Swedish-Japanese research and innovation week in Umeå attracts strong interest

During 13-16 November, the MIRAI 2.0 Research and Innovation Week 2023 was held at Umeå University in Sweden with more than 240 researchers, students and university management representatives from Sweden and Japan in attendance. Participants were able to take part of each other’s research, compare experiences and networking to find ways for future collaborations and exchange. The theme for the conference was “Creating Resilient and Sustainable Societies”.

MIRAI 2.0 is a research and academic alliance consisting of 20 higher education institutions in Sweden and Japan. The aim is to promote long-term research collaboration in education, research and innovation, with a clear ambition to involve younger researchers. Umeå University has been a collaborating member within the MIRAI project since 2017.

“MIRAI has an explicit focus on researchers at an early stage of their career. It is useful for researchers to meet and build networks with other researchers interested in similar research questions, regardless of scientific field,” said Katrine Riklund, Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Umeå University.

Opening ceremony with ministers, ambassadors and prominent figures

The week commenced with an opening ceremony with a welcoming address from Hans Adolfsson, Vice-Chancellor of Umeå University and opening remarks from Norimi Mizutani, professor at Nagoya University. They were then followed by speeches from Ebba Busch, the Swedish minister for Business, Industry and Innovation and Takashi Kiyoura, Deputy Director-General of Japan’s Science and Technology Policy Bureau, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The two ministers stressed the importance of research and innovation collaboration between Sweden and Japan to address societal challenges.
The keynote speaker was Kristina Sundin Jonsson, Head of Administration at the Municipality of Skellefteå and alumna of Umeå University, who spoke about green transformation and major investments in northern Sweden under the title “Shaping Tomorrow, Together Today! Skellefteå a blueprint for Creating Resilient and Sustainable Societies?

I appreciate the one-to-one in-depth discussions for a particular topic that we both have a common interest in.

Parallel scientific sessions, workshops, presentations, and poster sessions

The Research and Innovation (R&I) week contained more than 100 joint activities, scientific workshops, parallel transdisciplinary challenge-based workshops, and presentations within the thematic areas of the network. In addition, there were 60 scientific posters on display, and a presentation of seed funded projects that have led to joint publications, external funding and strengthened research ties. Nearly all seed funded projects have involved researchers in the early stages of their careers or doctoral students.

“The poster session is my favourite part and I appreciate the one-to-one in-depth discussions for a particular topic that we both have a common interest in,” said Siyang Wang, Assistant Professor at Umeå University, who gave a presentation about the theoretical aspects of AI.

Leadership Summit

During the week, the university presidents met to discuss future directions for the collaboration at the Mirai 2.0 University Leadership Summit and included forward-looking discussions on how to develop the next steps in the collaboration. Priorities included how to tackle climate crises and new pandemics, creating materials for energy conversion and storage, and how to meet an increasingly aging population in need of quality and effective healthcare.

It is a platform where we bring together diverse expertise from Sweden and Japan together, where we can really do something on a global level.

“I think that the MIRAI collaboration is really important because it is a platform where we bring together diverse expertise from Sweden and Japan together, where we can really do something on a global level,” said Natalie Konomi, Vice President for International Affairs at Kyushu University.

Kyushu University and Umeå University named new coordinating universities

In connection with the week, the satellite event ‘MIRAI Open Day’ was held in Stockholm to showcase MIRAI’s activities to a wider audience. The event was organized by Kyushu University and the Japanese Embassy.

At the closing of the R&I week, there was a consensus of high satisfaction from the participants, and a strong engagement for a continued collaboration to address global challenges. As the MIRAI 2.0 phase (2020-2023) is about to conclude, it was decided upon that the Swedish-Japanese collaboration would continue with a new three-year phase during 2024-2026 with a future perspective and focus on several of the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals.

Kyushu University and Umeå University were appointed as the new coordinating institutions for the next three-year period (2024-2026), taking over responsibility from Nagoya University and the University of Gothenburg, respectively.

(English subtitles are available)

Read more

Information about seed funding

Read more about the Research and Innovation Week 2023

Questions ? Contact the MIRAI project managers