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Japan's greatest and last opportunities to redesign science and technology ecosystem — Experts invited to WICC workshop point out importance of making the most of increased budget


The World Innovation Culture Center (WICC), a general incorporated association, invited experts and held a workshop on June 29 at the Second House Office Building of House of Representatives, Chiyoda-city, Tokyo, to exchange views on the issue of 'What Japan's science and technology policy response should be after the G7 Hiroshima Summit.' This workshop was held to freely discuss the future agenda of the WICC's activities as well as recommendations for Japan's science and technology policy, following and developing the WICC's recommendations submitted to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida before the G7 Hiroshima Summit in May and its achievements.

The WICC Chairman Teruo Kishi (President Emeritus of the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS)) opened the workshop by highlighting the issue by stating that Japan's science and technology budget has been increasing significantly, but that the question remained as to how to make the most of this increase to successfully develop science and technology in Japan, and how to set goals for this development.

(From right) WICC Chairman Teruo Kishi, Science and Technology Advisor to the Cabinet Kazuhito Hashimoto, Executive Member Takahiro Ueyama of the Council for Science, Technology and Innovation, Director General for Science, Technology and Innovation Hiroki Matsuo of Cabinet Office, Dean Ken Sakamura of the Faculty of Information Networking for Innovation and Design at Toyo University, Science and Technology Advisor to MOFA Yoichiro Matsumoto, and Director General of SCARDA Michinari Hamaguchi of AMED

The discussion then turned to the experts present, who offered their opinions as follows.

Science and Technology Advisor to the Cabinet Kazuhito Hashimoto (President of Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST)) pointed out, "It is said that the Japanese industry has been in a stagnant state, however, recently there are growing expectations in the U.S., Europe, and other countries to partner with Japanese major companies capable of developing advanced technologies. Japan should exploit this best, but last opportunity, and by doing so it is crucial for Japan to break away from Galápagos Syndrome."

Executive Member Takahiro Ueyama of the Council for Science, Technology and Innovation proposed, "It is necessary to orient the increased science and technology budget toward promoting value-driven science and technology policy enhancing social values."

Dean Ken Sakamura of the Faculty of Information Networking for Innovation and Design at Toyo University advised, "It is a misunderstanding that many people assume that the architecture of generative AI has already been determined, and it has not yet been finalized. Government's funds for science and technology should be invested in building a new research and development paradigm even if it may or may not prove successful."

Director General for Science, Technology and Innovation Promotion Secretariat Shoji Watanabe of the Cabinet Office said, "I believe that with or without regard to startups or major companies, it is more important to establish and implement policies that enhance the talent mobility and increase the flexibility of research funds."

Science and Technology Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Yoichiro Matsumoto stated, "In science and technology diplomacy, it is indispensable to involve important diplomatic partner countries and emerging countries such as the Global South. It is necessary for Japan's research universities to build a network with the world's leading universities, and to undertake measures to encourage young researchers and mid-career talent at local universities to go abroad to conduct research activities."

Director General of Strategic Center of Biomedical Advanced Vaccine Research and Development for Preparedness and Response (SCARDA) Michinari Hamaguchi of the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED) urged, "The novel coronavirus is robust, and a tremendous number of mutant strains have been emerging around the world. There is an urgent need to develop new vaccines, including a universal one that is effective for all people. Furthermore, the challenge will be to organize an emergency response for addressing lethal unknown infectious diseases, and a bio-intelligence structure should be set up in the Prime Minister's Office to strengthen its functions to manage such a crisis."

Director-General of the Secretariat of Science, Technology and Innovation Policy of the Cabinet Office Hiroki Matsuo responded, "The budget for science and technology has been increasing, but it should be wisely managed. We would like to provide a setting which brings excitement and expectations to young researchers, and also helps them jump in research and international brain circulation."

Advisor to Sompo Japan Insurance Inc., Yasuo Sakamoto stated, "Japan is said to have lost the digital war, but the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people think and behave in society. I feel that these changes must be brought about not in crisis, but also in normalcy. Government policy works on a one-year time frame, but I think we need to be more agile in updating our policies and flexibly implementing them."

President of the WICC Koichi Miura concluded his remarks by summing up the discussion and explaining, "We will report the details of today's discussion to Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara, and WICC will continue discussion in the coming workshops for fleshing out our deliberations and summarizing them into new recommendations."

This article has been translated by JST with permission from The Science News Ltd. ( Unauthorized reproduction of the article and photographs is prohibited.

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