Message at the Beginning of the NIMS Fifth Mid- to Long-Term Plan

2023.04.01 Update

Kazuhiro Hono

April 1 marks the beginning of the Fifth Mid- to Long-Term Plan of NIMS. We have spent the past two years carefully preparing this medium- to long-term plan with the goal of achieving world-class research results in materials science that are required by the changing times. First, to contribute to carbon neutrality, we have set research on storage battery materials, hydrogen-related materials, and ultra-high temperature materials as priority research areas. In addition, as the industrial structure undergoes major changes in the direction of the SDGs, we will also start research on materials that lead to material recycling. In addition, we will systematically promote research on biomaterials that can contribute to improving human health in an aging society. In addition, as basic research that will lead to next-generation innovations, we will promote research on quantum materials, which is expected to develop materials with new functions. In order to efficiently promote these research, we reorganize the existing system of six research centers into seven research centers, which are Energy and Environmental Materials, Magnetic and Spintronic Materials, Structural Materials, Electronic and Photonic Functional Materials, Nanoarchitectonic Materials, Polymer and Biomaterials, and Materials Fundamentals.

The above seven research centers will promote R&D to solve societal problems and basic research to create technological innovations. In parallel, the four priority areas of carbon neutrality, biomaterials, quantum materials, and material recycling will be pursued under a flexible, cross-organizational structure. These research projects are positioned as mission research based on the national strategy. On the other hand, since the research strength of NIMS depends on its ability to secure talented researchers, it is important to create an environment that encourages creative and independent-minded researchers to apply to NIMS. To this end, we will ensure that individual researchers have the discretion to conduct basic research based on their own free ideas. As the research environment at Japanese universities is about to undergo a major transformation through the operation of the University Fund, we will spare no effort to ensure that NIMS continues to attract outstanding human resources. As part of this effort, we will strengthen the NIMS brand and establish a system that allows us to hire people with different research careers quickly and flexibly, and at the same time, we will work to develop a system that allows us to offer a salary structure that does not disadvantage mid-career hires.

Since the launch of the Materials Initiative for Information Integration (MI2I) project in 2015, NIMS has been working to develop data-driven materials development methods using AI and machine learning. As a result, we have recently started to see a series of materials development results using smart labs and data-driven methods. We have established the Materials Data Platform to extend this method not only to NIMS researchers, but also to the whole country. This platform will be further developed to contribute to materials innovation and improved materials reliability by collecting and utilizing data generated by the Advanced Research Infrastructure for Materials (ARIM) project and the Data Creation and Application-oriented Materials Development (DxMT) project of MEXT, the structural materials data sheet that NIMS has been working on for many years, and the material reliability test data collected through "Developing a foundation for material evaluations to support R&D on liquefied hydrogen-related equipment" in the Green Innovation Fund projects of METI.

NIMS has experienced that internationalization contributes greatly to the improvement of research performance through the operation of the International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics (MANA) and the International Center for Young Scientists (ICYS), both of which were established and developed under the "World Premier International Research Center (WPI) Program" in 2007. To achieve world-class materials research results at NIMS, we need to rebuild a system that enables us to collaborate globally with materials researchers from overseas research institutes and universities. For NIMS to continue to be a world leader in materials science and technology, I believe it is necessary to respond flexibly to changes in the research environment from a global perspective and to continue to take on new challenges.

NIMS is not content with conducting basic and fundamental materials research but is also expected to create innovation as a Designated National Research and Development Agency. NIMS has conducted various forms of collaborative research with industry through Corporate Collaboration Center and Materials Open Platform (MOP). In addition, NIMS will support start-ups in which researchers themselves implement new materials in society, and legislation has been enacted to allow NIMS to invest directly in start-ups that utilize NIMS results, and the first such investment was made last fiscal year. In the 3rd Strategic Innovation Program (SIP), a start-up support project for the creation of materials unicorns will be launched under "Establishing an Ecosystem for Materials Innovation and Development".

As Japan's international competitiveness in science and technology is said to be declining, national research institutes are being called upon to undertake an unprecedented wide range of activities, including research initiatives related to economic security. As President of NIMS, I will strive to promote basic research in materials science and technology in Japan by strengthening research at NIMS, and I would like to ask for your continued support and guidance during the Fifth Medium-Term Plan period beginning this fiscal year.

Kazuhiro Hono