Hokkaido University, selected to be a part of the World Premier International Research Center Initiative (WPI) by Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), launches the Institute for Chemical Reaction Design and Discovery (ICRD). The institute aims to undertake research to acquire an in-depth understanding of complex chemical reactions and to accelerate the efficient development of new chemical reactions. The WPI will reportedly support the program for 10 years, providing 700M yen annually. Professor Satoshi Maeda from the Faculty of Science will direct the center, which integrates computational science, information science and experimental science.
One key approach to elucidate “unknown” reaction pathways is the automated reaction path search method, artificial force induced reaction (AFIR) developed by Maeda. The AFIR is a novel method used in quantum chemical calculations that applies virtual mechanical forces to reaction systems in search of potential pathways, according to the university. Calculations can be optimized for complex systems by collaborating with information scientists and predicted pathways can be tested with experimental scientists. Such interdisciplinary studies are expected to advance current understandings of reaction pathways and networks, leading to the development of innovative products.
The institute aims to build an international research environment with 30% of the researchers from overseas. It has already nominated three internationally renowned scientists from the United States, France and Germany as Principle Investigators (PIs) as well as 11 from Japan. A research support department will allow researchers and students to engage in research without administrative interruptions. The institute also aims to establish the MANABIYA (an old Japanese word for “school”) system to educate young researchers and graduate students and function as a global circulation hub for world-class scientists in the field.
“Development of new chemical reactions is entangled with the prosperity of humanity and the preservation of environment. As such development often takes decades, fundamentally new scientific approaches have been much anticipated,” says Maeda. “We are excited to start new challenges to provide innovative solutions through collaborations.”