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Japan Plans to Double Research and Development Budget

October 1997

By the year 2000, Japan plans to double its governmental expenditures on research and development, according to a recent Issue Brief produced by NSF's Division of Science Resources Studies (SRS).

Based on Japan's 1992 Basic Policy for Science and Technology, this decision calls for an investment of $74 billion between 1996 and 2000. If such an expansion can be achieved, Japan's R&D budget will be $18 billion in the year 2000, approximately double its 1992 budget.

"Relative to the size of its economy, Japan's overall R&D investment (both public and private) is about the same as that of the United States," writes Issue Brief author Jean Johnson, a resource analyst in SRS. However, Japan currently has a lower governmental investment in R&D than any other industrialized government.

In 1994, Japan's governmental support of R&D represented less than 20% of the country's total R&D expenditure. In contrast, the government of the United States and those of the European Union nations put up 35-40% of their countries' R&D budgets. If Japan succeeds in doubling its expenditures, its governmental share of R&D will increase to approximately 29%.

Japan plans to use the additional funding to strengthen its human and physical infrastructure for basic science, particularly within the universities. The government plans to expand the country's doctoral programs and create centers of excellence in research. "Until recently, most doctorates in the natural sciences and engineering were awarded by universities to industrial scientists and engineers for research conducted in Japanese companies," explains Johnson. In 1986, these doctorates represented two-thirds of all doctoral engineering degrees and over 40% of all degrees in natural science.

Johnson writes that by 1994, the trend had shifted, and more doctoral engineering degrees were earned within university labs than in industrial research labs. "The planned annual funding of 10,000 fellowships for doctoral students and post-docs by the year 2000 would continue this trend," she writes.

An increase in Japan's R&D budget could be healthy for the worldwide science and technology community, Johnson concludes. In the past several years, Japan has increased its support of international research cooperation in basic science, including such projects as the Human Genome Project, the Ocean Drilling Project and the European Center for Nuclear Research (known by its French acronym CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland. If the budget for R&D increases, Japan plans to spend more on such projects.

For a copy of the Issue Brief, call SRS at (703) 306-1773, or visit NSF's Web site: http://www.nsf.gov.

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