Greetings from the President

2024.01.01 Update

Kazuhiro Hono

The Fifth Medium and Long-Term Plan began on April 1 last year. On this occasion, we discussed the future vision of NIMS with our staff members and formulated the new NIMS Vision last October. We declared our goal to "change the world with materials" and "enrich future society by leading the development and innovation of materials". Although the NIMS slogan is "Materials Must Be Used," the reality is that many materials that are the subject of academic research are not yet ready to be used as actual materials. Nevertheless, their research has led to the discovery of many new phenomena and scientific theories, and world-changing materials are discovered every decade or so through these basic studies. Well-known examples of materials from Japan that have changed the world include blue light-emitting diodes, lithium-ion batteries, and neodymium magnets, while examples from NIMS include SiAlON phosphors that have changed the world's lighting and h-BN crystals that have played a crucial role in quantum materials research worldwide. It is natural that a national research and development institute funded by the public's taxes is expected to conduct research and development aimed at solving social problems. However, the development of innovative materials is not something that can be accomplished in a short period of time. For this reason, NIMS also recognizes the importance of basic research that generates technological innovation. To clarify this policy, we have made organizational changes in the current term.

The Research Center for Energy and Environment, the Research Center for Magnetic and Spintronic Materials, the Research Center for Structural Materials, and the Research Center for Electronic and Optical Materials aim to contribute to solving social issues such as carbon neutrality and digital innovation through materials innovation. In addition, the Research Centers for Materials Nanoarchitectonics, the Research Center for Macromolecules and Biomaterials, and Center for Basic Research on Materials promote fundamental research aimed at creating innovations in next-generation technologies. In addition, to create new innovations through collaboration among researchers with various expertise across organizations, we have selected quantum materials, carbon neutrality, and biomaterials as priority topics required by the times, and cross-organizational teams are working on proposed topics with clear goals. In the next fiscal year, resource recycling research will be added to these priority areas.

In the area of carbon neutrality, we are working on material issues necessary for the realization of the coming hydrogen society. For example, our research into high-efficiency hydrogen liquefaction using magnetic refrigeration technology is unique in the world. We are also working on the development of structural materials that can be used safely in a hydrogen environment and the development of catalysts for hydrogen production. The Hydrogen Environmental Materials Experimental Facility, which is being developed through NEDO's Green Innovation Fund, is scheduled to become operational in September 2024 and will be used as a new facility to support research on hydrogen-related materials at NIMS. In addition, in response to the Semiconductor and Digital Industry Strategy formulated by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry last June, NIMS has joined the Leading-edge Semiconductor Technology Center (LSTC), and is now ready to actively participate in basic materials research necessary for the development of next-generation semiconductors. In addition, plans are underway to install a soft X-ray multimodal operando microspectroscopy system at NanoTerasu in Sendai during the next fiscal year 2024 to enhance analysis capabilities of quantum and spintronic materials, including spin information.

NIMS has an excellent research environment where state-of-the-art equipment is available as shared equipment and researchers can concentrate on their research without spending time on education. On the other hand, NIMS, as a national research and development institute, has a weakness in that it has few young researchers represented by graduate students. To compensate for this, NIMS began by concluding a joint graduate school program with the University of Tsukuba in 2004, and subsequently concluded similar agreements with a total of six universities: Hokkaido University, Waseda University, Yokohama National University, Osaka University, and Kyushu University. Currently, 68 NIMS research staff members hold adjunct faculty positions at these partner universities, and approximately 160 doctoral students are engaged in research at NIMS as NIMS Junior Researchers. In addition, NIMS has international cooperative graduate program agreements with 34 universities overseas, and accepts approximately 30 doctoral students per year for up to one year at NIMS. In addition, there are approximately 250 post-doctoral and ICYS fellows, almost as many young researchers as there are 369 tenured researchers working at NIMS, making a significant contribution to strengthening our research activity. In recent years, the number of Japanese applicants for NIMS research positions has been on a downward trend, which is closely related to the decline in the number of Japanese doctoral students. We fear that without an increase in the number of doctoral students in the field of materials, Japan's international competitiveness in materials research will continue to decline in the face of Japan's declining population. To halt this trend, NIMS is working to directly employ affiliated graduate students as NIMS Junior Researchers, improve the compensation of post-doctoral fellows and ICYS fellows, directly employ JSPS fellows with an improved compensation, mobilize young international research personnel, and create career paths for young researchers.

Research is created by people. Therefore, for NIMS to continuously fulfill its role as a designated research and development institute, it is crucial to create an environment that attracts excellent talent. In addition, it is necessary to be an organization that can adapt flexibly to changing times and embrace change without fear of risk. As President, I am committed to further enhancing the materials research capabilities of NIMS. I sincerely ask for your continued support and guidance this year.

Kazuhiro Hono