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Japan Snares First Kavli Institute

The University of Tokyo announced today that the Kavli Foundation is giving $7.5 million to its Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (IPMU).

The award is the first to a Japanese institution by Kavli, which funds 16 institutes conducting basic research in astrophysics, nanoscience, neuroscience, and theoretical physics. IPMU's work in theoretical physics, astrophysics, and cosmology makes it a good match for Kavli, says Kavli Foundation President Robert Conn.

IPMU was chosen primarily because its researches "are doing excellent science," he says. However, the foundation also wanted to support the institute's efforts to foster what Conn calls "a new way for science to be done in Japan." IPMU is among the most international of Japan's research institutes and uses English as its official language. More than half of its 200 researchers are non-Japanese, an usually high number for a Japanese research institution.

The Kavli grant is also "a new model of support for science in Japan," says IPMU Director Hitoshi Murayama, explaining that this is the first time that a Japanese research institute has received a major international contribution. IPMU was established in 2007 as one of Japan's World Premier International Research Center Initiatives, each of which receives about $17 million a year for 10 years. Although the center is eligible for a 5-year extension, at some point the government money will run out, Murayama says. He hopes the Kavli grant will attract other contributions and allow the institute to build up its endowment.