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To promise the people a safe and comfortable life, with an economy and industries sufficiently acti vated to secure sustainable economic development, Japan must promote R&D through positive and str ategic investment in prioritized areas. In promoting S&T fields instrumental in the realization o f Japan's visions, Japan will adhere to three general policy priorities:
- Creating knowledge that engenders new developments (enhancement of intellectual assets)
- Promoting sustainable growth in world markets, improving industrial technologies, and creating new industries and employment (economic effects)
- Improving people's health and quality of life, enhancing national security, disaster preventi on, etc. (social effects)
In the selection of specific S&T fields, priority will go to the following four:
In promoting R&D, peripheral fields or fields that may appear irrelevant should not be excluded , as new S&T fields are frequently borne of combinations of different fields, with the rapid adva ncement of S&T and its further specialization.
The following pages focus primarily on the roles of government, while R&D on national/social is sues should be promoted in public-private collaboration.
|(1) Life sciences|
Some like to call the 21st century the "Century of Life." A thorough understanding of the nature of life is expected to propel the progress of medical science and lead to new solutions to fo od shortages, the environment, and other global scale issues. In a society such as Japan's, an a ging society with fewer children, the life sciences are key to actualizing healthy, active, and comfo rtable lives.
While Japan compares favorably with the United States and Europe in some R&D fields in the life sciences, for example, the Rice Genome, specific microbe genome analysis, and livestock cloning techniques, as a whole Japan is still behind. For instance, the United States leads the world in both national research programs in the life sciences, under the auspices of the National Institutes of Health and venture business activities. European countries are second to none in research on Alzheimer's disease and the technology used to develop genome-information databases.
A draft sequence of the Human Genome was made public in February of this year. Genome information o n various species has advanced very rapidly in recent years, and this information is expected to set a foundation for a wide range of more advanced research. In view of its situation, Japan must work se lectively and strategically in the newly emerging fields of the advanced life sciences, such as post- genomic research. Specifically, Japan will focus on the following:
- Genome science: to promote proteomics, the elucidation of the three-dimensional structures of prot eins and genetic markers of disease and drug reactions, and the development of new medicines, tailor- made medicines, and functional foods based on such technologies
- cellular biology: to advance organ transplantation and regenerative medicine
- clinical medicine and medical technology: to foster practical medical uses of R&D results
- food S&T: to advance biotechnologies that contribute to food security and promote a healthy di et, as well as sustainable food production
- brain science: to elucidate brain functions, to control cerebral development disorders and aging, to overcome neurotic diseases, and to develop information-processing and communications systems by ap plying principles that underlie the functioning of the brain
- bioinformatics: to support the aforementioned technological advances, by analyzing the tremendous amounts of gene-related data they yield, through the use of information/communications technologiesTo promote the life sciences, Japan must implement basic R&D in basic science fields, training and securing of researchers and technicians required in merging fields, maintenance and widespread utiliz ation of an intellectual infrastructure that includes biological genetic resources, action against in ternational problems relating to patents, safety checks from a scientific point of view, promotion of public understanding in biology, and formulation of ethical guidelines relating to biological R& D.
|(2) Information and Communication Technologies|
R&D progress in the field of information and communication technologies (hereafter referred to as "IT") is very important for the creation and expansion of knowledge-intensive industries such as IT industries and high-tech industries, as well as for enhancing innovations in existing ind ustries such as manufacturing technologies. Newly realized and diffused systems for electronic commer ce, electronic governance, telecommuting, telemedicine, and distance-education/learning will have a g reat impact upon socio-economic activities in Japan at all levels, from everyday life to industrial p roduction. Advances in IT will continue to be an important factor in Japan's ongoing efforts to secure safe and comfortable people's life.
Japan is thought to hold a competitive edge over Europe and the United States in R&D in IT fiel ds, especially in mobile-phone systems, optical communications technology, and IT terminals. The Uni ted States, however, leads the world in both software technologies and strategies for de facto global standardization of PCs and related technologies.
In view of the great variety of needs in this field, as well as the rapid innovations of the techno logies, Japan will promote its R&D with flexibility. It will also be important to promote R& D in the technologies required to realize an advanced IT network society in which people can make ful l and creative use of their capabilities by freely sending, receiving, and sharing information. Speci fically, Japan will focus on the following:
- advanced network technology that enables all network activities to be performed safely, at any tim e, at any place, and without stress
- high-performance computing technology that enables rapid analyzing, processing, storing, and searc hing of vast amounts of distributed information
- human interface technology that allows everyone to enjoy the benefits of an IT society without mas tering complicated equipment and feeling stress
- device technology and software technology to support the foregoing points
To promote IT R&D, Japan will emphasize fundamental and leading R&D fields that are unattai nable strategically and effectively through market-motivated activities alone, while keeping close tr ack of the variety of this field and speed of technological innovations. Private sector experts will be used to train and encourage outstanding researchers and engineers to pursue their innovative ideas through R&D. Japan will also promote institutional improvements by ensuring the privacy and secu rity of network activities, by providing testing beds for developing technologies, by implementing ac tivities for international standardization, and by developing education/learning programs for IT lite racy that enable people to make good use of IT-related equipment and skills. Another indispensable co mpetence will be disaster-preparedness, that is, readiness to respond to disasters stemming from comp uter glitches, service interruptions, or functional suspensions due to attacks on the network, poor c ontrol of information, and the digital divide.
|(3) Environmental sciences|
The environmental sciences are essential to preserve the natural environment, which of course inclu des ecologies that support the species of the planet. This forms the basis for the survival of humank ind in the future, as well as a basis for protecting human health and lifestyle.
Japan's environmental R&D is on par with that in Europe and the United States in the strug gle against global warming. In the area of global science, Japan is equal to them in measuring techni ques for environmental monitoring, but behind Europe and far behind the United States in environmenta l monitoring itself. Japan's comprehensive evaluation and management technologies for chemical s ubstances are at the same levels as those in Europe and the United States.
Given the limitations in Japan's land and natural resources, Japan relies heavily on the envir onmental sciences and must use them to become a world leader in tackling environmental problems. Spec ifically, Japan will focus on the following:
- introduction of production systems that minimize both the input of resources and output of wastes, and technology to support recycling in society where effective use of resources and waste control a re achieved by utilizing natural circulative function and bio-resources.
- technology to minimize harmful chemical substances for human health and natural ecology, as well a s to evaluate and manage them
- technology for measures against global warming, such as forecasting global changes that affect hum an survival and natural ecology, evaluation of how forecast results will influence social-economy, an d minimizing the emission of greenhouse gases.
Considering the need to reduce the environmental impact, comprehensive technical evaluation is requ isite. In the course of conducting technical evaluation, it will also be important to develop life-cy cle-assessment methods, prepare databases, and provide information for consumers.
To promote the environmental sciences, it is very difficult to evaluate the added economic value of policies. To apply the environmental measures properly into society and economy, Japan will promote global-scale environmental monitoring, the development of common basic techniques, standardization of an intellectual base on the environment, and evaluation of model projects. Japan will also introduce systems designed for environmental preservation, initial demand excavation, and environmental educat ion programs for consumers.
|(4) Nanotechnology and materials|
Nanotechnology and materials science/technology are important fields that provide bases for many ki nds of scientific and technological advances in the three fields aforementioned, as well as many othe rs. Nanotechnology is expected to lead to breakthroughs in all S&T fields in the 21st century.
In the area of materials science/technology, Japan's R&D is more advanced than that in Eur ope and the United States, insofar as existing materials are concerned.
Materials science/technology will provide the wherewithal for tremendous leaps in a wide variety of o ther fields. Ongoing investment in R&D in materials science and technology will help Japan retain its leadership position in technological innovation in these fields. Specifically, Japan will focus on the following:
- materials science/technology for analysis of material structures and forms, surfaces, and interfac es in the order of atomic/molecular size, which will be applicable to IT, medical science, etc.
- materials science/technology to develop energy and environmental applications for recycling, resou rce saving, and reduced energy consumption
- materials science/technology for creating a secured environment for living
The true value of materials lies in how they actually are used. In promoting R&D, the seeds created by researchers should be carefully tended to ensure they bear fruits that properly meet users' needs. It will be also important to apply IT methods, such as computer simulations, to promote in ternational standardization, to improve the intellectual infrastructure, and to establish a comprehensive technique for evaluating the environment and/or security.
To promote materials science/technology, the priority in R&D should be assigned to basic/leadin g fields and those aiming at forms of industrialization that cannot be attained strategically or effe ctively through market-motivated activities alone.
Nanotechnology is an interdisciplinary and comprehension S&T field that encompasses IT, the env ironmental sciences, life sciences, materials sciences, and so on. By manipulating atoms and molecule s on a nano scale (1/1,000,000,000 m), the unique material properties in the nano world lead to novel discoveries that can be exploited to innovate technologies in other fields. Nanotechnology also pro vides new materials, devices, and innovative systems to fields in IT, biotechnology, medical science, and so on.
Nanotechnological R&D in Japan is on the same or a slightly higher level than that in Europe an d the United States. However, other nations are rapidly formulating national policies and implementin g measures to promote their research in nanotechnology. If Japan is to maintain it's technologic al edge in this field, it will have to gather all possible industrial, academic, and governmental kno wledge on nanotechnology and approach its further development strategically. Examples of nanotechnolo gy include: nano materials that have extremely high strength, extremely low weight, and an extremely efficient luminescence that can be acquired when their material structures are controlled on the nano scale; nano information devices that realize extremely high-speed communication and information proc essing; nano devices in medicine that can be implanted inside patients' bodies to control, diagn ose, and directly treat disease; and nanobiology techniques to observe and control various kinds of b iological phenomena on the nano scale.
In promoting nanotechnology, Japan must maintain a balance between fundamental/leading research and research that aims for industrialization. It will also be important to construct a network for infor mation exchange and collaboration among researchers in various academic fields, and to educate studen ts and young researchers on the newly emerging branches of nanotechnology that involve various academ ic fields.
In addition to the four areas mentioned hereinbefore, there are other four areas: energy, manufactu ring technology, infrastructure, and frontier. These are fundamental areas for the nation's exis tence, hence R&D on these fields should be promoted by the government at a national level.
The energy supply is not expected to be secure in the future. To attain a maximum level of energy s ecurity, Japan will realize a safe and stable energy demand structure that relies less on fossil fuel s and encompasses mechanisms to combat global warming and increase energy efficiency.Examples include : fuel cells, solar power generation, new energy sources such as biomass, energy saving technologies, nuclear fusion technologies, innovative atomic-energy technologies, and technologies for nuclear saf ety.
|(6) Manufacturing technology|
Manufacturing technology is the very source of Japan's economic power. Many of Japan's hi gh-precision machining technologies are unavailable anywhere else in the world, attesting to the extr emely high level of the nation's manufacturing technologies. It is important to develop new inno vative technologies, based on the advanced standards already set.
Examples include: high-precision technologies, fine-parts processing technologies, high-value-added advanced technologies such as micro-machines, environmentally friendly technologies, quality assuran ce/safety technologies for manufacturing sites, advanced manufacturing technology (especially using i nnovative technologies based on IT or bio principles), and medical/welfare apparatus technologies.
The field of "Infrastructure" is the basic framework for supporting the people's lif e. S&T in this field includes the development of disaster prevention / mitigation technologies; c risis management technologies; the development of transport systems such as automobiles, ships, airpl anes and railways; geographic information systems; and the production and management of fresh water. The government promotes R&D on infrastructure to reduce social risks and improve quality of life.
Examples include: the science and technology of crisis control and management technology, such as e mergency communications and prevention / mitigation of earthquake disasters; and information technolo gy-related infrastructure developments such as Intelligent Transport Systems.
"Frontier" is a cutting-edge S&T field to explore unclaimed regions that are hoped to become new frontiers of human activities, for example, outer space and the ocean. The purpose of R&D in this category is to improve quality of life through the use of such technologies as the followings: space technologies that include utilizing space for satellite-based telecommunications and earth observation with satellites; and oceanic technologies that take advantage of the vast resources of the oceans.
Examples include: space development to contribute to the growth of the advanced information technol ogy society; ocean development leading to the utilization of untapped natural resources.
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