Message from the Director of the Institute of Advanced Science

Toward a safe, reliable, sustainable and vibrant global society

Director of the Institute of Advanced Sciences
and President of YNU

In the 21st century, the axis of economic growth shift has shifted to emerging economies like those in Asia. With this, numerous problems have become apparent, such as resource and energy issues, environmental issues, and economic disparity. In addition, global political relations are becoming increasingly unpredictable, and realizing a future society that is safe, sustainable, and vibrant is a hope and challenge that is common to all the world.

The introduction of new technologies and new systems brought about by tireless technological innovation into society and daily life means that new functions and features become available to people, and the society that uses them sees innovation occur. Nevertheless, changes brought about in society by technological innovation and globalization carry the potential to unleash negative outcomes. There are accidents that occur with the adoption of technologies that have yet to mature or systems that are overly complicated, problems caused by human error, incidents of system failures, etc. The uncertainty and lack of transparency represent the other side of the coin when we reap the benefits of technological advancements, and as such, they sometimes give rise to unwanted phenomena and consequences.

The most recent approaches to the concept of risk see diverse types of risk as associated with one another―as something that inherently having both positive and negative impacts―and therefore the magnitude of that risk must be quantitatively assessed while taking the uncertainty into account. If we were to try to achieve no risk, we would not be able to make advances in technologies, systems, or society in general. Our concept of risk, when we think about a society that lives together with risk (symbiosis), is based on this interpretation and ways of thinking about it.

In pursuing new potential with the introduction of new technologies and systems, it is essential that we have a broad range of knowledge and information that will help us make rational decisions like which specific risks to choose, how to choose them, and if those risks involve negative outcomes, which ones should be deemed acceptable, etc. Interpretations of risk vary widely depending on standpoints, ways of thinking, the data and information that are available, experience, etc. In order to build the mechanisms for making proper decisions and determinations in the face of many types of risk―for example decisions made by individual citizens, local communities, policy-makers, and business managers―it is necessary to create a new approach to risk management, one that encompasses how to interpret and communicate it.

Being “symbiotic” with risk is a way of thinking about and approach to risk for dealing with it in when trying to bring into being a favorable society, one that is safe, sustainable, and vibrant. It is a framework for making appropriate decision-making possible on a variety of levels based on quantitative and reliable information and data.

In October of 2014, using a grant for Promoting the Reform of National Universities, Yokohama National University established the Institute of Advanced Sciences (IAS). Based on the notion of “risk symbiosis,” the IAS has begun conducting research to develop the kinds of rational risk management needed in the 21st century and to help make society safe, vibrant, and sustainable. The institute conducted research from FY2014 to FY2017 as part of its Phase I. The results of this research was well-received, and as a result the aforementioned grant for running the IAS has been approved as a recurring expense beginning in FY2018.

With this, research at the IAS aimed at bringing about a safe, sustainable, and vibrant society based on risk-symbiosis studies has entered Phase II as of FY2018. The research theme for Phase II is the innovation of social value based on the notion of risk-symbiosis. For the purposes of practical research into innovation that contributes to the creation and realization of social value, the IAS put together the “Social Innovation Research Cluster.” A “Co-innovation Dynamics Research Unit” and a “Chemistry of Hydrogen Energy Conversion Research Unit,” the latter of which is dedicated to the creation of new energy systems, are assigned to this research cluster. For research into information security and social infrastructure safety, we have organized a “Cyber Hardware Security Research Cluster” and an “Infrastructure Risk Research Cluster.” The former has four research units assigned to it: Information and Physical Security, Quantum Information Security, Extremely Energy-Efficient Processors and Integrated Photonics. The latter has research units assigned to it that are dedicated to studying the security of social infrastructure systems and the security of energy systems, respectively. (See Table 1 above)

Table1 Research Clusters and Research Units in the Institute of Advanced Sciences (IAS)

This may be jumping out of order, but in the duration from FY2014 to FY2017, the IAS conducted research aimed at achieving robust social infrastructure systems, living environments that are easy to live in, and safe and secure information systems, which are elements essential for making society safe, sustainable, and vibrant. Eleven research units were assigned to these fields. (See Table 2)

Table 2. Phase I research activities, the assignments of research units and their topics of research

The results of Phase I research, which sought to come up with ways to create a safe, sustainable, and vibrant society based on ways of thinking about risk-symbiosis, policies to push society in the direction of symbiosis with risk, and the ideas about risk-symbiosis studies as described above, were published in July 2018 as a book titled Risuku kyōseigaku: Sentan kagaku gijutsu de tsukuru arata na shakai (“Risk Symbiosis: Life and a New Society Created with Advanced Science and Technologies,” in Japanese, Maruzen Publishing). I would be very pleased if you would take a look at it.

As suggested above, diverse types of risk are associated with one another, are accompanied by uncertainty, and carry the potential for both good and bad outcomes. If we were to try to achieve absolutely no risk, we would not be able to make advances in technologies, systems, or in society in general. In striving toward a society that is safe, sustainable, and vibrant, through appropriate decision-making on a variety of levels based on quantitative and reliable information and data, I am committed to pursuing the kind of research that can offer suggestions for policies on ways to foster innovation that leads to the creation of new social value. Furthermore, Yokohama National University is dedicated to seeing that the fruits of such research are made more available on a global scale. To help us achieve that objective, I ask for your continued cooperation and understanding.

Yuichi HASEBE,
Director of the Institute of Advanced Sciences and President of YNU

Vice Director of Institute of Advanced Sciences