Science and Technology Knowledge Platform:
A novel tool for science and technology policy in Japan
By Hajime Yamada (GLOCOM)
A new system named Science and Technology Knowledge Platform (STKP) is being realized in Japan with support of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
Scientists, engineers and even investors can enter STKP after registration from the portal site provided by the Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI.) Registered users may submit science and technology (S&T) information to STKP via the portal, and the information is stored in a database. Users may search and obtain useful information from the database, usually at no charge. When a technology transfer involves intellectual property concerns, an agent company intervenes and coordinates negotiation of licensing conditions. The National Institute of Science and Technology Policy (NISTEP) uses the database as a source of information about trends of S&T in order to report them to the cabinet. STKP participants can freely create discussion forums on not only technical but also policy issues, and the results are sent to the cabinet if appropriate. The STKP will be used as a measure to evaluate the national S&T programs as well.
The Engineering Academy of Japan and related academic societies, including the Institute of Electrical Engineers of Japan, have collaborated to create STKP. The total membership of these societies exceeds 250 thousand, and more than ten thousand researchers are expected to register with STKP.
In the old system, S&T policy was written by government bureaucrats while obtaining S&T information, the needs of various national programs and so on from industry and academia. The system worked well in the days when Japanese policy followed frontrunner countries. But bureaucrats found difficulty, especially in the 1990s, when S&T evolved with increasing speed. Bureaucrats consulted with executives in a small number of established companies. But history now proves that such companies were not a good source of emerging business, especially with regard to information and communication technology.
The new STKP encourages participation from all industry sectors by opening its portal to the S&T community. The number of private sector participants
is expected to increase from some hundred in the old system to some ten thousand. Not only executives but also middle-level management, researchers and university professors, who are the most active in the S&T arena, participate in STKP. In this way the understanding of emerging industry trends in national S&T policy will be improved.
In the old system the Ministry of Education (ME) and the Agency of Science and Technology (AST) had responsibility for science policy, and the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) was responsible for technology. Now with STKP the RIETI under METI (new MITI) and NISTEP under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (the recently merged body of ME and AST) work together on integrated S&T policy.
Internet technology provides the essential features of STKP. Concepts of STKP could be widened to other policy development processes; hence it has the potential to change the "outdated" governmental system. The STKP will be opened to the international research community in the future.
The SKTP will start its experimental service from the end of August. I will report the progress of the SKTP project on this web site.