TOKYO, 14 March 2019 – Professors and students of chemical engineering spend countless hours in laboratories, looking into electron microscopes to understand nano-scale reactions. They are surely very much committed to the technical aspect of their work but they are also likely to lose sight of the big picture with regard to why their research is needed and how it could contribute to improving their society. A shared vision for a sustainable future – such as the one offered by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – could help strengthen the bond between advanced research and its application in an industrialized country like Japan.
In response to Japan’s Society of Chemical Engineering’s request, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) will co-host a symposium under the title “Inclusive and Sustainable Chemical Industry in Achieving the SDGs” on 24 September 2018 as part of the 18th Asia Pacific Confederation of Chemical Engineers Congress (APCChE) to be held in Sapporo, Japan.
To build momentum leading up to the symposium, UNIDO hosted two preparatory workshops of participatory nature on 7 and 14 March 2019 at the Waseda University.
The first workshop organized for students provided an opportunity to look at chemical engineering from a new perspective and to realize that it could not only contribute to developing environmentally friendly technologies aimed at achieving SDG 7 on affordable and clean energy and SDG 8 on decent work and economic growth, but also SDG 4 on quality education and SDG 5 on gender equality.
“I had a preconception that chemical engineering could contribute to the SDGs in a technical way, but I realized today that there are other opportunities for chemical engineers to contribute to realizing the SDGs, and this workshop widened my scope of perspective,” said Emina Hara, an undergraduate student who participated in the workshop.
A fellow student, Kotaro Yasui, added, “This workshop opened my eyes to different perspectives and I now understand the wider possibilities of how chemical engineering could be useful for the society.”
The second workshop, organized jointly with the Social Implementation Research Group of the Society of Chemical Engineers, Japan, brought together professors from universities located all over the country. The discussions focus on the requirements to facilitate a chemical engineering technologies transition by 2030 in order to transform the society toward 2050.
The participants agreed that technologies must enter into the business development stage fairly soon if they are to be fully commercialized by 2030. They also highlighted an urgent need for speeding up research on technologies with great potential of transforming society into a low carbon and sustainable one. It is expected that the results of the discussions will be presented at the APCChE-UNIDO symposium.
Both the organizers and the participants found the participatory workshops very inspirational and effective for shaping a common vision. This method, which is not commonly used in the academic communities in Japan, might become more widely accepted by other universities in the future.
For more information, please contact:
Fukuya Iino, Industrial Development Officer, UNIDO Montreal Protocol Division