JSPS Quarterly
No.38 2011 Winter Topics
Japanís Fourth Science and Technology Basic Plan

On 19 August, the Japanese government launched its fourth plan to systematically advance science and technology. The following is a summary of this S&T Basic Plan, divided into its major sections.

Objectives

As stated in Section 1 of the 4th S&T Basic Plan, a 5-year national strategy is established with a 10-year vista into the future. The Plan also provides a wider perspective of S&T innovation to the “New Growth Strategy—Blueprint for Revitalizing Japan” inaugurated in June 2010, adding new depth and concreteness to the policies embodied within it. Besides economic and industrial strategies, the new Plan intricately expands linkage with other policies including those initiated to restore and recover the earthquake-ravaged communities in Japan, while strengthening disaster prediction and prevention technologies.

The Plan advances five mid-to-long-term objectives aimed at making Japan a country that
1.  Achieves sustainable growth and societal development, particularly the recovery and restoration of earthquake-damaged areas
2.  Realizes a safe and secure, high quality of life for its people
3.  Takes the initiative in solving global issues, including large-scale natural disasters
4.  Possesses a quality of S&T that undergirds national sustainability
5.  Continues to create “knowledge” assets and fosters S&T as culture.

To achieve these five objectives, Japan will need to continuously create knowledge assets of the highest world standard, while clearly articulating the issues it must address. Concurrently, Japan will need to systematically pursue a strategy for advancing science and technology that generates innovation.

From these perspectives, the 4th S&T Basic Plan will build upon the undertakings and achievements of the 3rd Basic Plan in pursuing the following three key S&T policies:
1.  Integrated development of an S&T innovation policy
2.  Increased policy focus on roles of human resources and the organizations supporting them
3.  Establishment of policies to be created and implemented in concert with society.

Pillars

Section 2 develops strategies for implementing an S&T innovation policy. It has two main pillars: promoting green innovation and life innovation. Aimed at the environment and energy, green innovation works to sustain Japan’s growth into the future, while developing and enriching its society. Life innovation, on the other hand, seeks to effect milestone advances in medicine, health and caregiving. The new Plan also targets the restoration and reconstruction of Japan’s earthquake-damaged areas. In addition, it calls for broad system reforms including the creation of new innovation systems that enhance linkage among academia, industry and government and expand cooperation with various sectors of Japanese society, as such systems will be required to effectively address the increasing sophistication and complexity of S&T and the rapid globalization of its markets.

Initiatives & Priorities

Section 3 provides strategies for responding to major issues facing Japan. It addresses a wide range of critical issues in seeking to realize a safe and secure life for the Japanese people, including protecting them from the trauma of natural disasters that may occur in the future. Accomplishing this will require advancing R&D initiatives in a strategic manner that links them to the creation of new values. Accordingly, a broad spectrum of institutions within the academic, industrial and governmental sectors will need to be engaged in the planning and synergistic implementation of such initiatives across multiple disciplines.

Differing from the 3rd S&T Basic Plan that sought to advance R&D by prioritizing primary research areas, the new Plan shifts focus to prioritizing strategies for solving specified issues.

At the same time, it is envisioned that over the mid- to long-term serious issues currently confronting Japan will rise to a common global level, beginning with those related to the global environment. While Asia is emerging as a global growth center, Japan’s society is aging amidst a declining birthrate. This gives added impetus for Japan to develop itself within the dynamic flow of international S&T advancement if as a nation it is to sustain and strengthen its international competitiveness in S&T innovation.

Basic Research & Human Resource Development

Section 4 addresses the need to strengthen basic research and human resource development, given the increasing importance of basic research carried out upon researchers’ own free ideas. Over recent years, such research has provided a seedbed for innovation, while creating a variety of new knowledge assets and cultural values that directly or indirectly contribute to societal development. To foster and support the talented people of coming generations who will advance such S&T innovation requires mid-to-long-term perspectives and strategies.

As a case in point, the Great East Japan Earthquake compelled many overseas researchers working in Japan to return to their countries and caused others to postpone their trips to Japan. This outflow of researchers, including some Japanese researchers, has caused deep concern, engendering a stronger awareness of the need to strengthen Japan’s programs for advancing basic research and fostering talented people, along with the concomitant need to open up Japan much wider to the world, while offering a quality of education and research that is at the highest global level.

Linkage with Society

Section 5 of the Plan addresses the establishment of policies that can be most effectively created and carried out in coordination with society. It places policies for advancing S&T innovation squarely within the framework of the government’s “Policy for Society and the Public.” Key to advancing these policies is a need to strengthen the nexus between society and S&T innovation, which can be accomplished through public participation in the policy-formulation process, while expanding science-communication activities, including those related to risks, between the scientific and non-scientific communities.

To steadfastly move forward Japan’s S&T innovation policies toward achieving the objectives of the 4th S&T Basic Plan, adequate R&D investment must be secured. As other countries are increasing their R&D investment, Japan must also strive to expand its own, as S&T innovation is, it might be said, Japan’s core resource. To elevate its competitiveness in this pursuit and sustain its status among the world’s nations, Japan must acquire the broad understanding, trust and support of its citizens, whose taxes finance the nation’s S&T agenda.

Enactment

The 4th S&T Basic Plan was compiled and is enacted by the Council for Science and Technology Policy, established in 2001. Chaired by the Prime Minister, it comprises the Chief Cabinet Secretary and the Ministers of State for Science and Technology Policy; Internal Affairs and Communications; Finance; Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology; and Economy, Trade and Industry, along with a number of executive members from academia and industry.

To read the entire document of the 4th S&T Basic Plan, please visit the Cabinet Office’s website at http://www8.cao.go.jp/cstp/english/.



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JSPS Quarterly No.38 2011