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Part 1: Creativity of Japan's Science and Technology
Chapter 2 Current State and Issue of Japan's Science and Technology
Section 2 Research Environment and Research Funds
2. Management of Research Funds

(1) Competitive funds

The competitive funds are selectively allocated to research issues that have been chosen by prior evaluation. For this reason, it is an important fund as a means of utilizing limited funds efficiently and effectively ( Fig. 15 ). Also, it is a fair and merit-based system to provide young researchers with research opportunities.

Fig. 15 Reasons for Need of Competitive Funds and Its Usefulness

(Funding Rate and Grant Size)

Regarding the extent of Japan's competitive environment, the adoption ratio of issues is about 20% in new issues under the gtants-in-aid for scientific research system, and less than 10% on average under the basic research promotion system by Special Public Corporations, etc. Thus the competitive funds of the public sector are placed in a very severe position.

The quantity of the competitive funds that researchers wish to have for their researches is relatively medium-sized, in the range of 5 to 20 million yen. It is important to work out a system that reflects the need of these researchers.

(Amplification of Competitive Funds)

During the period of the First-term Science and Technology Basic Plan, the competitive funds had been amplified about 2.4 times in the amount, from 5.0% (fiscal 1995) to 8.9% (fiscal 2000) in the ratio to the science and technology related expenditures ( Fig. 16 ).

Fig. 16 Trend of Japan's Competitive Research Funds (Initial Budget for Each Year)

Under the Second-term Science and Technology Basic Plan, the amplification of the competitive funds is to continue, subject to the selective and efficient allocation of resources. The increase in its size and ratio is expected.

(Use of Grant)

The Second-term Science and Technology Basic Plan provides that in course of doubling the competitive funds, the research expense for young researchers should be increased selectively, and aggressive applications by young researchers for competitive funds in general should also be encouraged.

In addition to the promotion of joint researches and interdisciplinary researches in the past, it is hoped that a system to support young researchers in elevating their independence will be established in the future.

(2) Indirect Costs

The indirect costs refers to those allowed for expenses necessary for managing research institutes in respect of costs that are associated with conducting researches. They are intended for the efficient and effective use of competitive funds. The expense is allocated, at a certain ratio to research expenses, to the research institutes to which the researchers who have obtained competitive funds belong.

The efficient and flexible use of the funds by research institutes will help improve research environment and strengthen the functions of the research institute as a whole. It is expected that the indirect costs will prompt competitive principles among research institutes and create research environment that are attractive to researchers.

In Japan at present, the introducing of the indirect costs into research expenses is rather infrequent. Therefore, the Second-term Science and Technology Basic Plan intend to promote such introduction, with its ratio to research expenses aimed around 30% for the time being.

(3) Raising Research Funds and Discretion in Spending

Regarding problems in executing research budgets, it is pointed out that especially at national universities, national testing-and-research institutes and the like, clerical procedures are complex and various restraints are imposed due to national budgeting system.

From the standpoint of ensuring smooth researches, the system has been improved in part. However, we look for further improvement in flexibility in the use of research expenses such as the inter-account diversion of research expenses, as well as the flexible carry-over of the expenses.

In order to promote the introduction of external funds, it is important to make a broad improvement in the system with an eye to the introduction of not only the competitive funds but also funds from industrial communities, venture capitals and the like.

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