Author: Gareth Connah - Regional Director European Centre for Academic Initiatives, Osaka University
A special two-day symposium was held last month to bring together academics and scholars from both Japan and the Netherlands. It concluded with a celebration of the 10th anniversary of Osaka University’s European office in Groningen.
Organised jointly by the Osaka University European Center for Academic Initiatives in Groningen, and the University of Groningen’s Globalisation Studies/Humanitarian Action Program, the symposium was very well attended by more than 100 delegates. Distinguished guests included Rie Nagasaki, Second Secretary of the Embassy of Japan in the Netherlands and Director of the Japan Information and Cultural Center, who supported the event on the first day. Participants came to listen, to learn and to actively discuss presentations made by recognised experts in the fields of humanitarianism (day 1) and regenerative medicine (day 2).
Perhaps now more than ever in the modern age, humanitarian issues are at the forefront of our minds. Climate change, shifting political systems, declining natural resources and other global problems have resulted in significant worldwide suffering. Nepal, the Central African Republic, Ukraine, West Africa, and, of course, the Middle East are cases in point.
As donors of significant financial aid to humanitarian organisations, both Japan and the Netherlands are heavily involved in evidence-based research on health and humanitarianism, and are well placed work together to find international, interdisciplinary solutions to humanitarian crises. The first day of the Groningen–Osaka Biannual Symposium was therefore dedicated to the discussion of the global challenges we face and the research being done to help mitigate those challenges.
Day 1 of the symposium presented a line-up of excellent speakers including Specially Appointed Professor Yukari Ando and Dr Stefano Tsukamoto from Osaka University; Dr CK Lamont, Dr Nadine Völkner, Professor André Zwitter and Professor Joost Herman from the University of Groningen; and Gareth Connah, Regional Director of the European Center for Academic Initiatives.
Speakers discussed, and interacted with the lively audience, on matters including: the ways in which our two countries might better contribute towards harmonising global policy making; how to integrate these policies and translate them from paper to practice; the interplay between humanitarian principles and global values; the conflict between short-term necessities in global action, and the longer term requirements; and the benefits of the internationalisation and globalisation of academic research. The day was concluded by a thought-provoking speech by Gerry Wakker, Dean of the Faculty of Arts of the University of Groningen.
After a morning of activities in the city of Groningen, which were specially arranged for Japanese visitors and invited guests and thoroughly enjoyed by all who took part, the second day of the symposium was given to presentations on the topic of ‘Regenerative Health in a Global Context’.
Dr Kaori Minamitani, Vice-Director of the Center for Global Health at Osaka University Hospital gave the opening address. She highlighted the three main arms to the mission statement of the Center for Global Health; 1) an ‘inbound’ mission to provide consistent support and reliable healthcare for foreigners in Japan, as well as providing training opportunities for foreign medical workers; 2) an ‘outbound’ mission to expand on Japan’s expertise in medical technology and services through international collaborations and clinical trials; and 3) an ‘education and research’ mission to promote the development of human resources, education and research in the context of global medicine and medical care.
After Dr Minamitani’s speech, other speakers gave awe-inspiring talks on world-leading research into healthcare innovations that have the potential to transform lives not just in Japan and the Netherlands, but across the globe.
Professor Marco Harmsen first introduced us to Groningen’s cutting-edge REGENERATE (Restoring Organ Function by Means of Regenerative Medicine) programme. Delegates were then treated to fascinating presentations on some very elegant science in areas such as engineering knee cartilage, stem cell transplantation for heart failure, regenerative ophthalmology, salivary gland reconstruction, and the exciting new opportunities offered by ‘smart’ biomaterials in biomedical engineering.
The symposium concluded with an address by Professor S Poppema, President of the University of Groningen, who praised the success of the symposium as a result of the strong bond enjoyed by Osaka and Groningen Universities; strengthened all the more by the establishment of the European Center for Academic Initiatives in Groningen 10 years previously. The lively audience participation seen over the past two days was, he inferred, evidence of the willingness for delegates across the academic spectrum – from Professors to PhD students – and from two very different countries, to engage with one another in catalytic discussions of global importance.
President Poppema expressed his great wish for relationship between the two universities, and their respective home countries, to deepen ever more as we go forward together in our internationalisation efforts. Everyone, particularly the Japanese delegates visiting Groningen – some for the first time, enjoyed the symposium and felt inspired to work towards the overall goal of globalisation.
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