New Year’s Day Top Interview

Looking back at 2021

What a year 2021 has been! COVID-19 has transformed our world in almost every sphere, be it politically, economically, and socially. But more than anything, it made us realize the power of science and technology and their potential to guide us in an increasingly unpredictable world. The global scientific community responded in an extraordinary way to the pandemic, with warp speed and tireless effort to contain the virus and treat the ill.

At OIST, our students and researchers have shown great agility and used their skills and knowledge to fight the pandemic through timely research on the virus, its mode of transmission and effectiveness of vaccines. They worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to continue collaborations with the medical and scientific communities, and also with the public through education, awareness, and 50,000 PCR tests for residents of Okinawa. I am proud of how the OIST community weathered this storm and of all the contributions they made to fight the pandemic together.

In November, OIST had its 10th anniversary. What started with a handful of researchers 10 years ago now has more than 80 faculty members and 400 research staff and a total of over 1,000 employees in a wide range of fields and from Okinawa and all over the world. We hope to reopen our campus this year to honor and celebrate the anniversary.

What is your focus for 2022?

We will of course continue to produce science and technology of the highest caliber. Additionally, since last year, OIST has been actively promoting its SDG initiative. I want OIST, as a leading graduate university, to fully embrace the SDGs and so I invite partners and the public to explore our research, education, and innovation portfolio and engage in dialogues to address SDG-related issues together. I believe that Okinawa, with its beautiful nature and strong bonds among people, is the perfect place to promote the SDGs for our collective wellbeing.

What are your aspirations for 2022?

While we will continue to focus on world-class research and education to produce the next generation of leaders in science, this year we want to take robust and concrete steps towards our initiative of building an innovation ecosystem in Okinawa on our North Campus. We aim to cultivate and foster university technology while enhancing our interaction with industry and business partners. For this, we have already secured investment of 500 million yen to support start-ups while also expecting a capital fund of about 5 billion yen through which we aim to support Okinawa's economic development as a hub for new industries based on OIST's research and international network.

Looking ahead we hope to be holding public lectures, talks, and events led by scientists, and invite people to visit our campus as much as possible, Covid permitting. We hope to interact with as many people of Okinawa as possible through science, education, and innovation. We wish our neighbors and friends a safe, healthy, happy, and prosperous year ahead.

Profile: Peter Gruss, President and CEO, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST). Born in 1949 in Alsfeld, Germany. Molecular biologist. Served as president of the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science for 12 years. He has received numerous awards, including the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. He loves to scuba dive in the seas near Onna Village and other parts of Okinawa.

Personal Motto / Favorite Quote: A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

This is the original draft written for articles in the January 1, 2022 editions of the Okinawa Times under the title "最高水準の研究で産業創出" and in the Ryukyu Shimpo under the title "研究成果を沖縄還元".