By Hisashi Gakiya
“The Okinawa 21st Century Vision,” a document outlining future development on the island, stresses the need for an “R&D Cluster” in Okinawa with OIST at the center.
Academic institution would be the core of the cluster, working with other universities, local companies, and local research institutions. Within the cluster, facilities, human resources and knowledge will be shared. Research based on effective networks and communication will enable researchers to create world-class technical innovations, new local industries, and economic benefits for the local community.
In July, in the context of the R&D cluster, the Okinawa Prefecture announced outlines of two research projects that will start in 2011. The projects will be funded by Okinawa government and last for three years. The projects are as follows.
1. “Metabolomic study for the technological development of health-longevity improvement through new approaches to the transdermal absorption of the active ingredients”
Research on health and longevity will be carried out with the lead of OIST's Dr. Mitsuhiro Yanagida. The project team, including members from University of the Ryukyus and Kyoto University, will use analytic technology called “metabolome” to search for Okinawan products that contain substances to treat disease, and conduct research on the transdermal absorption process of such substances. The team will also conduct genetic analysis to investigate why people of Okinawa are the most long-lived in the world.
2. “Research and development of on-site environmental biodegradation and production of highly value-added products, such as oil, by utilizing bio-resources from Okinawa.”
OIST's Dr. Noriyuki Satoh, will participate in a collaboration, including members from OP Bio Factory, a local venture company, and University of the Ryukyus, to find a way, using microorganisms and microalgae from Okinawa, to reduce various pollutants that are discharged into the environment. They will also search for the microbe strains that can consume pollutants using them as a nutrient.
The outcomes from these projects will be considered for commercialization as made-in-Okinawa industry. OIST’s founding goals are to contribute to the self-sustaining development of Okinawa and the academic advancement of worldwide science and technology.” Participating in the R&D cluster projects is a concrete example of how the university is answering that challenge.
On October 2010, OIST held an international symposium and workshop called “Toward the Development of an R&D Cluster in Okinawa”. Over 170 people from academia, industry and public service participated. After the symposium, a workshop was held, which centered around debate and discussion among 33 international experts. Learn more about this symposium here.