Greetings from the President

2021.01.01 Update


The year 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the merger of two research institutes to found the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS), an independent administrative Institution. NIMS research has resulted in a number of significant products, including SiAlON phosphors, Heat Resistant Superalloys and Nanosheets. In keeping with our first 20 years, we intend to spend the next two decades working productively and leading the international materials science community.

In his first policy address in last October, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced a very ambitious goal: Japan would reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. The government aims to achieve this goal not only through energy and environmental policy but also industrial policy: transforming Japan’s industrial, economic and social structures through technological innovation. For Japan to reach carbon neutrality, innovative new science and technology will be required in addition to the combined use of existing technologies.

We believe that NIMS can contribute to achieving the national goal by advancing its research on hydrogen, batteries, next-generation solar cells and thermoelectric materials. In relation to hydrogen, NIMS has been working to develop hydrogen liquefaction technologies since the last fiscal year. We are also planning to launch a new project: evaluating the reliability of materials used to transport and store liquid hydrogen. Our battery research has been focused on the development of successors to lithium ion batteries, such as all-solid-state batteries and lithium air batteries. To accelerate this R&D effort, we recently began the process of establishing an advanced battery R&D center in collaboration with universities and private companies.

In the world’s first initiative of its kind, the Japanese government is currently drawing up strategies to strengthen Japan’s ability to develop innovative materials to make the country more environmentally sustainable, economically prosperous and resilient in the face of social issues. These strategies are expected to be incorporated into the next revision of Japan’s Science and Technology Innovation Basic Plan.

In response to these moves by the government, NIMS plans to establish a global materials data platform that will significantly increase Japan’s materials development capabilities. This platform will be designed to facilitate the generation, accumulation and use of materials data. It will be accessible to outstanding researchers in the industrial, academic and public sectors and will coordinate with advanced research facilities at universities and public institutions nationwide. These arrangements are expected to facilitate the consolidation and sharing of materials data generated across Japan and data-driven research using AI, expediting the development of new materials.

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the world into chaos. Ongoing hardship is forcing the global community to consider urgent and dramatic changes to many aspects of human life. Digital transformation is vital for sustaining research activities under these conditions. We take our missions seriously, and it would be unacceptable for NIMS to suspend its research activities even during the COVID-19 outbreak. To allow both NIMS employees and users of NIMS open facilities from around Japan to continue their research, we have been working to make essential laboratory equipment (i.e., transmission electron microscopes, NMR instruments and physical property analyzers) remotely operable and capable of taking automatic measurements. In 2020, we managed to hold the annual NIMS Open House and NIMS WEEK events online. We were delighted to have so many participants in these events. We will continue to take effective infection prevention measures in 2021 to allow R&D scientists to maintain their activities and promote continuous innovation in materials science.

Japan’s international competitiveness has been supported by its strength in materials science. We are aware that the expectations industry, academia and the government have of NIMS are progressively increasing. To meet these expectations and become the most innovation-friendly organization in the world, we need to perform to the best of our abilities by developing an optimum research system, allocating resources appropriately and raising the morale of individual NIMS employees. As president, I will further strengthen management and make reforms to the organization in 2021 to facilitate innovation and generate breakthroughs in materials R&D.

Thank you for your support and cooperation.