Building our research partnerships with Japan

In our increasingly connected world, international collaborations are key to solving the world’s global challenges. International research partnerships offer exciting opportunities for knowledge transfer and academic and industry collaborations. The University of Melbourne is growing our relationship with Japan, another global leader in research and innovation.

A virtual research delegation to Japan in October has helped to seed several important relationships with a view to develop long-lasting institutional research partnerships. Professor Jim McCluskey, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), and Professor Justin Zobel, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Graduate and International Research), led the University’s delegation over four days of meetings with Tohoku University, Kyoto University, Osaka University, Hokkaido University, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, RIKEN, the Japan Science and Technology Agency, and the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

Discussions focused on research partnership opportunities with each institution, acknowledging the breadth and depth of current collaborations, discussing respective international research strategies and exploring opportunities to support both existing and emerging collaborations. Supporting interdisciplinary research and fostering graduate and early career researchers were front of the agenda.

Professor Justin Zobel notes the success of the visit.

“The past two years have reinforced the importance of shared, global partnerships based on shared values and aspirations. This unique virtual delegation has established that there is a strong foundation for our emerging relationships.

“I look forward to visiting Japan next year to meet with colleagues at these institutions in person. There are many opportunities to explore between our institutions and we are keen to maintain momentum, with next steps likely to include new researcher mobility and joint research training opportunities.”

As proof of the importance of these relationships comes a successful funding outcome between academics from the University of Hokkaido and the University of Melbourne, led by Dr James Hutchison (Faculty of Science). Dr Hutchison and his team of collaborators have received a Study Melbourne Research Partnership program grant, supported by veski, allowing them to explore new directions for the harvesting and manipulation of thermal energy. Through joint projects and the exchange of ideas between participating researchers, it will drive a new phase of deepening scientific collaboration with Hokkaido University, one of the top universities in Asia.

“A carbon-neutral energy economy is arguably the grand challenge of our time. While today’s solar cells effectively harvest energy from visible sunlight, a substantial fraction of the sun’s rays fall beyond our vision, in the infrared, and are lost as heat,” Dr Hutchison says.

“The Study Melbourne Research Partnership and our collaboration with exceptional colleagues from Hokkaido University gives us an opportunity to make significant advances in harvesting and manipulating radiant heat, allowing us to better exploit this under-utilised resource.”

Consul-General of Japan in Melbourne Mr Shimada Junji praised the developing relationship: “During my tenure so far, I have been privileged to witness many examples of research collaboration between Japan and Australia across the higher education sector. Australia and Japan are very well placed to learn from and complement each other’s work, and it gives me great hope that future generations will be able to continue building on the strong foundation of our shared relationship.

“I am excited to see what the future will bring, and to see the University of Melbourne expand on its strong ties with Japanese universities and industries.”

First published on 15 February 2022.

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