RENKEI brand mark

Strategic partnership for research collaboration between universities in Japan and the UK

RENKEI is the Japanese word for ‘collaboration,’ and is an acronym for Research and Education Network for Knowledge Economy Initiatives.

Japan and the UK have a long history of partnership, and share common interests and concerns in the twenty-first century. The two leading economies are among the world’s very best producers of cutting-edge research. As such, enormous potential exists for the UK and Japan to learn from each other. They face similar demographic, political, social and industrial challenges, and thus are ideal partners in meeting these demands with innovative solutions. 

RENKEI is a partnership between 12 universities in Japan and the UK, aiming to further knowledge exchange and research collaboration between institutions and individuals. This group of leading research intensive universities in the two countries is also developing collaborations with industry, governments and civil society to address global research challenges.


We are very glad to announce that Durham University has become the newest member of RENKEI, joining us from June 2021. Durham University has a global reputation in both research and education, with staff and students from over 130 countries and research covering every continent. The university has many connections with Japan, including a long-established Japanese Studies course and institutional partnerships with several RENKEI members. Durham researchers collaborate with their Japanese counterparts in many fields, including RENKEI’s current core areas of Health and Climate Change. 

The current RENKEI members and Secretariat are delighted to welcome Durham University to the partnership, and look forward to working together to further deepen and broaden the relationship between the British and Japanese higher education sectors; offer additional opportunities for researcher engagement and mobility, particularly to those in the early stages of their research careers; and collectively address pressing global challenges.

Main research themes

Climate change

RENKEI has chosen “climate change” and “health” as its priority research themes. Both areas were specified in the Japan-UK Joint Declaration on Prosperity Cooperation  released in September 2017 when Prime Minister Theresa May visited Japan. Researchers from 12 member universities are sharing their work and developing networks for the creation of new joint research.

Current member universities (as of June 2021)


Kyoto University
Kyushu University
Nagoya University
Osaka University
Ritsumeikan University
Tohoku University


Durham University
University of Edinburgh
University of Leeds
University of Liverpool
Newcastle University
University of Southampton

Secretariat: British Council

Activities in RENKEI’s first phase (2012 – 2018)

The origin of RENKEI dates back to 2010 when the then Foreign Secretary William Hague visited Japan and both governments announced that British and Japanese university leaders would hold dialogues to share best practices in internationalisation and would promote student and researcher exchanges. In that year, the 2nd Japan-UK Higher Education Symposium was held at Kyushu University in Japan and university leaders identified a need for a new model of international university-industry partnerships. At this symposium, both UK and Japanese universities were openly invited to come forward to form a working group. 12 universities responded to this call and join an initiative to develop a new strategic bilateral partnership.

RENKEI was formally launched on 13 March 2012, with the British Council, Japan, as its secretariat, to meet the challenges of living in a complex, rapidly changing and globalized twenty-first century. Collaboration across sectors was becoming ever more important as the result of economic and societal changes. Through RENKEI projects, member universities in Japan and the UK have been committed to exploring how they can develop fresh and innovative engagement with third-party organisations such as industries, governments and social enterprises to address common societal challenges.  

Over its first 6 years, between 2012 and 2017, RENKEI served as an effective platform for the members to develop close networks especially through its annual face-to-face Steering Committee meetings. Such networks also led to strong partnerships between individual institutions. Member universities jointly organised a total of 12 workshops in the form of summer or spring schools, mainly targeting early career researchers including PhD students. More than 231 researchers from 12 member universities participated in the workshops organised by RENKEI working groups and 90 external bodies were engaged. The workshops received excellent feedback both from participants and organisers.

RENKEI activities since 2018

Building on the platform of multilateral collaboration developed during RENKEI’s first phase, members agreed to focus more specifically on the development of interdisciplinary research partnerships addressing some of the most pressing common challenges in climate change and health. The consortium is committed to engaging more proactively with industry, government, and wider stakeholders in Japan and the UK, in order to maximise the benefits of membership for institutions as a whole, as well as for the individual researchers participating in RENKEI activities.

Three workshops have been held on the topic of climate change (two face-to-face and one online), bringing in representatives of industry, national and local governments, and funding agencies to inform the discussions among participating researchers. At the second workshop, these discussions led to the development of several concrete research proposals, two of which were awarded RENKEI seed funding.

The first workshop on health will be held online in June 2021, focusing on patient safety, medicine and informatics, and ageing. We intend to also award seed funding to research proposals emerging from this workshop.