JRDC

One of the major administrative arms of the STA is the Research Development Corporation of Japan (JRDC). JRDC implements STA policies by performing three major support functions: support for basic research, technology transfer, and international research cooperation (JRDC 1996).

JRDC was founded in 1961 and had a fiscal year (FY) 1995 budget of 22.8 billion (approximately $230 million) and about 100 employees. JRDC's total budget has risen dramatically - to 38 billion for FY 1996 (year ending March 31, 1997). This increase may be due in part to the announcement of the new CREST program (see Executive Summary) and may also have something to do with a planned merger with the Japan Information Center of Science and Technology (JICST), which maintains a database on science and technology as well as providing network and Internet services to academic institutions in Japan. The proposed merger will result in a larger organization with a new name, the Japan Science and Technology Corporation (JST) and will take place by October 1996. Currently, JRDC has an attractive World Wide Web (WWW) homepage (URL= http://www2.jst.go.jp/jrdc/index/).

JRDC's FY 1995 budget allocations are shown in Table 2.2 below:

Table 2.2
JRDC's 1995 Budget Allocations

Basic Research Programs

The basic research programs that JRDC runs are ERATO (8.7 billion, FY 1995), PRESTO (2.3 billion), and the International Joint Research Projects (IJRP) (1.6 billion). It is not clear yet whether the CREST program will fall under the "basic research" category in JRDC's budget, which alone will account for 24.3 billion in FY 1996. Information available at the time of this publication indicates that both ERATO and IJRP will experience small budget decreases for FY 1996 (to 7.83 billion and 1.45 billion, respectively).

ERATO was established in 1981 and is the oldest of JRDC's research programs. As discussed in Chapter 1, it was a remarkable program then and remains so today. Aside from the previous JTECH study (Brinkman and Oxender 1988), ERATO has been written about extensively (e.g., Science 1994, 266:1169-90 and 1996, 272:645; and also Kusunoki 1993). The program was motivated by the perceived need to develop new models for research and development, rather than merely add money to existing programs. ERATO has allowed Japanese researchers to break out of a highly structured system that makes it difficult, organizationally and financially, for young scientists to embark on their own projects. ERATO has been in a sense more a social than a technical experiment in a country that prides itself on structure, conformity, and unquestioned respect for elders.

IJRP was established in 1989. It is an international version of ERATO (not to be confused with ERATO projects that have project groups off-shore). IJRP sets up cooperative basic research projects between JRDC and foreign research organizations based on the principle of equal sharing of costs and facilities. Several such projects exist in the United States, for example, the Microbial Evolution project at Michigan State University and the Quantum Transition project at the University of California, Santa Barbara. IJRP funding like ERATO's is for five years, and the total cost per project is 2 billion (1 billion from JRDC and the other billion from the foreign partner). Costs for U.S. partners to date have been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Researchers travel freely between the two sites (one in Japan and one in the host country), and all results are open to the public. Patents are co-owned, an issue that sometimes causes problems in negotiating agreements with U.S. universities.

PRESTO, a more recent JRDC program, was started in 1991. It provides individual investigators with opportunities to conduct precursory research which cannot be easily carried out within conventional organizations. The newest program, Core Research for Evolutional Science and Technology (CREST), was created in 1996. CREST for the first time enables university researchers to build a research project and hire the additional staff to carry it out.

Technology Transfer Programs

JRDC began its technology transfer program soon after its establishment in 1961. Its mission is to take research results developed from various research programs (e.g., ERATO, PRESTO, national laboratories, and universities) to industry. Three processes are available for this transfer: cooperative technology development, technology transfer facilitation, and exploitation and application study.

Cooperative technology development and technology transfer facilitation have been JRDC activities since 1961. Through cooperative technology development, JRDC promotes research results that are commercially promising but are too high-risk for industry to develop on its own. JRDC reduces the risk by providing interest-free funding which is repaid only if the project becomes successful commercially. If a company can bear the costs of developing the technology, then through the Technology Transfer Program, JRDC acts as a transfer facilitator between the researcher and the company. JRDC also sometimes forms high-tech consortia.

In 1986, JRDC established the Exploitation and Application Study program to help develop results from ERATO, national laboratories, and universities. However, because ERATO is a basic research program, few results have been picked up by industry. Overall, JRDC earned only 19 million in direct royalties from ERATO results between 1986 and 1995.

JRDC receives royalties from many of its other investments. Industry has to date paid JRDC 574 million from the Cooperative Technology Development program and 118 million from other programs. In turn JRDC has paid researchers (inventors) 150 million from cooperative technology development and 106 million from other programs. Figure 2.2 shows a typical yearly flow chart of activities carried out by the JRDC Technology Transfer Office.


Fig. 2.2. Flowchart of research results (patents) - April 1994 - March 1995 (JRDC).

Research Cooperation Programs

JRDC's research cooperation programs began in 1989 with the introduction of STA fellowships. These provide opportunities for foreign researchers to conduct research at Japan's national laboratories and other organizations. In 1994 there were 235 foreign fellows in Japan. JRDC provides housing and living information for all successful applicants to make it easier for them to come to Japan. One of the panel members, Dr. Jay Lee, has just returned from a six-month STA fellowship and was living in Japan with his family during the time of the JTEC panel visit. Mr. Paul Herer was a fellow in 1989 and also stayed for six months. He worked at JRDC headquarters.

JRDC also has a program to send Japanese researchers to foreign countries. However, this program, the Research Cooperation Promotion program, is much smaller. Only twenty researchers have been sent abroad. Australia has received the largest number - eight. In 1993 JRDC started other programs - postdoctoral fellowships, regional joint research, and researchers' fora - to promote interdisciplinary research efforts. These small grant programs aim at exploring research fields not covered by other, more established programs. In 1994 JRDC started yet another program called Preresearch for New Fields to consolidate this effort further.

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Published: September 1996; WTEC Hyper-Librarian