On March 16, the Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (CSTI) summarized a draft report on the Sixth Science, Technology and Innovation Basic Plan, which began in April. Research and development have been the fulcrum of the Basic Plans so far, but, in contrast, the main points of the Sixth Basic Plan are the research and technology needed to realize Society 5.0, a sustainable society that ensures people’s safety and security and in which each person can achieve happiness, and the human resources training to support this goal, with an eye to what social value science and technology can create. In his address, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said, "in addition to securing an unprecedented and bold budget, which includes a 2 trillion yen 'green fund' and a university fund totaling 10 trillion yen, we have also established targets of 30 trillion yen for the Government’s investment in research and development, as well as 120 trillion yen of investment from the public and private sectors, for the next five years. Through these efforts, we will lead the international competition for research and development."
Last year, the government revised the Science and Technology Basic Plan, incorporating the generation of innovation to engender social change and the promotion of the humanities and social sciences into the Basic Act on Science, Technology and Innovation. The Sixth Basic Plan incorporates this perspective, and makes creating new value its main focus.
Mr. Shinji Inoue, Minister of State for Science and Technology Policy, presented the Sixth Basic Plan as “A virtuous cycle of social change resulting from comprehensive knowledge and investment in knowledge and people.” The Plan overcomes the barriers between fields, including the sciences and the humanities, and will engender change in society through the outcomes of research and development, as well as significantly ramp up investment in training human resources for research. It will also deal with the threats that face us, including infectious diseases and increasingly severe natural disasters, and will create a driving force towards growth in the near future, by accelerating cutting-edge research and development such as AI and quantum technology.
To reconstruct environments that create outstanding, diverse research, the Plan promotes improved treatment for doctoral students, wider career paths for them, the security of posts for young researchers, the advancement of female researchers, the encouragement of basic research and scientific research, and joint international research and brain circulation. It will also promote the humanities and social sciences and create comprehensive knowledge by strengthening funding and making use of digital transformation (DX) in humanities and social science research. It will accelerate research that manages, uses, and applies research data and makes practical use of smart labs and AI, etc., to enable the construction of new research systems. At the same time, it will foster new research communities and environments pioneered through the development and sharing of research facilities, equipment and devices, and DX in research. To form more varied and distinct groups of universities, it will encourage further growth of world-class research universities via university funding on a scale of 10 trillion yen.
On the other hand, to construct an environment for the creation of innovation, the goal of the Plan is social change—i.e. a transition to a circular economy, in addition to the digitalization of the government, maintenance and research on next-generation infrastructure and technology, such as supercomputers, space systems, quantum technology, and semiconductors, and research and development (making use of 2 trillion yen in funding) that works towards carbon neutrality. Furthermore, elementary and secondary education, including STEAM education and a reduction of teachers’ burdens, has been incorporated into this Plan for the first time.
Diet member Motoko Kotani (a professor at Tohoku University) has noted that, "To ensure that people can make practical use of DX, they will need literacy that can extract meaning from data. Furthermore, we must build a platform so that great talents play active roles. Universities need to throw off old clothing and put on new clothes so that they can respond to expectations from society."
Diet member Hiromichi Shinohara (Chairman of the Board at NTT) says that, "For innovation, we need a lot of basic research. Young people have been able to implement diverse research based on free ideas over a long period of time thanks to Fusion Oriented REsearch for disruptive Science and Technology (FOREST). By making this into a steady system, we should send out the message that young people can pursue a career in research with their hopes and dreams."
Deciding to establish a specialist committee on world-ranking research universities
Packed with concrete proposals for university funding "on a scale of 10 trillion yen"
This CSTI meeting decided to establish a specialist committee on world-ranking research universities. Aiming for research universities that are ranked top in the world, which will gather excellent human resources and generous funding, the government will promote the design of a specific system for university funding on a scale of 10 trillion yen. It will also promptly discuss a new legal framework for university reform, and submit the relevant bills to the next ordinary Diet session. The success or failure of university reform depends on the design and operation of a system that will strengthen the ability of groups of research universities that are to be supported by university funding—and that of other groups of universities—to train human resources, and ensure that they have competitive power. Attention will be on future discussions of this specialist committee.
This article has been translated by JST with permission from The Science News Ltd.(https://sci-news.co.jp/). Unauthorized reproduction of the article and photographs is prohibited.