I joined the visit to Japan by the UCL Provost, senior UCL academics and staff from the UCL Global Engagement Office, Alumni Relations and the Grand Challenges for a week in September/October 2017. We visited the Fukushima Prefecture (location of the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011 after the tsunami), Tohoku University, Kyoto University, a major corporation interested in collaborating with UCL and attended a reception at the British Embassy for UCL Alumni. It was something of a whirlwind tour but provided good opportunities to discuss plans for future collaboration with the Fukushima Prefecture, the International Research Institute for Disaster Science (IRIDeS) at Tohoku and the Disaster Prevention Research Institute (DPRI) at Kyoto.
Since the earthquake and nuclear disaster in March 2011, the IRDR has been involved in on-going research in the region through EEFIT and IRDR missions to Tohoku. I have visited the affected areas, included the stricken Fukushima nuclear reactor, immediately after the disaster and contributed to field reports. Besides research, UCL has hosted annual symposia for 40 school children from the region, co-organised by the IRDR. Uniquely, UCL has a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Fukushima Prefecture signed in 2015 (UCL’s only MoU with a provincial government).
Continuing the relationship, there will be a return visit by UCL students and UCL Academy students in February/March next year. There will be more opportunities for research this coming visit. The advertising and selection process will start soon. Several IRDR PhD and masters students joined the trip in 2015, led by David Alexander and Shin-ichi Ohnuma (UCL Japan Ambassador). There will be an announcement shortly.
UCL has an institutional MoU with Tohoku, signed in 2013. The IRDR is a key component in this relationship alongside our friends in IRIDeS of Tohoku University. At the signing of the MoU we held a joint symposium at UCL on Disaster Science. There have since been exchanges of staff and students and joint research projects and publications. The IRDR will be joining the World Bosai Forum in November organised by IRIDeS.
The IRDR is a member of Global Alliance Disaster Research Institutes (GADRI). Kyoto University’s DPRI runs the secretariat and the IRDR membership certificate was presented to me. Future collaboration between DPRI and IRDR will be built around capacity building in developing countries and exchange of staff and students.