The development of new chemical reactions is intrinsically entangled with the prosperity of humanity and the preservation of the environment. A recent example of such transformative chemical reactions with profound impact is cross-coupling reactions, the discovery of which was awarded with the 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. These reactions are used to produce approximately 20% of all medicinal reagents, and almost all liquid crystalline and organic electroluminescent materials. The industrial use of these chemical reactions contributes ~60 trillion yen per annum to the global economy. The development of new chemical reactions thus significantly affects the evolution of society.
However, the currently used methods for the design and development of bespoke chemical reactions is highly inefficient. Usually, these methods are based on trial and error, which is not only very laborious and time-consuming, but the discovery of truly innovative reactions is relatively rare. As the development and implementation of new chemical reactions often takes decades in reality, fundamentally new scientific approaches are required.
The goal of this initiative is to establish the scientific field of “Chemical Reaction Design and Discovery” (CReDD), a key technology of which that enables such calculations is the “Artificial Force Induced Reaction” (AFIR) method developed by me. CReDD uses the AFIR method to calculate chemical reaction-path networks, and applies concepts of information science in order to extract meaningful information for experiments, thus narrowing down optimal experimental conditions. This approach enables “pinpointing” promising experiments, which should considerably shorten the time required to develop chemical reactions. In addition, information science provides a feedback loop, in which data obtained by the experimental scientists is circulated back to the computational scientists; the synergetic effects from the combination of three fields should lead to the improvement and refinement of CReDD.
The ICReDD slogan “Revolutionize Chemical Reaction Design and Discovery” expresses our vision to renew the way chemical reactions are developed by fusing computational science, information science, and experimental science to solve current and future human problems. We will also contribute to the creation of a prosperous future society by forming open bases around the world and spreading our results throughout the world.
The Institute for Chemical Reaction Design and Discovery (ICReDD)
ICReDD is the Institute for Chemical Reaction Design and Discovery. It is a research center where researchers from different disciplines combine their strengths to take full control over chemical reactions.
Chemical reactions are a central process in nature. Controlling them has always been of utmost significance to sustaining human society, and it is only becoming more important the more highly engineered our environment and culture becomes. The mission of ICReDD is to not leave the discovery and design of chemical reactions to serendipity or experience-guided intuition, but to enable humanity to purposefully craft chemical reactions to any design.
At ICReDD, we use computational science, information science, and experimental science to develop new methods, new materials, and new applications across all fields where chemical reactions are important.
Research Attitude at ICReDD
ICReDD was born out of the realization that the purposeful design of chemical reactions requires cross-sectional collaborations at every step. Working on such a fundamental natural process, quantum-chemical computations, information technology, modern experimental techniques, and the development of advanced materials can no longer be separate fields if we want to achieve significant breakthroughs. Rather, they have to become part of a diverse toolbox for truly integrated research.
Our researchers, therefore, don’t work in separate “fields” or “units”, but come together under one roof, with the expertise of each becoming a resource for the work of the other. We foster a regular, personal exchange across research laboratories on all levels from postdocs to principal investigators and work in shared facilities as well as participate in common activities.
The World Premier International Research Center Initiative (WPI) was launched in 2007 by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) in a drive to build within Japan “globally visible” research centers that boast a very high research standard and outstanding research environment, sufficiently attractive to prompt frontline researchers from around the world to want to work in them.
ICReDD is the newest of the 13 centers, established in October 2018 at Hokkaido University in Hokkaido. We are committed to upholding the ideals of WPI and contribute to international society by sharing our techniques with universities and partners world-wide.
“The four priorities of WPI projects are top-quality science, interdisciplinarity, globalization, and the reform of the research system.”
Taking Full Control over Chemical Reactions: Introducing ICReDD
Demonstration of Our Strategy
Beyond the Molecules
Facilities and Organization
ICReDD offers a very international research atmosphere. Over a third of our researchers are from outside of Japan, and the working language is English.
To support our international researchers with their daily life in Japan, we are running a hospitality system that helps with settling in and living your life in Sapporo, including dealing with all the red tape around registration procedures. In addition, Hokkaido University offers free Japanese language classes at all levels, as well as various seminars on different aspects of living in Japan (e.g., Japanese business manners, skills for presenting to Japanese audiences, etc.).
In order to enable researchers to work from the get-go, we provide start-up research funds to externally hired faculty members. Furthermore, to promote interdisciplinary research, we provide funding for priority research projects. We will also give guidance in applying for external funding, to help the newly hired researchers achieve outstanding results during their tenure, and to become prime candidates for faculty and postdoctoral positions at other international research institutions.
For this purpose, we are setting up the MANABIYA (an old Japanese word for “school”) system. We are inviting researchers from domestic and overseas universities and companies to visit ICReDD for a few months and become members of our team. Our researchers will share their experience with the guests and help them solve their own problems with our tools.
Outside researchers will then become members of the ever-growing MANABIYA network, to keep in touch, continue support, and foster collaborations.
ICReDD is led by the Center Director Satoshi Maeda, whose development of the AFIR method is the cornerstone for our ability to predict the course of chemical reactions. His ten-year appointment is meant to provide a long-term strategy for the successful development of the research center. He is assisted in his tasks by the Vice-Director and the Administrative Director.
The research is conducted by 14 Principal Investigators and their teams without further subdivision into sections, units, or fields, to enable flexible and integrated collaborations. Three of our PIs are co-appointed at overseas universities to increase our international outlook.In the Administrative Office, the Research Strategy Unit and the Management Planning Unit provide full support to the ICReDD researchers with the aim of maintaining a fertile research environment.