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Home > Tech Reiews > Japan Technology Review Last Updated: 15:24 03/09/2007
Japan Technology Review #6: July 4, 2001

Science and Technology Basic Law

By Hajime Yamada (GLOCOM)

The Science and Technology Basic Law came into effect in 1995. Based on this legislation the first Science and Technology Basic Plan was initiated in 1996 as a five-year plan. In this issue, I will explain the process of establishing the Law and its purposes.

The first moves to embody the Science and Technology Basic Law took place in 1968. At that time amendment of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty was being discussed and it was a period of social tension memorable for a season of campus demonstrations. There was wide spread anxiety that promoting industry-academic cooperation through the enactment of the Law could endanger academic freedoms, and even the Japan Science Council, a body of prominent Japanese scholars, was against the movement. As a result the bill was not approved.

A new Science and Technology regime was not approved until 1995 and considering the delay one can consider the following two points.

Japan lacks natural resources and one of the intentions of the 1968 Science and Technology Basic Law was to establish the country as a nation rich in human resources strong in science and technology skills. This inability to "arm" the nation with science and technology undermined Japan's ability to remain a financial giant after the collapse of the Bubble economy.

Second, the limitations of Japan's "catch-up" Science and Technology policy, which had been successful from 1970s to 1980s, were exposed in 1990s. For example, the VLSI Technology Research Association was established during the 1970s by Japanese semiconductor manufactures and the government to counter a threat from IBM. Their research was successful and lead to period in which the production of semiconductor memory chips was almost monopolized by Japanese manufacturers in 1980s. This example is intended to demonstrate that attempts to strengthen domestic industry competitiveness by joint industry and government action to catch up and surpass advanced foreign companies was the mainstream of Japan's Science and Technology policy at this time. However, by the latter half of 1980s Japan had become the front-runner and this policy began to lose its magic. It was a period of excessive exports and resulted in harsh criticism of "Japan as a R&D Free-rider." Japan needed to hammer out a new Science and Technology strategy appropriate for it's position as a world economic leader.

Against this background the new Science and Technology policy and subsequent law was developed. The Japan Science Council, which was against the movement in 1968, gave a support by submitting to the government a petition for early establishment of advanced research regime.

Although the government submitted most of bills to Japan's Diet, Diet members who advocated a new Science and Technology "nation" submitted the Law. Shortly after the war there was a period when a series of nation-building legislative measures, including the Atomic Power Basic Law, were brought up by Diet members. Then, over time the power of bureaucrats increased and the number of bills submitted to the Diet originating from the ministries began to outnumber those from elected representatives. Some set a high valuation on the fact that the new Science and Technology Basic Law was submitted by Diet members not bureaucrats.

The main parts of the Science and Technology Basic Law are as follow (from the government homepage,

Article 1
The objective of this law is to achieve a higher standard of science and technology (hereinafter referred to as "S&T"), to contribute to the development of the economy and society in Japan and to the improvement of the welfare of the nation, as well as to contribute to the progress of S&T in the world and the sustainable development of human society through prescribing the basic policy requirements for the promotion of S&T (excluding those relevant only to the humanities in this law) and comprehensively and systematically promoting policies for the progress of S&T.
(Guidelines for Promotion of S&T)
Article 2
S&T shall be actively promoted in harmony with human life, society and nature with the recognition that the creativity of researchers and technicians (hereinafter referred to as "Researchers") can be fully developed, in consideration of the fact that S&T provides the basis for the future development of Japan and human society and that the accumulation of knowledge on S&T is the intellectual asset common for all mankind.
2. In the promotion of S&T, the improvement of balanced ability of research and development (hereinafter referred to as "R&D") in various fields, harmonized development among basic research, applied research and development and organic cooperation of national research institutes, universities (including graduate schools in this law) and private sector etc. should be considered, and in consideration of the fact that the mutual connection between natural science and the humanities is essential for the progress of S&T, attention should be paid to the balanced development of both.
(Responsibility of the Nation)
Article 3
The nation is responsible for formulating and implementing comprehensive policies with regard to the promotion of S&T.
Article 9
The Government shall establish a basic plan for the promotion of S&T (hereinafter referred to as "Basic Plan") in order to comprehensively and systematically implement policies with regard to the promotion of S&T.
2. The Basic Plan shall stipulate the following matters:
(i) The comprehensive plans for the promotion of R&D (the term "R&D" means basic, applied and developmental researches and includes technology development in this law.);
(ii) The policies taken comprehensively and systematically by the Government with regard to the installation of R&D facilities and equipment (hereinafter referred to as "Facilities"), the promotion of information intensive R&D activities and the maintenance of the necessary environment for the promotion of R&D; and
(iii) Other matters required to promote S&T.
3. The Government shall consult the Council for Science and Technology on the Basic Plan prior to formulation.
4. The Government shall consider the progress of S&T and the effect of policies taken by the Government with regard to the promotion of S&T, examine the Basic Plan properly, and revise it if necessary. The preceding paragraph shall apply in the case of revisions.
5. When formulating the Basic Plan in accordance with paragraph 1 above or revising it in accordance with the preceding paragraph, the Government shall publish the summary of the Basic Plan.
6. In order to secure necessary funds for the implementation of the Basic Plan, every fiscal year the Government shall take the necessary measures for the smooth implementation of the Basic Plan such as including the necessary fund in the budget within the limits of national financial status.
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