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Japan's Science and Technology Basic Policy Report

Chapter 2 Strategic Priority Setting in Science and Technology

          Looking into the current progress and results of priority setting, as well as domestic social and economic circumstances and global trends for the future, priority setting in investments will continue to be essential from a viewpoint of effective, efficient promotion of Science and Technology policies, and strategic priority setting in governmental R&D investments will be further promoted. The third basic plan intends to enhance its strategy through selection and concentration. The second basic plan addressed the prioritization of research areas, while the third basic plan intends to include inter-sectoral prioritization as well. The basic plan also intends to clarify the relationship between strategic priority setting in Science and Technology and the six policy goals newly created under the basic concepts.
  1. Promotion of basic research
         Basic research producing diverse wisdom and innovation will be steadily promoted with a certain amount of investments.
         Basic research bringing human wisdom and serving as a source of knowledge is the most uncertain among all types of R&D activities. Generally, basic research does not produce desired outcomes on a planned basis but realizes them in the steady, serious pursuit of truth and after much trial and error. The findings and inventions, which do not fall into the existing knowledge framework, will make a leap in knowledge, and thus it is important to develop an innovation-oriented environment.
         Basic research consists of two types: Type-1 basic research that is conducted based on the free ideas of researchers in Science and Technology, including human and social sciences; and Type-2 basic research that aims at future application based on policies. They will be promoted according to their respective significances. More specifically, Type-1 basic research will promote a variety of research activities from the very early stages in the pursuit of universal knowledge from a long-term perspective, aiming to accumulate intellectual achievements to generate new knowledge constantly. Meanwhile, Type-2 basic research is considered a part of the R&D for policy-oriented subjects that will be covered in the following sections, aiming to create knowledge, a source of discontinuous innovations that can reform economy and society, in order to achieve policy goals through prioritization based on Section 2 below.
         Prioritization based on Section 2 below is not done for all types of basic research. For example, it must be clarified and thoroughly understood that research that derives from free ideas of researchers and are supported by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research will be promoted independently from R&D for policy-oriented subjects.
         Out of all research activities that derive from the free ideas of researchers, those requiring huge amounts of funds, in particular, will be promoted through thorough evaluation on researchers' ideas and through governmental prioritization of projects.

  2. Priority setting in R&D for policy-oriented subjects
    (1) “Four primary priority areas” and “four secondary priority areas”
         The second basic plan emphasized R&D on national/social issues, especially those relating to life sciences, information and telecommunications, environmental sciences, and nanotechnology/materials, and funds were preferentially allocated to those four areas. The third basic plan deems those four areas as areas in which R&D activities should be promoted primarily (hereinafter “the four primary priority areas”), and intends to allocate resources preferentially to those areas based on the following requirements of inter-sectoral prioritization.

    (i)The level of contribution to the three concepts (relating to Science and Technology, economy, and society) is generally high.

    (ii)People's expectations and interest are high according to the results of awareness surveys.

    (iii)The trends of Science and Technology strategies in other countries are taken into account.

    (iv)Appropriate from practical perspectives, such as strategic viability and adoption by research sites.

         In addition to the above, the third basic plan also deems the other four areas including energy, manufacturing technology, social infrastructure, and frontier as areas in which R&D activities are conducted with an emphasis on issues that are fundamentals for the nation's existence and need to be addressed by the government (hereinafter “the four secondary priority areas”), and resource allocation will be made in an appropriate manner based on the principles of inter-sectoral prioritization mentioned in the following sections.

    (2) Formulation of Promotion Strategies for Prioritized Areas
         Prioritized resource allocation should not be made, without close examination, to R&D projects, even to those relating to four primary priority areas. Also, it is not appropriate to remove R&D projects relating to four secondary priority areas, without such examination, from subjects for strategic resource allocation. Therefore, as for the four primary priority areas and the four secondary priority areas, the Council for Science and Technology Policy will formulate strategies for promotion of each of the eight areas in order to achieve policy goals. These strategies will be formulated based on the following concepts of inter-sectoral prioritization, and essential R&D issues will be selected in each area. These R&D issues must not be exhaustive or comprehensive.

    (i)Evaluate the future impact objectively on science, economy, and society by utilizing approaches such as a Delphi survey.

    (ii)Clearly recognize Japan's position and level in global Science and Technology by using a benchmark, and clarify the necessity of investments. (e.g.: Is it an R&D issue to ensure Japan's competitive advantage by using national strength, an R&D issue to be resolved in response to strong social needs, or a R&D issue to lead paradigm shift?)

    (iii)Identify the necessity of investments in R&D processes ranging from the creation of knowledge to the return of the results to society and the public, from the viewpoints of contribution to achieving policy goals laid down in the plan and a path to the goals.

    (iv)Understand the respective roles of the public and private sectors, and clarify the necessity of investments from the viewpoints of R&D risk, complementarity of the public and private sectors, and publicness.

    (3)Selection of “Strategically focused Science and Technology”
         There are a variety of investment patterns for essential R&D issues. One example is where the amount of budget for the R&D does not increase because an emphasis is placed on the utilization of previously accumulated investments. Another example is where the R&D needs to be conducted in the long run within a certain amount of budget. Therefore, in order to formulate the Promotion Strategies for Prioritized Areas, R&D issues for which funds are to be budgeted preferentially in the period of the basic plan should be narrowed down based on a certain criteria. In light of this, from the viewpoints below, the Council for Science and Technology Policy intends to select, within each area, the subject to which funds are to be allocated preferentially in the period of the basic plan, and to incorporate the subject as “strategically focused R&D” into Promotion Strategies for Prioritized Areas.

    (i)Concentrated investments in the subject during the period of the basic plan are required for S&T to clearly indicate the method of meeting social and public concerns or needs that have been rapidly growing in recent years (e.g.: anxiety about safety and security).

    (ii)Taking into account the status of international competition and the development of innovations, concentrated investments and the production of results during the period of the basic plan are indispensable for Japan to win in the global competition. If such investments are not made in the subject, it will be extremely difficult for Japan to catch up on what should have been done for the subject for the five years of the basic plan.

    (iii)In a long-term, large-scale project that is conducted under a government-supervised consistent framework to develop world-leading human resources, concentrated investments in the subject during the period of the basic plan are required to maximize social, economic effects and ensure overall national security.

  3. Matters to be considered in the formulation and implementation of Promotion Strategies for Prioritized Areas
    (1)Emerging and interdisciplinary fields
         The intellectual combination or merging of different fields through friendly competition played a major role in producing great inventions and findings in the 20th century. In the 21st century, global-scale competition relating to knowledge is becoming fiercer. Under these circumstances, in order to create new knowledge, it is necessary to develop an environment that encourages the intellectual combination and merging of different fields. For example, R&D should be promoted to ensure that the knowledge of researchers in different fields is gathered easily in a cross-sectoral manner to revolve issues. The strategies for promotion of each of the eight areas will be formulated, giving due consideration to creating innovation through flexible combination or merging of different fields.
         The creation of innovation by using Science and Technology capability is highly likely to improve international competitiveness in the services industry, where the country’s productivity is worse than other countries. Excellent outcomes in human or social sciences are expected to make manufacturers more high-value added. Therefore, in order to accelerate the creation of innovation, due consideration will be given to the promotion of human and social sciences and the intellectual integration of these sciences and natural sciences.

    (2)Clarify the relationship with policy goals and establish R&D goals
         Essential R&D issues selected based on the Promotion Strategies for Prioritized Areas should clarify Science and Technology outcomes to be achieved (R&D goals), in order to achieve policy goals that each R&D issue set in the basic plan and practical policy goals for each project. More specifically, it is fundamental to clarity the R&D goals to be achieved in the period of the basic plan, as well as those to be achieved finally. The government’s accountability for the return of Science and Technology outcomes to society and the public will be enhanced by clarifying the respective the roles of the public and private sectors, the roles of public research institutions, and the path to achieving policy goals through the accomplishment of R&D goals.

    (3)Interdisciplinary matters to be considered relating to “strategically focused Science and Technology”
    (i)Science and Technology to resolve social issues immediately
         This type of Science and Technology provides an immediate, exact solution to socially essential issues such as: international terrorist attacks that have been threatening global safety and security in recent years; proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; large-scale accidents and natural disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons; network crimes; and emerging or reemerging infectious diseases such as SARS and bird flu. R&D relating to this type of Science and Technology should be conducted by the government with clear goals, integrating specialized or segmentalized knowledge in Science and Technology, and human and social sciences. The Council for Science and Technology Policy intends to promote R&D activities relating to this type of Science and Technology for the interdisciplinary resolution of issues.

    (ii)Science and Technology selected to win in international competition
         This type of Science and Technology is selected in consideration of selection and concentration for R&D projects to establish stable international competitiveness, based on a competition strategy that is in compliance with the appropriate international benchmark. Examples are: Science and Technology facing fiercer competition to reform the current structure of knowledge fundamentally and to make a leap in knowledge; Science and technology to which unsurpassed value should be added by using unique national advantages as soon as possible; and science and technology that have a good opportunity to win in international competition in making breakthroughs that ensure the acquisition of huge added value.

    (iii)Science and Technology selected as a national mission-oriented technology
         This type of Science and Technology is deemed as essential technology to be invested intensively in a large-scale national project during the period of the basic plan (“national mission-oriented technology”), and is addressed based on definite national goals and long-term strategies. For example, next-generation super computing technology and space transportation system technology are considered to fall into this category. The Council for Science and Technology Policy intends to select national mission-oriented technology in the course of selecting strategically focused Science and Technology, based on national long-term strategies. R&D activities aiming to realize a national mission-oriented technology will be conducted after the Council for Science and Technology Policy closely examines and evaluates them.

    (4)Effective implementation of Promotion Strategies for Prioritized Areas - Realization of “practical strategies” -
         Even during the period of the basic plan, when necessary, strategies for promotion of each of the eight areas will be amended or revised flexibly to make changes to essential R&D issues or strategically focused Science and Technology. These changes will be made in consideration of updated Science and Technology knowledge and trends of emerging or interdisciplinary fields. The Council for Science and Technology Policy will realize “practical strategies,” as a basis for promoting networks or collaborations involving relevant ministries, agencies, and research institutions, by establishing an annual policy cycle including: gathering of updated information to propose a policy of resource allocation; provision of the policy of resource allocation before the receipt of budgetary requests; prioritization of the budgetary requests; and preparation for proposing the next year’s policy of resource allocation.
         Also it is useful that, in order to implement the “practical strategies” in a cross-sectoral manner, relevant ministries, agencies, and organizations review broad R&D processes ranging from basic research to application and exchange opinions or relevant information, on a regular basis, regarding the trends of advanced R&D, technology maps, and road maps for the accomplishment of policy goals. The Council for Science and Technology Policy intends to strive to promote the smooth exchange of opinions and information sharing.
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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