In 1981 JRDC established the ERATO system in which promising research themes and well-established senior researchers heading these projects were first identified. (It should be noted that since 1986, ERATO has shifted from the selection of well-established senior researchers as heads to the selection of emerging young researchers who may become well-established as the result of their ERATO projects.) The senior researchers were then asked to form research teams to explore several innovative ideas under these specific research themes. In an ERATO project, the project director has complete freedom to choose his group through one-on-one interviews with promising individual researchers who are willing to work on his project. ERATO is a team-based research activity to explore creative ideas. It has been a resounding success in terms of generating new information and training a new breed of young research leaders. Yet JRDC officials noted that it is not suitable for nurturing individual, independent-minded researchers who like to pursue their own ideas by themselves and who may not fit into a group-oriented research environment like ERATO's.
In l991 JRDC initiated a new program for individual researchers called "Kojin Kenkyu-Sakigake 21" which is known as PRESTO in English, although it is not the direct translation, to promote pioneering and embryonic research for the 21st century. The most conspicuous difference between ERATO and PRESTO is their structures. While an ERATO project is conducted in groups headed by a group leader under the general supervision of the project director usually at the same site, PRESTO researchers work alone, independently, at a place of their choice.
Unlike ERATO, PRESTO is not a program to train young researchers. Instead, it is used as a haven for professional postdoctors and for ERATO graduates to continue their research.