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Non-equilibrium dynamics of soft and active matter

Final Report Summary - SOFTACTIVE (Non-equilibrium dynamics of soft and active matter)

The SoftActive project was, from the start, intended to be a symmetric of the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science’s “Core-to-Core” project coordinated by Profs. Takao Ohta and Shin-ichi Sasa. Softactive and the JSPS project’s goals were to develop and strengthen links between relatively large communities of researchers in Japan and Europe, all working on various aspects of soft and active matter, using a combination of approaches centered on statistical physics methods. Both projects involved the same sets of researchers, the same research topics, they overlapped in time for almost 4 years, they had similar global budgets.

But the formal symmetry between SoftActive and the JSPS projects was in fact not complete: whereas the JSPS projects allowed full funding of visits by Japanese researchers to Europe, SoftActive, being an IRSES project, only allowed for secondments towards travel and living expenses. The daily allowance offered by SoftActive not being sufficient for a typically rather expensive place like Japan, many plans on the French side were hindered by this. On the German side, a different problem occurred: a number of participants who had initially agreed to join under the pressure of their Japanese colleagues in essence opted out of the project, not using any of the money made at their disposal, most of them because they had other sources of funding and did not want to “bother” with the SoftActive resources. Furthermore, SoftActive did not allow financial support for the organization of events in Europe (workshops, conferences), which made this very difficult in a context where resources are scarce.

As a result, only a small fraction of the funding initially granted on the European side has been used, and this usage has been very unequal among participants, with some actually drawing important benefits form the project. On the Japanese side, the JSPS project has been, on the whole, very successful. In particular, a very large number of young researchers visited Europe, creating new connections and collaborations with SoftActive participants.

Beyond the achievements at the individual level obtained thanks to SoftActive and the JSPS project, a few “collective-level” events have been very fruitful and appreciated, with long-lasting consequences. In particular, the Winter School organized in Kyoto in 2015 ( is remembered by most as an important event, both for the quality and timeliness of the lectures, and for the many connections that have been established by early-stage Japanese and European researchers.