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 This past week, there were two conferences held on the topics of Innovation and Sustainable Development. One was the “Global Innovation Ecosystem 2008” held in Tokyo on Thursday, March 13 and the other was the “Kansai, Gateway to Asia” held in Osaka on Friday, March 14.   

  GIES2008 was the third of the series that began in 2006. I have been involved in the one in 2006 as the Vice President of the Science Council of Japan, and the one in 2007 as the Vice Chair of the Organizing committee. In particular, in 2007, I was given an opportunity to develop a plan (target audience, message to get across, speakers and panelists negotiations) and on the day introduced key note speakers and moderated the panel.  

  This year, I was not directly involved, but was very interested in the progress of the series.  The concept of Global Innovation Ecosystem was rather new and not known in 2006 when we began, but now with the global warming etc. and G8 summit in July in Hokkaido, it is not a new word or concept any more.  

  This year’s conference was organized by the international organizing committee, JST, Science Council of Japan, and Keidanren. It featured various specific initiatives which were presented by the people in the public sector, private sector and academia. I found various initiatives very exciting and stimulating. I missed all but the last 20 minutes or so of the conference, but was fortunate to attend the reception.  It was very nice to see old friends and meet with new ones.  I hope the initiatives will bring about specific results and will help collaboration among different countries.

 On Friday, I went to Osaka to do a panel at the Symposium. The topic was what “Japan and Kansai can do and will do in Asia” and was moderated by Professor Masaaki Honma. The conference was organized by Kansai Institute for Social and Economic Research.   

 Unlike the Global Innovation Ecosystem, all the panelists were Japanese and the whole conference was conducted in Japanese.  I was one of the four panelists and had a role of discussing the issues facing  Japan and what actions to take to make its presence felt in the world. It was quite interesting in that some of the perceptions of Japan I had were quite different from those shared with others. 

  I would be very interested in what vision Kansai area would develop as a common theme to present its identity to Asia and to the world, now that the physical infrastructure has been in place. If we can explain Kansai’s uniqueness in simple words, and they are shared by the people involved—whether public, private or NGO, or academic communities in the area, half of the task is done. I would like to come back to Osaka when the specific common theme is developed and see how it is made happen.

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