Science and Technology Policy Council for Science and Technology Policy Japanese

TOP > S&T Basic Plan > Japan's S&T Basic Policy Report > Chapter 1 Basic Concepts

Japan's Science and Technology Basic Policy Report

Chapter 1 Basic Concepts

  1. Circumstances relating to Science and Technology
    (1)Progress in Science and Technology measures
         The first basic plan had as its primary principle aggressive promotion of both R&D to meet social and economic needs and basic research to create intellectual assets, and provided measures to be taken. In the plan, the total amount of governmental R&D expenditure was estimated to be around 17 trillion yen, and the final budget exceeded the estimation despite the severe financial conditions.
         The second basic plan provided three basic concepts as the vision that this country should aim for in S&T policies: i.e. a nation contributing to the world by creation and utilization of scientific knowledge; a nation with international competitiveness and ability of sustainable development; and a nation securing safety and quality of life.
         Based on these concepts, the second basic plan budgeted about 24 trillion yen, more than the amount in the first basic plan, as governmental R&D expenditure for the five years from FY2001 to FY2005, aiming at S&T system reforms and strategic priority setting in Science and Technology through promotion of basic research and prioritization of R&D on national/social issues. The measures planned in the second basic plan have been implemented steadily as a whole. The progress in primary measures is as follows:

    (i)Total amount of governmental R&D expenditure
         Due to economic stagnation over rather long periods of time and severe financial conditions, the total amount of governmental R&D expenditure did not reach 24 trillion yen, the amount planned in the second basic plan, but achieved higher growth compared to other general expenditures.
    Note: The above expenditure of 24 trillion yen is based on an assumption that the governmental R&D investment should be 1% of GDP, of which nominal growth rate is 3.5%, during the period of the second basic plan.

    (ii)Strategic priority setting in S&T
         Strategic priority setting in Science and Technology, aiming at effective, efficient promotion of governmental R&D investments, made steady progress in resource allocation. More specifically, the significance of basic research steadily increased in governmental R&D as a whole, while the country's Science and Technology had a stronger basis. Competitive funds, in particular, increased remarkably. As for R&D on national/social issues, resources were allotted preferentially and primarily to four areas: life sciences; information and telecommunications; environmental sciences; and nanotechnology/materials. These areas are considered to greatly contribute to the vision for which the country should aim (the three concepts). In the other four areas, i.e. energy, manufacturing technology, infrastructure, and frontier, R&D on indispensable fields for the nation's existence in these areas were primarily promoted. As a result, in the Science and Technology budgets for these eight areas, the percentage of budgets for the prioritized four areas increased from 38% in FY2001 to 46% in FY2005.

    (iii) Development of a competitive R&D environment and other R&D system reforms
         The amount of competitive funds (R&D funds distributed to researchers; the entities of resource allocation are diverse, and a team including experts selects appropriate projects to be funded, from research projects gathered and proposed, mainly based on scientific or technical evaluation) did not double but increased, and the percentage of funds to the Science and Technology budget increased from 8% to 13% in the period of the plan. In addition, certain progress has been made in system reforms such as increase of indirect expenses, improvement of systems to cultivate young researchers, and strengthening of the managerial/evaluation system by program officers and directors (POs/PDs). However, other reforms such as securing 30% of the budget for indirect expenses remain unfinished. In the course of budgetary increase in prioritized areas, a broader range of government agencies have been adopting the competitive fund system, and various types of expenses have been budgeted for competitive funds.
         The numbers of universities and public research institutions adopting fixed-term appointment increased, while the percentage of fixed-term researchers to total researchers remained low.
         Moreover, 68 national research institutes were reorganized into independent administrative institutions in April 2001 and national universities into corporations in April 2004, and research institutions became able to conduct more flexible research management. Under the National Guidelines for evaluating Government Funded R&D (Decided by Prime Minister in November 2001; amended in March 2005; hereinafter "National Guidelines"), other R&D system reforms were promoted, resulting in the steady recognition and execution of R&D evaluation by relevant ministries, agencies, and research institutions, and the improvement of their awareness.

    (iv) Industry-academia-government collaboration and other Science and Technology system reforms
         Science and Technology system reforms enabled steadily progress in industry-academia-government collaboration such as: increase in the numbers of industry-academia joint research, technology transfers by technology licensing organizations (TLOs), and university-derived ventures (the total number of such ventures has reached 1,000). Regional Science and Technology promotion has also advanced (18 regions for knowledge clusters; 19 projects for industrial clusters).
         In accordance with the E-Year Plan for Urgent Improvement of National Universities and Other Research Institutions,Egraduate schools and research institutions were developed and improved, and the congestion problem of facilities, the priority issue, was resolved on a planned basis. However, the improvement of deteriorated facilities was delayed, while the number of deteriorated facilities increased mainly due to the elapse of time.

    (2)Results of Science and Technology policies
         Looking into the promotion of basic research and the results of investment strategies including the effects of accumulated investments, Japan has improved its international status steadily in the quality and quantity of research papers, resulting in world-class achievements. According to the survey on extensive technical areas for S&T experts, in comparison with the U.S. and EU, Japan improved its international status in almost all fields compared to five years ago. Japanese researchers have been acknowledged for their unique findings, and Nobel Prizes have been awarded to three researchers in chemistry and one in physics since 2000.
         As far as judging from the numbers of university-derived ventures and joint research conducted by universities and private companies, technology transfer from universities and public research institutions worked well during the period of the second basic plan. Also Japan's unique research findings have created a new market generating tens of billions of yen while contributing to defeating intractable diseases.
         Comparing R&D levels in the aforementioned survey, the gap has narrowed between Asian countries and Japan. International competition has been growing fiercer in the numbers of international patent applications and U.S.-registered patents, and Japan is less likely to improve its market share. The country's balance of trade in technology improved as a whole but remained in deficit in many leading-edge industries such as information and telecommunications.
         Reviewing the results of R&D investments, the research level has steadily improved, and industry-university-government collaboration has been promoted. In addition, research findings have been returned to the economy and society. More specifically, a new cancer therapy (heavy ion medical accelerator) was developed, materials for regenerative medicine (artificial bone using apatite) were applied practically, and other contributions were made to improve people's health. In solar power generation, Japan achieved the world's highest power conversion efficiency and developed the technology for mass production. The amount of solar power generated in Japan accounts for 50% of the world's total, and thus Science and Technology results have been contributing to the viability of Japan as an environmentally developed country. In industries supporting economic recovery such as the home information appliance and advanced materials industries, it is considered that governmental R&D results especially relating to information and telecommunications, nanotechnology/materials, and environmental sciences (the development of state-of-the-art semiconductor manufacturing technology, magnetic micro disks with the world-highest bit density, and photo catalytic materials with diverse effects), coupled with the country's industrial strength, have improved competitiveness steadily. These results have also been contributing to domestic and global security, such as clarifying the cause of the tanker accident that caused great damage to the Japan Sea coast due to an oil leakage, performing safety analysis, and incorporating new safety standards into international treaties in an appropriate manner.
         These results, initially beginning with innovative findings and inventories, were developed by overcoming a lot of difficulties such as the "Valley of Death." In the course of the development, public R&D investments were made appropriately at suitable times from the initial research phase to the practical application phase, and leading industry-university collaborations were made in the final phase. We must accelerate further development based on these results.
         It will take many years to turn the increase of intellectual assets into the creation of value. Therefore, future efforts should be made to use the country's potential S&T capability that improved by investments in the period of the previous two plans, to create innovation in a broad range of social and economic areas(the innovation generating new social and economic values with advanced scientific findings and technical inventions combined with human insights), enhance industrial competitiveness, resolve a wide range of social issues such as safety and health, and ensure the sustainable prosperity of the Japanese economy and public life.

    (3)Environmental changes relating to Science and Technology both at home and abroad and the roles of Science and Technology
         During the period of the third basic plan, the environment relating to Science and Technology is expected to change remarkably at home and abroad, and people's expectations for Science and Technology are also expected to grow.
         It is obvious that demographic changes will have a greater impact on society. In order to achieve a stable economic growth despite the aging and decreasing population as well as the declining birth rate, Japan should tenaciously improve productivity. In addition, competitive companies are indispensable for Japan to achieve remarkable economic growth. Especially as other Asian countries have been rapidly improving their technological capabilities, some competitive Japanese manufacturers are facing fierce competition with companies in these countries. Therefore, it is required to produce more value-added products based on our national strength. S&T are a basis for improving competitiveness and productivity, and it is necessary to ensure economic recovery and sustainable growth by promoting Science and Technology and turning the results into persistent innovation.
         The aging population and declining birth rate create a variety of new social issues, such as social security burdens on people, and national health, as well as economic issues. Meanwhile, social and national safety has been threatened by large-scale natural disasters, grave accidents, and complicated global security issues such as terrorist attacks, and there are growing concerns among people about safety and security. Since Science and Technology are indispensable in resolving these issues, people's expectations for Science and Technology will increase and thus Science and Technology will assume responsibility for society.
         Despite growing expectations, there remains a gap in different people's awareness of Science and Technology. More specifically, many people are aware of Science and Technology's contribution to society, while few people feel close to them. In particular, interest in Science and Technology has been decreasing among young people. People are eager to obtain comfortable, safe, and spiritually affluent lives, while many feel anxiety about the rapid progress in Science and Technology. Since the country's financial condition is getting worse, the development of advanced research facilities and other governmental R&D investments should be made more selectively and efficiently.
         Fiercer international competition in Science and Technology is one of the notable environmental changes that occurred in the world during the period of the previous two plans. Especially China, South Korea and other Asian countries achieved a remarkable economic growth, and their national policies for Science and Technology promotion are considered to be playing a major role in this growth. In the U.S. and European countries, as well as China, South Korea, and other rapidly-growing Asian countries, the development of capable human resources is deemed as a basis for Science and Technology capability, and competition for procuring human resources has been taking place on a global basis. Japan had once abundant human resources based on its high educational level, but now faces a deteriorating situation relating to human resources due to declining academic standards in recent years and demographic changes in line with the aging of the population and declining birth rate.
         Many efforts have been made to resolve global-scale problems concerning population, the environment, food, energy, and resources, but difficult challenges still remain such as: sustainable development of human society; and Science and Technology achievements so as not to pass negative assets to the next generation. Japan, a country possessing excellent Science and Technology, is expected, more than ever before, to contribute to human society through the resolution of the challenges by using its national S&T capability. Expectations for Japanese technology relating to earthquakes and other disasters are also high. Science and Technology relating to natural, human, and social sciences are essential to ensure that Japan stays valuable in human society across centuries.

  2. Basic stances in the third basic plan
         As outlined above, people strongly expect much from Science and Technology in resolving fiercer Science and Technology competition on a global basis, the aging of the population and declining birth rate, safety and security, and other global challenges. Meanwhile, there remains a gap in different people's awareness of Science and Technology. In light of these circumstances, the third basic plan should be executed based on the following two stances.

    (1)Science and Technology to be supported by public and to benefit society
         The effective implementation of Science and Technology policies is possible only when they are understood and supported by the people. People's support and understanding should be achieved by: making R&D investments more effectively and strategically; promoting the sciences persistently, thereby creating intellectual and cultural values; making further efforts to return R&D results to society and the public through the creation of innovation; and clearly explaining Science and Technology policies and their results to people, thereby enhancing accountability. These efforts will increase people's interest in Science and Technology and ensure that Science and Technology are developed with their support.

    (2)Emphasize fostering human resources and competitive research environments - Shift of emphasis from “hard” to “soft” such as human resources; greater significance of individuals at institutions
         Human resources are the basis for Science and Technology capability. The future of creative Science and Technology in Japan depends on the capability of human resources who developed and play an active role in Japan. The country's policies for investments have shifted emphasis from “hard” to “soft” in general. For example, infrastructure building is included in “hard,” while human resources, a basis of competitiveness in Science and Technology and education, are included in “soft.” Therefore, in Science and Technology policies, also, investment emphasis will be shifted from infrastructure building to development of excellent human resources. The third basic plan intends to promote the development of creative human resources by discovering and training promising people, making personnel systems more flexible, securing a diversity of human resources, and promoting their creativity and willingness to take on challenges. The plan also aims to promote Science and Technology system reforms to encourage each person to exert their willingness and enthusiasm thereby maximizing their creativity. The reforms should be made thoroughly so that young, female, or foreign researchers can exert their willingness and ability. In addition, efforts should be made to attract capable human resources at home and abroad and develop world-class human resources. These efforts will improve Japan's S&T in the long run and contribute to building trust with other countries.
         For the development of a competitive environment in Science and Technology, it is important for people engaged in Science and Technology to generate creative ideas, have an opportunity to compete, and receive fair judgment. In order to promote advanced Science and Technology activities in the modern society, it is also considered essential for researchers and promising young people to belong to research or educational institutions with suitable facilities and equipment. In order to develop a competitive R&D environment, research or educational institutions should not be operated based on sectionalism but should develop researchers by encouraging them to generate creative ideas, to compete with others, and to exert their ability to the maximum. Taking into consideration that research and educational institutions are a basis of individual S&T activities, Science and Technology policies will shift to “greater significance of individuals at institutions” from the viewpoint of creating a more competitive environment.

  3. Concepts and goals of Science and Technology policies
    (1)Concepts and policy goals of the third basic plan
         The vision that Japan should aim for in the second basic plan (three concepts) is universal and can be shared by everyone. The three concepts cover entire S&T policies, and are useful in developing future S&T policies.
         Meanwhile, these general concepts are not sufficient to clearly explain a variety of governmental R&D expenditure to the public and to develop practical, individual policies. Moreover, from viewpoints of thorough accountability to people and the return of S&T results to society, it is desirable to set practical policy goals for the realization of these concepts, develop measures based on the respective roles of the public and private sectors, and evaluate the effects of these measures.
         Therefore, the third basic plan, in principle, will inherit three concepts in the second basic plan and set more practical policy goals to realize these concepts in consideration of domestic or global changes and future prospects regarding Science and Technology, economy, and society. More specifically, the third basic plan will set the following six goals consisting of 12 sub-goals. These concepts and goals are not placed in any order of priority, and are valuable equally as national goals. Science and Technology policies are surely important for the goals to be achieved, but some of the goals will not be achieved without the results of R&D activities conducted by private companies and other non-governmental entities.

    ‹Concept 1› Create human wisdom
    -to realize a nation contributing to the world by creation and utilization of scientific knowledge-
    * Goal 1: Quantum jump in knowledge, discovery, and creation
    -accumulation and creation of diverse knowledge to ensure a bright future-
    (1) Discover and clarify new principles and phenomenon
    (2) Create knowledge as a basis of discontinuous technical innovation
    * Goal 2: Breakthroughs in advanced Science and Technology
    -efforts for human dreams to be come true-
    (3) Bolster Science and Technology by conducting the world's most advancedprojects

         In order to be a nation creating human wisdom and contributing to the world, Japan, firstly, should accumulate profound and diverse intellectual achievements that constantly generate remarkable knowledge. The accumulation of intellectual achievements, mainly from basic research to discover and clarify new principles and phenomenon, is expected to generate the knowledge that is a basis of discontinuous technical innovation and is pursued in life/material sciences where development has been made in an atomic/molecular size. Japan stays behind the U.S. or European countries in accumulating intellectual achievements to make a leap in knowledge.
         Another goal for Science and Technology policies is to contribute to human society by making breakthroughs in Science and Technology with the world's most advanced projects. Japan is expected to lead the world in the creation of international knowledge such as obtaining information in the unknown and discovering phenomenon occurring only in extreme conditions.
         In order to achieve these goals, it is essential to develop capable researchers who enthusiastically pursue the creation of scientific knowledge and to promote their activities. If Japan produces world-class, capable researchers, they will be a good target for young human resources, and enthusiasm for new creation will be elevated. Therefore, the second basic plan set a goal of producing as many as 30 Novel laureates in 50 years, aiming to increase the number of Japanese who win international prizes in science to the level of major European countries. For this purpose, Science and Technology policies in the third basic plan are expected to promote basic research with emphasis on human resources.

    ‹Concept 2› Maximize national potential
    -to create a competitive nation achieving sustainable growth-
    * Goal 3: Economic growth & environmental protection
    -achieving sustainable economic growth based on environmental protection-

    4) Overcome global-warming and energy problems
    (5) Realize an environmentally harmonized, recycling-oriented society
    * Goal 4: Innovator Japan
    -realizing a strong economy and industries creating innovation constantly-
    (6) Realize a ubiquitous Internet society attracting global interest
    (7) Become the world's top manufacturing nation
    (8) Enhance industrial competitiveness to win in global S&T competition

         Japan must develop Science and Technology as a basis of national strength to overcome the aging and decreasing of the population and declining birth rate, as well as global-warming/energy problems and to create a country that ensures sustainable growth in the fierce international competition. To achieve this goal, Science and Technology policies should focus on: how to decrease green house gas emission by 6% in 2012 from 1990 under the international agreement, and ensure the prosperity of the Japanese economy; and creation of an environmentally harmonizing, recycling-oriented society in the environmental sciences where people expect much from Science and Technology.
         Japanese industries are facing fierce competition with emergent Asian countries, such as China and South Korea. In order to ensure our industrial competitiveness under such circumstances, the development of Science and Technology should be made to generate highly-value added innovation on a constant basis. For this purpose, policy goals should be set to build a ubiquitous Internet society that attracts the global society, lead the world in manufacturing as national strength, and establish an industrial capability to win in international science and technology competition.
         The creation of competitive new industries is expected to generate high-quality employment, increase people's income, and increase tax revenue. The minimization of environmental burdens such as green house gasses is an essential challenge to be addressed by Science and Technology for both economic growth and environmental protection.

    ‹Concept 3› Protect nation's health and security
    -to become a nation that secures safety and quality of life-
    * Goal 5: Nation's good health over lifetime - making Japan a country where people ranging from children to the elderly can stay healthy -
    (9) Overcome diseases afflicting the public
    (10) Realize a society where everyone can stay healthy
    * Goal 6: The world's safest country - making Japan the world's safest country -
    (11) Secure national, social safety
    (12) Ensure safety in life

         During the period of the second basic plan, the public has felt anxiety and strong expectations for Science and Technology primarily in health and safety issues. Safety and security, which are the basis of the country's sustainable growth, have been threatened by successive events such as: the outbreak of SARS, BSE, bird flu, and other international infectious diseases; growing mistrust in food safety; deteriorating immune diseases such as hay fever; occurrence of grave rail accidents, etc. and large-scale natural disasters mainly due to earthquakes, tsunami, and typhoons; international security that has become more complicated since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; growing threats to information security; and widespread criminal threats at home and abroad. Meanwhile, there are growing expectations for Science and Technology to protect health and safety such as: development of innovative therapies for diseases by life sciences where notable progress has been made on a cellular or molecular basis; realization of healthy life by preventive medicine and food functionality; and optimal utilization of advanced Science and Technology for accidents, crimes, and natural disasters such as earthquakes.
         Under these circumstances, Science and Technology policies aim to combat diseases afflicting the public from children to the elderly, create a society where everyone can stay healthy over their lifetimes, and realize the world's safest nation where safety is ensured at social, national, and personal levels.
         In order to achieve policy goals under these three concepts, more practical goals are required to be set for each governmental R&D project. The relevant ministries and agencies will set policy goals for each project to realize 12 sub-goals with the leadership of the Council for Science and Technology Policy, and the Council will review these goals. Also, necessary modifications will be made to policy goals for each project in order to meet changing political needs in an appropriate manner.
         By clarifying concepts and policy goals for governmental R&D investments and creating a R&D system to realize these concepts and goals, (i) accountability to the public will be promoted to clarify the goals or progress of R&D investments, and (ii) detailed guidelines and evaluation standards will be provided for each measure and project, contributing to the effective return of the results to society and the public.

    (2)Science and Technology's contribution to the world, society, and public
    Through the implementation of investments and measures to achieve new practical policy goals, Science and Technology will also make a greater contribution to resolving a variety of deteriorating global-scale problems concerning population, the environment, food, energy, and resource, as well as the domestic issue of the rapid aging of the population and declining birth rate. More specifically, the six policy goals mentioned above should be achieved in order to address the following:
    (Contribution to the world)
    * Resolve problems common to all human beings
    * Realize global peace and prosperity
    (Contribution to the society)
    * Bolster growth in the Japanese economy
    * Lead global rule-setting
    (Contribution to the public)
    * Provide security and energy for people's lives
    * Ensure employment and lives of high quality

         The Science Council of Japan, an organization representing the Japanese research community, announced the results of the discussion on Science and Technology policies in the formulation of the third basic plan. These expectations are considered to be fulfilled by implementing the following policies based on the aforementioned basic stances, concepts, and policy goals.

  4. Governmental R&D expenditure
         R&D expenditure by the government and the private sector has increased during the period of the previous two plans, and the percentage of the total R&D expenditure to GDP in Japan exceeds that in major developed countries. Despite the reduction of expenditure for other policies in the recent severe financial condition, governmental R&D expenditure in Japan has increased considerably, reaching almost the same level of the U.S. and major European countries. These countries have been increasing R&D expenditure in recent years, and the public and private sectors should make continuous efforts to increase the expenditure in order to win in international competition in the era of large-scale intellectual competition.
         It is further required that Japan makes R&D investments steadily in consideration of respective roles of public and private sectors, strengthening international competitiveness based on the investments through stronger public-private cooperation, and returning the results to the society and public.
         In the period of the second basic plan, financial conditions in Japan were becoming worse than they were in the period of the first basic plan, and the worst among major developed countries. Therefore, it is essential to promote fiscal restructuring of both expenditure and revenues in order to create an active society and vital economy and achieve sustainable growth.
         Under these circumstances, from the viewpoint of continuing the effort of Science and Technology promotion made during the period of the previous basic plans, the percentage of governmental R&D expenditure to GDP in the period of the third basic plan also should be raised up to at least the same level as in the U.S. and major European countries. The total amount of the governmental R&D expenditure is estimated about 25 trillion yen in FY2006 to FY2010
    Note: This estimation is based on the assumption that governmental R&D investment should be 1% of the GDP, of which the nominal growth rate is 3.1%, during the period of the third basic plan.

         In light of these circumstances, annual budgets will be fixed in order to provide the expenditure necessary to promote measures in the basic plan. In budgeting, the trends of social and economic matters and needs of Science and Technology promotion will be taken into account in the course of governmental fiscal restructuring, and the effects of governmental R&D investments will be maximized by implementing Science and Technology system reforms steadily in financial conditions that are becoming worse than they were in the period of the second basic plan.
         The quality of R&D activities will be upgraded by setting goals for the results to benefit the public and evaluating the effects of investments based on a solid evaluation system. Science and Technology system reforms will be promoted thoroughly by: increasing funds selectively to develop human resources and create innovation; resolving the unreasonable allocation of research funds and improving the examination system; reforming the evaluation system; removing systematic or operational obstacles to ensure smooth science and technology activities and return the results to society; and understanding science and technology activities in research or educational institutions. In addition, other financial resources should be obtained by, for example, introducing private funds and setting off properties by sale.
Prev Next
Bureau of Science and Technology policy, Cabinet Office, Government of Japan 3-1-1 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 100-8970  Japan TEL:03-5253-2111