At the Cabinet Meeting on June 9, the Japanese government approved the Integrated Innovation Strategy 2023, the third-year implementation strategy of the Sixth Science, Technology, and Innovation Promotion Plan. Based on the following three pillars—'Strategic Promotion of Advanced Science and Technology,' 'Enhancing the Knowledge Base and Strengthening Human Resource Development,' and 'Formation of an Innovation Ecosystem'—the new strategy consolidates the efforts to date, and promotes novel initiatives to strengthen investment in original R&D, foster young researchers and empower women, bolster AI development capabilities, fully implement the Global Startup Campus (GSUC) Initiative, and increase support for responses to academic journals. This strategy will be implemented through FY2024 budget requests and other programs.
Regarding the first pillar, 'Strategic Promotion of Advanced Science and Technology': It was noted that technologies such as generative AI and quantum are rapidly advancing and that international competition for advanced technology development and human resource investment is intensifying; thus, R&D must be strategically promoted through national strategies and think-tank functions in key fields, with a view to ensure the excellence and, consequently, indispensability of Japanese technologies, and foster technologies that can secure the future, thus leading to their implementation in society.
In terms of the second pillar, 'Enhancing the Knowledge Base and Strengthening Human Resource Development': With the dual focus of the university fund and initiative to promote regional and unique research core universities, efforts will be invested to enhance research capabilities and strengthen the development of diverse human resources, including young and women researchers.
Under the Hiroshima AI Process established by the G7 Hiroshima Summit, Japan will deepen international discussions on trustworthy AI and address relevant risks, while promoting its use and strengthening development capabilities, focusing on the development and expansion of computational resources and data. Furthermore, a stronger action will be implemented to address academic journal issues.
For the third pillar, 'Formation of an Innovation Ecosystem': An environment wherein diverse human resources can leverage their own potentials to lead to the creation of new industries and social change will be developed. To fully implement the GSUC Initiative, which was launched in earnest at the Japan−U.S. Summit Meeting, top overseas universities, such as MIT, will be invited to Tokyo to acquire their methods and foster world-class startups. Startup human resources' development nationwide will, thus, be encouraged.
Major comments of Members of the Council for Science, Technology and Innovation
Capitalizing on generative AI for a better society: expanding the domestic investments for Japan's own economy and making the university a place that draws out unique talents. At a meeting of the Council for Science, Technology and Innovation held the day before the Cabinet decision, each Council member made the following remarks:
Full-time Member Takahiro Ueyama, commented, "A so-called tripartite policy involving universities, national security matters, and industry activities has not been easily accepted in Japan to date, but it is now feasible to conduct high-risk research and human resource development predominantly at universities; to massively invest in a broader sense security-related funds in such activities; and to, thus, deliver the outcomes thereof, including intellectual properties, flexibly and preferentially to next-generation industries and companies. The GSUC Initiative aims to provide an entrepreneurial space that can trigger the involvement of venture capitalists from the early stages of research."
Corporate Executive Officer Yumiko Kajiwara of Fujitsu Ltd. stressed, "As it is an enabler for enhancing science, technology, and innovation capabilities, it is important to take advantage of technologies, such as generative AI, faster and more safely in the real world. Moreover, it is essential to formulate a policy to keep eyes on the social acceptance of science, technologies, and innovation, to ensure the effectiveness of related policies by enriching science and technology communications."
Executive Advisor Hiromichi Shinohara of NTT added, "Concerns exist that generative AI could have various consequences on society, along with the surface risks. For example, we should consider how the use of generative AI might influence people's creativity and intellectual activity, as well as their mindsets and values. We should pursue approaches to effectively utilize generative AI across the society to realize social wellbeing."
Professor Hiroaki Suga of the University of Tokyo highlighted, "I founded my second biotech startup five years ago and have been undertaking global operations, but the investments from domestic venture capital (VC) firms have been limited. Negotiations with American VC firms have revealed that obtaining investments is not that easy. American VC firms will not invest unless they assume that the company will be listed on the U.S. stock exchange market. This means that most interests earned from the listing and acquisitions will be absorbed by the U.S. For companies to grow enough to compete globally, earn foreign currency, and contribute to the Japanese economy, expanding investment domestically is indispensable, and further expansion of investment funds by the public and private sectors is also extremely important."
Professor Mutsuko Hatano of Tokyo Institute of Technology, advised, "What is most needed is robustness in the creativity and human capability in the changing world. Now that knowledge is being obtained even through AI, it is considerably important to appreciate human's outstanding talents and giftedness; value human qualities, including Convergence of Knowledge; and integrate these into an environment wherein synergies among talents can be demonstrated. To be the optimal candidate for this environment, universities should reevaluate the current systems of entrance examinations and researcher evaluations, and if they help draw out unique talents and human qualities to make a leap forward, their efforts will lead varied attractive career paths to be proposed for doctoral students, further accelerating the international talent mobility."
President Takaaki Kajita of Science Council of Japan stated, "The relationship between the Science Council of Japan and the government has not always been desirable over the past few years; nevertheless, the Council has responded to government inquiries regarding strengthening research capabilities, open science, and the issue of fraud in the peer review process of papers and has also contributed to the consideration of research integrity. The Council and the government should aim to regain each other's trust and reinforce it mutually by reconfirming the former's role through an overarching and in-depth review of the entire Japanese academic system and by developing Japan's academic research capabilities."
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.