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The Cabinet Office's K Program adds 23 various and advanced projects in its "2nd Vision" based on reports from JST/CRDS


All countries worldwide have been strengthening their research and development efforts as science, technology, and innovation directly lead to a country's international competitiveness. Taking into account the emergence of new technological seeds, requirements, and the international situation together with other factors, agile and flexible support is indispensable for fostering the emergence of ever-changing innovative technologies.

The Cabinet Office has identified 23 multi-purpose technologies, indicating that they have economic security importance, and has planned to support them through the Key and Advanced Technology R&D through Cross Community Collaboration Program (K Program) A wider variety of technologies has been selected than ever before, and many researchers may be able to participate. The official decision was made on August 28, and the Japan Science and Technology Agency and its affiliated institution (JST) and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) will solicit applications for each technology sequentially starting in the autumn.

Under the K Program, the Cabinet Office identifies technologies that have economic security importance. JST and NEDO support implementation of these technologies through a 250-billion-yen fund set up for each institution/organization. The program will promote research and development over a span of approximately 5 years, with a perspective of approximately 10 years. In September last year, the government set forth its first vision (27 technologies). Candidate technologies were selected based on their potential multipurpose nature and Japan's technological superiority, avoiding the selection mechanism in the market for the final list of preferred technologies. However, out of the selected technologies, many were space/aviation and marine related due to the limited time for consideration. Furthermore, most of them had already been formulated in government documents (e.g., the Basic Plan on Space Policy, among others) that have been worked on by ministries and agencies, and little room was left for a wider range of researchers.

In the second vision, 23 more diverse technologies were selected after expert reviews and reflections, not only regarding various plans of ministries and agencies, but also the Panoramic View Reports from the JST/the Center for Research and Development Strategy (CRDS).

In the event of disaster, fake images are posted on social networking sites, and disinformation causes some confusion in distribution. Among the large amount of information circulating every day, technologies will be developed for quickly discerning disinformation intentionally manipulated by a sender and weighing its impact on society.

Regarding the digital fundamental technology in the field of research (e.g., technology to transfer human skills that contribute to the effective transmission of know-how), digital infrastructure will be built for analyzing and encoding 'tacit knowledge' related to experienced techniques in human skills and utilizing them for inheriting the expertise that has been honed in various fields. Taking up a couple of examples in life science experiments in which advanced research is underway, the following technologies are being developed: (1) Technology to automatically measure, collect, and analyze work environment and work data; (2) AI technology to plan optimal protocols based on an integrated analysis of work data; (3) Navigation systems to support work; and (4) Technology to transcript skills to automated systems.

Permanent magnets, core components determining the performance of motors, contain 'rare minerals' (light and heavy rare earth metals), which are unevenly found in certain countries. The technology producing rare metal free magnets with high heat resistance and strong magnetic force will be developed. Accordingly, high resistance to heat and other tough conditions, a strong magnetic force, and rare metal free magnets enabled by elements with low resource risks—or even complete rare metal free—will be targeted.

Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) can analyze a wide variety of gases, but the equipment is large and analysis and detection require so much expertise and time that it is difficult to use this technology for routine monitoring at disaster sites, stations, airports, and factories. Hence, a rapid and accurate multi-gas sensing system technology will be developed for enabling the detection and identification of a variety of substances.

In the area of advanced technologies related to high-precision brain technologies based on brain waves, Japan has advantages in non-invasive technologies for decoding electroencephalograms (EEGs) so that the precision and reliability of the measurement obtained from this technology will be improved through noise reduction. Further, the measurement equipment (e.g., for EEGs) will be upgraded for enabling a stable and long-term measurement of low-level EEG signals. Cutting-edge material technologies will be combined with measurement technologies and algorithm development utilizing knowledge regarding brain function, which is being researched at universities and other institutions in Japan.

With this second vision decided, 50 projects will be implemented under the K Program with a fund of 500 billion yen. However, issues remain that are related to food security and other important areas. More projects under the Program are planned to be added.

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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