Site: Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)
4F, Yamato Building, 5-3-1, Kojimachi
Chiyoda-Ku Tokyo 102-0083, Japan
Date Visited: 15 October 1998
WTEC Attendees: I. Feller, P. Herer
JSPS is a quasi-government agency. It operates under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports, and Culture (Monbusho). Its major activities include international scientific cooperation, such as scientific exchange of researchers and joint seminars with the United States, France, Great Britain, and several other countries, and fellowships for young researchers. JSPS reports a close relationship with the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Cancer Institute in the United States.
One of the objectives of JSPS is to foster collaboration between researchers in private industry and universities. Recent steps taken in Japan in this regard include government support of joint activities between private sector institutions and national universities. At Hokkaido University, for example, the government will lend the private sector land on campus to set up a laboratory at which industrial researchers will conduct cooperative research with the faculty and research staff of the university.
Some private universities are now reported to have established contractual ties with companies. In the past, government relations have limited the ability of national universities to work with industry. It was seen as unfair if national universities were to serve the interests of one or another firm. A compounding factor limiting university-industry collaboration has been the "mentality" of universities that they need to retain their independence in conducting research and not be restricted by industrial priorities. Furthermore, universities and industry have traditionally vied for supremacy between their basic research programs.
Improved cooperation is emerging as the boundaries between basic research and applied research become blurred. In addition, what research universities term basic is in fact becoming more applied, and what industry terms applied is becoming more basic. Thus, the gap between the two is narrowing. Both parties understand that these changes are occurring, and are seeking new opportunities to work together more closely.
In the past national universities were for elites; now they are becoming more open and democratic, which has led them to accept the need to work more closely with industry. Attitudes are changing, and university leaders have come to realize the need to work synergistically with industry for the betterment of society.