Japan: Science and technology policy

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Open Access Government examines some aspects of science and technology policy in Japan, including cooperation and research promotion

The Science and Technology Basic Plan in Japan, based on the Science and Technology Basic Law, was implemented in November 1995. The basic plan aims to implement science and technology (S&T) policies comprehensively and systematically. The Basic Plan is formulated based on the forecasting of the next decade, and the policies are implemented over a five-year timespan. (1)

An earlier version of Open Access Government reported that in 2020, the Basic Law was amended for the first time in 25 years and changed its name to the Science, Technology, and Innovation Basic Law. The 6th Basic Plan, which covers the fiscal years 2021 to 2025, was the first developed after the amendment. (2)

MEXT S&T policies

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) believes Japan must be at the forefront of science and technology to remain competitive globally and build a strong society and economy. (5) Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology MORIYAMA Masahito has headed up the Ministerial team at MEXT since September 2023.(3) Before this, the role was taken by NAGAOKA Keiko, commencing in August 2022. (4)

Japan’s S&T governance functions per the fundamental Council for Science and Technology Policy CSTP policies under the Prime Minister’s leadership. MEXT coordinates with related ministries to develop and implement basic policies related to S&T policy. MEXT also produces and implements specific plans related to promotion and Research and Development (R&D) and liaises with related government agencies to promote S&T. (5)

Science and technology cooperation

In addition, fostering collaboration between industry, academia, and government is necessary to ensure that university research results are disseminated to the public and revitalise university higher education and research. MEXT strives to foster a more collaborative relationship between industry, academia and government. It seeks to place coordinators to foster an environment where universities can participate in this cooperation on their own terms.

MEXT also helps universities and businesses collaborate on research and use the results of their study in practical ways and offers expert advice on intellectual property and technology transfer. (6)

Research promotion

MEXT believes that science and research are the keys to creating new fields of knowledge, driving innovation, and helping spread the knowledge that we all share. In a nutshell, MEXT supports academic research in universities and inter-university research institutions to create new knowledge based on innovative concepts, aiming to secure fundamental funding that supports academic research.

MEXT also encourages big-scale international research projects to develop the infrastructure needed for research by setting up research centres worldwide, but, of course, fundamental research also contributes to the nation’s social and economic growth by driving innovation. (7)

Information Science and technology research

Information science and technology, including cutting- edge computing technologies, data analytics technologies and network technologies, are essential for success in various domains and are crucial for Society 5.0. The goal of Society 5.0 is to achieve a balance between economic growth and the resolution of social issues through the integration of digital and physical space.

AI, in particular, has become popular due to advances in hardware to process large amounts of data and advances in machine learning, including deep learning. R&D on AI is growing globally. MEXT supports R&D and social applications of AI technologies by providing comprehensive support for R&D on innovative basic technologies, with the RIKEN Center for Advanced Intelligence Project (AIP Center) as the focal point, and funding formidable research themes.

MEXT contributes to the advancement of scientific research by constructing a High-Performance Computing Infrastructure (HPCI), where supercomputers at multiple national universities and research institutions are connected through the Science Information Network (SINet6) and provide computing resources in response to user requirements. (8)

Cutting-edge medical technologies

It’s only fitting to mention that Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) developed the “Strategy of SAKIGAKE”; indeed, their Ministry Project Team will take the world to the next level in the real-world application of cutting-edge medical technologies.

This Strategy consists of two dimensions, ranging from fundamental research to clinical research/trials, as well as approval reviews, safety protocols, insurance coverage, the enhancement of infrastructure and the conditions for corporate activities, and global expansion.

On the one hand, the SAKIGAKE Designation System supports R&D in Japan with the goal of early practical application of new pharmaceuticals, medical devices and regenerative medicinal products. On the other hand, the Scheme for Rapid Authorization of Unapproved Drugs aims to speed up the use of unapproved or off-label drugs for serious or life-threatening illnesses.

It expands the scope of the Council on Unapproved Drugs/Off-label Use to include drugs not approved in Western countries as long as they meet specific criteria and by improving the conditions for companies to develop such drugs. (9)

Japan’s Science and Technology (S&T)

This comprehensive article has examined how MEXT supports R&D and promotes S&T cooperation, research promotion, and information S&T and cutting-edge medical technologies. We extend our sincerest congratulations to the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology as he promotes S&T. Several aspects of R&D have been discussed, with a brief interlude to consider an element of this from the view of Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. (10)

References

  1. innovation-basic-plan/120486/
  2. 1374036.htm
  3. 1374034.htm
  4. title01/detail01/1374077.htm
  5. title01/detail01/1374075.htm
  6. The Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare is TAKEMI Keizo as of September 2023 He was preceded by Katsunobu KATO, who took up the role in August 2022

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