2021-22 President Dai KITAMOTO

Director-General, AIST Chugoku, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), Japan

January 2023

New Year’s Greetings“The Future Is Unpredictable, but Let’s Take the First Step”

Happy New Year. I was born in the year of the rabbit of the Chinese zodiac, although you cannot imagine it from my appearance. Finally reaching the 6th round of the zodiac, the second half of my life has just begun. As my seniors always say, things happened in the blink of an eye after we graduated from university and became members of society. In my case, it’s hard to say, “I ran with all my heart and soul.” I simply feel that the world has moved fast enough while I enjoyed meeting and knowing various people.

I have been involved in various research and development activities, but more recently, I have been working on the development of new technologies and products that support a comfortable life based on oleo science. Research on biosurfactants turned out to be my lifework, contrary to my initial thoughts. Although I did not have any expertise in surface chemistry, I was stimulated by research on bioplastics and started this research in 1990, when petrochemical products were still being widely used in all kinds of commodities. At the same time, each manufacturer made persistent efforts to reduce the environmental impact of synthetic surfactants. For this reason, senior members of our Society gave me a lot of negative comments, saying “There is no need for such biomaterials,” and “The cost is out of the question.”

However, since the beginning of this century, the tide has gradually turned, and from around 2010, the terms “sustainable society” and “sustainable development goals (SDGs)” have become commonplace. Especially in Europe, “botanic” and “organic” have been basic concepts for cosmetics and personal care products since the early part of this century.

A few years ago, the problem of plastics in the ocean became a major issue, and today, the conversion of plant resources into chemical products and their “circular economy” has become the most important environmental issue globally.

The research on biosurfactants started by us has led to commercialization through long-term cooperation with companies, integrated with the tailwinds of the times and advances in basic technology. Initially, our developed biosurfactants were marketed as cosmetic materials, but now they are expanding domestically and internationally into both personal care and agricultural fields. Additionally, along with the expansion of user needs, major overseas companies are entering the field one after another, and the competition in product development is intensifying.

As is often said, “New technologies need to be introduced to the market as soon as possible, but if they are introduced too early, they will not meet current needs and will not go well.” It is not easy to decide when to take the first step. Of course, we do not know how long the needs and markets we see today will last; the same goes for whether the research we have started will succeed.

Once, I heard from a CTO of a company: “In R&D, the key to not failing is to keep trying. If you do that, you will never meet the end of failure.” I was strangely convinced that that choice was inappropriate from the perspective of corporate management and that there was no other correct answer. In short, we can say the following: “No one can predict the future, so believe in yourself and take the first step and keep walking.” This may be the gateway to success.

The 8th wave of infection by COVID-19 arrived at the end of 2022, and the pandemic continues. However, thanks to the broad understanding and cooperation of our members, we could successfully hold various events last year, including the annual meeting commemorating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Society. I would once again like to express my gratitude to everyone involved.

This year, we would like to deploy the experience we have gained so far to expand the scope of the activities of our Society to support a comfortable life. This year’s annual meeting will be held face-to-face in Kochi Prefecture. I am looking forward to reuniting and interacting with everyone after a long time, so I would appreciate it if you could join us.

As I mentioned in my greetings at the annual meeting last year, our Society is a crossroads where people who deal with science and technology closely related to our lives collaborate in an open atmosphere. It is a unique organization that can serve as a starting point for the creation of science, products, and services that contribute to a comfortable everyday life.

Based on this vision, I pray that 2023 will be a wonderful year for all of you. I hope you all take the first step, just like a rabbit jumping.

January 2022

New Year’s greetings: “Covid-19 disaster turns misfortune into fortune”

Happy New Year to all of you! Last year, the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 were held in the midst of the ongoing spread of the new coronavirus COVID-19, but the gloomy atmosphere was completely changed by the unexpected success of the Japanese athletes, and I’m sure many of you spent many exciting days. This year, the Winter Olympic games Beijing 2022 will be held. I can only hope that it will be held safely and that it will once again deliver new drama and emotion.

Needless to say, everyone was at the mercy of the corona scourge from the beginning to the end of last year. Starting with the third wave of the spread of infection and ending with the decay of the fifth wave due to the increase in vaccination rates, I am sure that you have been dealing with various problems at home and in the workplace, making the most of what you experienced in your “new normal” in a situation where there is no way out.

In our society, we also have been trying to manage the annual meeting and other society events “better than ever” without losing any activities, while carefully taking into account the circumstances from the year before last. As a result, thanks to your great understanding and cooperation, we have been able to maintain the same level of activity in many events as before the Corona disaster.

As for the 60th annual meeting, although the number of participants decreased due to the fact that the period of the meeting was moved up significantly from the previous 59th meeting, I recognize that all the symposia and projects were as fruitful in terms of presentations and discussions as those held in face-to-face.

In addition, the “lack of the sense of realism” of the conference, which was the point of reflection of the previous meeting, has been greatly improved by the adoption of live short presentations and Q&A sessions. As “on the Web” has become as popular as “face-to-face” in society, we were able to further utilize the advantages of holding various events online.

Following this trend, this year’s annual meeting, which will mark the 70th anniversary of the Society, will also be held online at the end of August, along with the 2nd World Congress on Oleoscience (WCOS2022). Initially, we had planned to hold the conference face-to-face in Kushiro City, Hokkaido, which boasts wonderful nature and food, but in consideration of various circumstances, we have decided to actively hold the conference online. The 3rd World Congress on Oleoscience (WC0S2027) is scheduled to be held face-to-face in Kushiro City in the summer of 2027, and we hope that you will join us for both conferences in anticipation of a bright future.

I am sure that your lifestyles and business habits have changed drastically through the “lost days” since the year before last.

Many of the events that we used to take for granted have changed into things that we can do without after the Corona disaster.

Personally, I feel a bit sad that “social gathering” or “get-togethers” is becoming one of them. According to a recent questionnaire survey, the number of respondents who answered that “communicating while drinking is unnecessary” in their work has reached more than 60%, surpassing those who answered “necessary”. I think that hybrid holding will become the mainstream in future academic societies in consideration of convenience and profitability, but I just hope that the etiquette will not be completely changed from “attending a conference and having a frank discussion at a social gathering” to “attending a conference and going home without drinking.

On the other hand, I myself have changed my lifestyle positively due to the Corona disaster. Before the Corona disaster, I used to spend almost all my weekends exercising (swim, bike, run) indoors and outdoors. However, after the Corona disaster, the number of athletic competitions held in various regions where I could demonstrate the results of this activity decreased drastically, and my motivation dropped, and I had a gaping hole in my weekend time.

At the same time, the question of what to do with my “second career” has also become apparent. That being the case, I started working on learning and acquiring qualifications in different fields that I had been interested in for a long time. Due to the deterioration of memory caused by years of attending social gatherings, “studying for exams” took an unexpectedly long time, and the weekends pass quickly. However, now that various kinds of learning can be done easily and efficiently on the web, I enjoy meeting new knowledge and experiences as if I were going on an expedition to an athletic competition.

Last year, at the symposium of the annual meeting, I gave a lecture on “What Oleoscience can do for a comfortable life in the age of 100 years”. In it, I introduced that “Our society, where people who deal with science and technology closely related to our daily lives come and go in an open atmosphere, can be the starting point for the creation of science, products and services that contribute to a new everyday life. With this vision, I would like to wish you all a wonderful year in 2022.

May 2021

Message from Our New President

My appointment as president for fiscal 2021 and 2022 was recently decided at our 67th regular general meeting and 447th meeting of the board of directors. While this important role may be more than I deserve, I would like to make every possible effort toward the further development of the traditions of the Japan Oil Chemists’ Society (JOCS).

Since last year, the social situation has been turbulent due to the spread of the new coronavirus COVID-19 infection, and everyday life has changed significantly. Nowadays, it is not easy to ensure safety and security in daily life, and there are restrictions in every situation. For many, the “comfortable living” that once existed may be becoming a distant memory.

On the other hand, this situation has also caused positive behavioral changes. Due to the influence of COVID-19, online business has expanded, resulting in “unexpected time”, which is triggering the creation of new ideas and businesses. We were forced to cancel various events and change the holding method. However, as a result of deciding to hold the annual meeting online in March of last year and proceeding with preparations through trial and error, we were able to obtain the same number of participants and profits as before. The effect of holding online was much higher than expected, with an average of more than 100 hearings for each presentation and the ability to diversify advertising formats.

The “Future Concept Committee” (2017), which I chaired, positioned “maximizing the annual meeting” as a pillar from the perspective of sustainable development of the JOCS, and proposed solutions for that purpose. In response to this, the “Annual Meeting Reform Promotion Committee” (chaired by Professor Kouichi ASAKURA, Keio University) was established, and reform tactics are being implemented at any time at subsequent annual meetings. The burden on the executive committee of the annual meeting, the convenience and capacity of the venue, and the bias in the number of presentations for each session, which were troublesome issues at that time, can be easily solved by holding online, and thus the results of the activities of this promotion committee are highly expected at this year’s annual meeting.

In addition to various policy proposals, the Future Concept Committee also formulated a vision based on the following three characteristics of the JOCS.

-We cover a wide range of science and technology fields

-We have many researchers and engineers belonging to companies, compared to other academic societies

-We aim at science, technology, and products that are very closely related to daily life

The proposed vision is “The intersection of scientists and engineers breaking new ground in oleo science to support comfortable living” (did you know that it is at the top of the JOCS homepage?), representing that the JOCS has an open atmosphere, where various researchers and engineers are free to interact with each other and create a starting point for technologies and products that support new academic fields and healthy and comfortable lives. Indeed, it is a group that focuses on “comfortable living” and can regain the daily life that was lost in the COVID-19 disaster and contribute to the creation of a new daily life.

We have promoted “improvement of the quality of our journals” as well as “maximizing the annual meeting”. Due to the wise judgment of seniors, the “Journal of Oleo Science (JOS)”, which consists of only scientific articles, was first published in 2001. After that, the electronic version of the journal was started, and it became a purely English journal and began receiving an impact factor since 2010. Then, in April of this year, the JOS has been accepted for indexing in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). This clearly shows that our journal has a high international influence and has an appropriate and accurate peer review function. It is expected that the number of submitted papers will increase and the content will be expanded soon.

Based on our vision, let’s overcome the current COVID-19 crisis and continue to grow into a more attractive and sustainable academic society by further promoting flexible and multifaceted cooperation among members. In addition, let’s make full use of the characteristics of our society and create a starting point of “comfortable living” and contribute to the promotion of SDGs as a public interest incorporated association. Next year, the 2nd World Congress on Oleo Science will be held as a commemorative project for the 70th anniversary of the JOCS. We look forward to your continued understanding and support in the future.