Necessity of the STKP project
By Hajime Yamada (GLOCOM)
See also the previous review titled "Science and Technology Knowledge platform."
There is a well-known story in Japan that demonstrates a failure of a Japanese company. A researcher in an enterprise in the electronics industry invented a genome sequencer by chance in the late 1980s. But the enterprise did not think it would be a marketable product. Rather, it licensed the sequencer technology to an American company. The company in the U.S. manufactured it and it was used to analyze the human genome. If the Japanese enterprise had communicated with pharmaceutical industry, the result could have been different.
The central policy objective of the STKP project is to contribute to break through the current economic difficulties of Japan by creating the nucleus of new industries. To achieve the objective, the STKP provides an open platform for communication among various players including scientists, engineers, corporate management, government bureaucrats and even venture capitalists, regardless of their affiliations. Technological knowledge exchanged in the platform has some importance. But the human network created in the platform is considered to be more vital because the human network amortizes more slowly than the technological knowledge does.
More specifically, the STKP provides a portal site of S&T knowledge. Users can access S&T information through the site, and also receive technological advise from experts called "Platform Masters." Platform Masters lead technological discussions as well.
Japanese industry policy until the early 1990s tended to pursue success of specific industries such as semiconductor, petroleum, or computers, though the list of specific industries varied from time to time. Huge amounts of research funds were provided from the government to these industries. However, during the early 1990s the government recognized that industry policy had not worked effectively and efficiently. One typical example is the failure of the Fifth Generation Computer Project, which did not realize any significant result.
Japanese bureaucrats considered how to change industry policy and reached the conclusion that Silicon Valley is a good model for new policy development. They found that:
- People in the Valley often exchange ideas across institutional boundaries;
- Venture capitalists catalyze the exchange of ideas; and
- Although individual companies go out of business sometimes, the Valley grows steadily because of creation of new businesses based on the exchange of ideas.
A preliminary questionnaire found that there are strong needs in Japanese industries for STKP. The survey demonstrated that:
- 47% of large enterprises have difficulty utilizing their intellectual assets;
- 41% of large enterprises are open to license their intellectual assets to others;
- The majority (69%) of small and medium size enterprises support the idea of providing their technical information to other organizations;
- 44% of responding researchers and engineers individually hope to participate in the project; and
- 75% of large enterprises, 79% of SMEs, and 81% of individuals support the idea of the portal site.
In my next contribution I will explain the structure of STKP in detail.