Partners in research
Max Planck and RIKEN mark the anniversary of their collaboration
The Max Planck Society and RIKEN have held a formal ceremony in Tokyo to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their cooperation. Some 150 people came together for the event – including the presidents of the two research institutions along with elite scientists, top politicians and business leaders.
The RIKEN President pointed out that the research organisation he leads was modelled on the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft at the time of its foundation in 1917 and explained that it is still, to this day, based on the Max Planck Society (MPG). “As part of the latest reforms of the Japanese research system, RIKEN was officially described as an example and a model for other Japanese research institutions due to its independence, its strong international orientation and its evaluation system. MPG scientists contribute as members of science advisory boards for RIKEN. We are greatly honoured that RIKEN is recognised today as the research institution in Japan that is the most similar to the MPG,” said Ryoji Noyori.
The President of the Max Planck Society, Peter Gruss, joined his fellow president in stressing the importance of targeted international cooperation in the field of cutting-edge research: “The task for the future is to link up scientists and institutes to an even greater extent. Because collaboration is enormously significant for scientific success.” He emphasised RIKEN’s role as part of the global research network with the institutes in Wako, Tsukuba, Yokohama, Kobe and Harima numbering among the best in their respective research fields. In reference to the collaborative projects that are currently under way, Gruss added: “It feels good to know, Dr Noyori, that we have with RIKEN a dependable and strong partner to build upon.” Other speakers included representatives of the Japanese government, such as Ichita Yamamoto, Minister of State for Science and Technology Policy, Yoshitaka Sakurada, Senior Vice Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Tadayuki Tsuchiya, Deputy Minister, Ministry for Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, as well as the Chairman of the Japan Business Association, Hiromasa Yonekura. The German government was represented by Head of Economics and Science of the German Embassy in Toyko, Lutz H. Görgens.
At the festive event, Hiroyuki Osada, one of the co-directors of the Max Planck-RIKEN Center for Systems Chemical Biology, spoke about the development and the progress achieved with this joint platform for research, which was established in 2011 and encompasses not only research collaboration but also scientist and doctoral student exchanges. Peter Seeberger, Director at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces and another co-director of the Max Planck-RIKEN Center emphasised how the results of basic research in the field of Chemical Glycomics are enabling new diagnostic methods and vaccines to be developed. The ceremony was embedded in a series of other events, including workshops with scientists from both organisations and a reception by the German envoy and Chargé d’Affaires of the German Embassy in Tokyo, Stefan Herzberg.
Institutional cooperation between RIKEN and MPG is based on a framework agreement signed in 1984 by the presidents, Tatuoki Miyazima and Reimar Lüst, for long-term scientific cooperation in areas of mutual interest on the basis of direct communication between scientists. This agreement was a major reason for the success of RIKEN’s Frontier Research Program, which was launched with funding from the Japanese government in 1987 with the objective of having one-third of its research staff recruited from overseas. Cooperation has steadily intensified ever since, most recently through the establishment of the Max Planck-RIKEN Center for Systems Chemical Biology. The Center’s founding teams were made up of Max Planck directors, Herbert Waldmann (MPI of Molecular Physiology) and Peter Seeberger (MPI of Colloids and Interfaces), and two eminent RIKEN scientists, Hiroyuki Osada and Naoyuki Taniguchi. In the succeeding years RIKEN and the MPG have hosted many researchers from each other’s institutions. Research collaboration in many areas continues to deepen the partnership.