science and technology in driving that originality. There was a need to support the development of this new stage for Japan as it made the transformation from heavy industry to physical and chemical industry. RIKEN was established as a research institute of pure physics and chemistry, performing fundamental research in physics and chemistry, as well as applied research in these fields.

More than a century later, economic value has shifted from goods to services, and the social economy has undergone another paradigm shift to the next stage of development, from the capital-intensive model that supported rapid economic growth in the 20th century to a knowledge-intensive one.

Within this paradigm shift, there is a need to continue to create new wisdom.
The driving force for creating new wisdom is curiosity and the joy of discovery. I know this well from my own life as a researcher. We must create a system so that RIKEN can both firmly support researchers in their own curiosity and discovery and also contribute to society as a designated national research and development agency, in a balanced manner. In other words, we want to create a secure environment where researchers can engage in the kind of research that they find interesting and that they would like to try, and through this create wisdom for the needs of future humanity that can provide solutions to global problems. Through this we will earn the trust of society, create a virtuous cycle with society, and contribute to further growth for the future.

Our new action guideline "RIKEN's Vision on the 2030 Horizon," which was announced in August 2022, incorporates these sentiments. We began to take actions along these lines last year. And the core of this is the TRIP (Transformative Research Innovation Platform of RIKEN Platforms) initiative, under which we have been working to organically link RIKEN's cutting-edge platforms in various fields.

The final fiscal year of the period of our seven-year Medium- to Long-Term Plan will start this year. Under the current plan, RIKEN has leveraged its strengths to make many important research achievements. However, as I mentioned earlier, there are many instabilities in society today, and the environment surrounding science and technology is changing in dramatic ways. We must conduct a general review of our past efforts and prepare to tackle new challenges to make further progress in the next Mid- to Long-Term Plan period.

We will continue to put our trust in the creativity and empathy of science, and will continue to seek positive outcomes. To this end, we will strive to make RIKEN a place that can continuously generate "new wisdom" that will act as a driving force for creating a better future.

We look forward to your continued support and cooperation in the New Year.

January 4, 2024
President, RIKEN

photo of GONOKAMI Makoto


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