Technology and Innovation in Japan: Policy and Management for the Twenty-First Century

By Martin Hemmert; Christian Oberländer | Go to book overview

2

RESTRUCTURING BASIC, APPLIED AND DEVELOPMENTAL RESEARCH

Changes in allocation of R&D resources

Tomohiro Ijichi and Akira Goto1

Introduction

There seems to be a growing consensus in Japan that increased efforts in basic research are needed. This is reflected in the General Guideline for Science and Technology Policy, the document adopted by the Cabinet in 1986 and 1992, expressing an agreement by all ministries in the Japanese government on promotion of science and technology. The Science and Technology Basic Law that was passed in 1995 symbolizes a firm commitment toward the promotion of research and development (R&D) and determines its basic principles.

There are several reasons behind this enthusiasm for basic research, as will be discussed. They reflect the perceived change of Japan’s status in a historical and international context. It is argued that the age of catching up is over and assumed that Japan is now at the forefront of the industrial and technological race. Thus, as the argument goes, creating rather than borrowing technology is more important, and for that reason, a basic research capability is the necessary prerequisite, especially in the high technology industries. It is also claimed that Japan, as one of the richest countries in the world, has an obligation to contribute to scientific knowledge as an ‘international public good’.

The need to strengthen basic research capability has been emphasized in Japan for quite some time. In the 1980s, major R&D performing companies began to establish basic research laboratories, most of them independent of older, already existing laboratories. Although it is not clear whether R&D conducted at these laboratories was genuine basic research, the need for more long-range research with more ambitious targets focused on the early stage of innovation and the resulting demand for basic research was widely shared by the business community as well as by policy-makers. The Japanese

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