Prior to his current appointment on 1 June 2021, he was President and Trustee of Shizenkan University, a Postgraduate Professional University in Leadership and Innovation and Professor (Science and Technology Innovation). He is also Professor Emeritus and Senior Advisor of Ritsumeikan Trust, where he was Vice-Chancellor (2004-2012), and President of Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (2004-09). He is also on the Governing/Advisory Boards of several leading Japanese universities, including Hokkaido University and Kyushu University, as well as the Vietnam-Japan University. He is also on the selection boards of some prestigious international awards for scholarship and practical pursuits in domains that bridge the natural and human sciences. He has long been an advocate for Japan’s increased engagement to strengthen science capacities in developing and emerging economies, including the promotion of citizen science.
His current research focus is on health, environment and life sciences, applying these scientific findings in real-life situations. He does this by drawing from the principles of Inclusive Innovation, which he presented to the G7 Ministers of Science and Technology in May 2016 at the invitation of GoJ’s Cabinet Office. As Invited Professor at Kyoto University, he is the Principal Investigator of the Biophotonics and Spectroscopy Laboratory at the Graduate School of Medicine. At this laboratory his research engagement is focused on two projects, viz:
- Conducting Agro-photonics experiments for maximizing health-beneficial phytochemical outputs through finely calibrated incidence of photonic stimuli. His industry collaborator is a leading polyphenol producer, with 40% of the world market share, with whom he is working to enhance the production of four antioxidant compounds from tea that could delay the onset of cancer at prices affordable to developing and emerging economies; This work arose from developing inexpensive weather stations and applying bioclimatic indices to counter damaging effects of climate change on the phenology of Sri Lankan teas. It aims to add new value to an industry that directly employs around 600,000 persons, supporting the lives of nearly 2.5 million in a nation of 21 million people. A new instrument for conducting more sensitive experiments to understand more accurately the conditions that generate greater volumes of polyphenols in Sri Lankan teas has been designed and commissioned. Biogeneration of such health beneficial compounds is likely to be considerably cheaper than factory-centered pharmacological production, while recent WHO research indicates that naturally produced medicines retain their beneficial effects for much longer in the human body.
- Understanding Body-Mind-Brain relationships through the development of easy-to-use and affordable bio-medical devices, methodologies and systems, integrating NIRS, EEG, VR/AR, Laser-Doppler Flow Meters, etc, thereby enabling citizens to become partners in maintaining good health and longevity. Validating this approach is a recent publication, in press for Neuroscience Research. It highlights a relatively easy method for discounting scalp blood flow biases, which the paper shows to be considerable, when trying to measure cortical blood flow using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). Since NIRS places very little burden on the target of investigation, in comparison to CT/PCT scans and MRI/fMRI. the method will pave the way for easier and more near to real-time analysis of brain responses to physiological and psychological stress. He is also in the process of writing and editing a book entitled Body, Mind and Brain: Travels across the landscapes of our being, commemorating over two decades of work in development and deployment of inclusive “human-friendly” technologies, hopefully to be edited and ready for publication in 2023.
At Akita International University, where he has been a member of the Board of Trustees since 2014, taking up the appointment of President and Chair of the Board of Trustees in June 2021, he established a university-wide institution, the Institute for Applied International Liberal Arts (AILA Institute). This institute will have a new research driver in the Creative Design and Data Science Center (CreDDS), to undertake R&D projects which address grand global challenges with acute impacts on local landscapes and communities. Healthy aging, climate-resilient agriculture, new value creation from forest resources, smart and green mobility, non-conventional renewable (NCR) energy systems and digital archiving of traditional performing arts are some of the projects which are to be launched in 2022. Towards this end, a series of partnership agreements with industrial enterprises and advanced research institutions both in Japan and overseas are being discussed for commencing project operations in 2022-23.
Cassim was Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka (Science and Technology; JCP with Japan) from 2015-2019, when he established the Japan-Sri Lanka Innovation Platform, J-SLIP, incubating around 20 STI projects. Many of these projects have been consolidated into operational propulsive projects of the Sri Lanka-Japan Collaborative Platform (SL-JCP), a not-for-profit General Purpose Association (“Shadan Hojin”), legally incorporated in Japan in July 2019, where Cassim is the Representative Executive Director. In May 2019 he co-founded the Emerging and Developing Economies Network Seminars with Dr Nassrine Azimi (www.edenseminars.org) to promote the values of sustainability, inclusion and reciprocity in charting development paradigms. In 2016 he was selected by the Cabinet Office to represent Japan on Inclusive Innovation, a concept and field he has pioneered, at the G7 Science and Technology Ministers Meeting. He is also a Founder Member and the current Chair of Tools for Self Reliance, Japan (www.tfsr.jp), established in 1993 with friends and his wife, Professor Julia Cassim, who works in Inclusive Design. TFSR Japan is a NPO that has been sending refurbished tools and dispatching artisans to work with impoverished communities in developing and emerging economies. The aim here is to improve lives and livelihoods through the development of small community-driven renewable energy power plants, water purification systems, energy-efficient hearths and bio-fuels, whilst enhancing skills in the local artisan community through engagement in such practical initiatives.
He has received the Order of the Sacred Treasure with Gold Rays and Neck Ribbon in 2016 from the Government of Japan for his work in private higher education and contributions to Japan-Sri Lanka relations and a Lifetime National Honours Award (Vidhya Nidhi) for contributions to science from the Government of Sri Lanka in 2017.
He was a part-time farmer in Central Japan, growing rice and vegetables for eight years, which gave him many insights into the richness of traditional agricultural and ecological knowledge. A rugby player from his junior high school through to university years in Sri Lanka, he enjoys watching sports with a particular interest in Japan’s national rugby and football teams and the Arsenal Football Club in the English Premier League. He is an avid reader, a diehard fan of blues music, loves fast cars, enjoys slow food and the serendipitous insights from travel to unknown places.