M.C. Roco


Government organizations and very large corporations are the main source of funding for nanotechnology research and development in Japan. Small and medium-size companies play a minor role. All large Japanese corporations devote a significant portion (generally ~ 10% in the electronics industry) of their income to R&D. Japanese corporate research tends to be product-oriented, but there is also a well-established culture within the corporate and scientific community of planning for the next generation of technological innovation. As evident in the foregoing site reports, nanotechnology R&D is decidedly a part of the present and future planning of both government and industry labs, and funds are allocated accordingly.

Government funding for nanotechnology research should be viewed in the context of the overall increase of public support for basic research since 1995 as a result of passage of Japan's Science and Technology Basic Law No. 130 (effective November 15, 1995). The law proposes to allocate approximately 17 trillion (~$148 billion) for basic research to Japanese universities, industry, and national laboratories from 1996 to 2000. The main recipients of the 1996 government budget for science and technology ($23.3 billion/year) were the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports, and Culture (known as Monbusho), which received 46.5% of the S&T budget; the Science and Technology Agency (STA), which received 25.9%; and the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), which received 11.9%. In 1997 the university system received $935 million from Monbusho as "grants-in-aid" for research, and $239 million from other ministries, however, it appears that the ministry with the largest allocation of funds specifically earmarked for nanotechnology R&D is MITI.

The information on funding presented here are based on interviews with Japanese colleagues during the WTEC panel's visit in July 1997, using the nanotechnology definition adopted by this study. All budgets are for the fiscal year 1996 (April 1, 1996 to March 31, 1997) and are approximate. In many institutions it was difficult to separate the exact contribution of research related to nanostructured science and technology, and for those institutions, only the total budget, as available, is given.


MITI / AIST (Agency of Industrial Science and Technology)
Total budget, $2.75 billion/year; nanotechnology budget from all sources below, ~$60 million/year

National Institute for Advancement of Interdisciplinary Research (NAIR), Tsukuba City

Electrotechnical Laboratory, Tsukuba City

Osaka National Research Institute, Osaka

National Industrial Research Institute of Nagoya (NIRIN), Nagoya

MITI's Quantum Functional Devices (QFD) Program

Science and Technology Agency (STA)
Total budget, $6 billion/year; estimated nanotechnology portion was ~ $35 million/year in FY 1996

Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN), Wako City

National Research Institute for Metals (NRIM), Tsukuba City

National Institute for Research in Inorganic Materials (NIRIM), Tsukuba City

Japan Science and Technology Corporation (JSTC)

Ministry of Science, Education, Sports, and Culture (Monbusho)
Total budget, $10.8 billion/year

Nanotechnology programs are supported at universities and national institutes, as well as via the Japan Society for Promotion of Science (total resource allocation unknown).

Tokyo University, Tokyo

Kyoto University, Kyoto (H. Shingu)

Tokyo Institute of Technology, Yokohama (M. Aizawa)

Tohoku University, Institute of Materials Science, Sendai

Nagoya University, Nagoya

Osaka University, Osaka, K. Niihara's lab

Institute of Molecular Science, Okazaki (M. Fujita)

Exploratory Research on Novel Artificial Materials and Substances for Next Generation Industries


Hitachi Central R&D Lab., Tokyo (T. Ikeda)

Annual sales Hitachi are about $70 billion/year; R&D spending as percent of total sales is on the order of 10%. There are seven corporate laboratories with 3,000 personnel. Nanotechnology takes a significant percentage of precompetitive research at Hitachi, perhaps as much as $280 million per year.

NEC Fundamental Research Laboratories, Tsukuba (J. Sone)

Annual sales are about $40 billion/year; R&D is 10% of total sales; Precompetitive research (Central group) spends about 1% (or $30 million per year); Nanotechnology-related precompetitive research is 50% of that (or $15 million/year); it also receives partial support from government (for example, 20% of funding for devices)

Toshiba Research Center

Annual sales are $52 billion/year; R&D expenditures as a percentage of total sales are comparable to other Japanese corporations; nanotechnology-related precompetitive research is about $20 million/year.

Nihon Shinku Gijutsu (ULVAC)

Vacuum Metallurgical Co., part of a conglomerate of 35 companies, had at the time of the WTEC visit ~$4 million in particles sales per year for electronics, optics, and arts; it planned to expand that investment to ~ $10 million/year within three years. A major focus of ULVAC is marketing.

Other companies with large nanotechnology research programs are NTT, Fujitsu, Sony, and Fuji Photo Film Co.


Strengthening of Japan's nanotechnology research infrastructure in the past several years has been fueled by both the overall increase of government funding for basic research and by larger numbers of academic and industry researchers choosing nanostructured science/technology as their primary field of research. The main drivers are technological innovation and potential industrial applications, with several exceptions where the driver is scientific curiosity. A system approach has been adopted in most laboratory projects, including multiple characterization methods and processing techniques for the same objective. The university-industry interaction is stimulated by new MITI projects awarded to universities in recent years that encourage use of research personnel from industry. Issues that are being addressed already are more extensive use of peer review, promotion of personnel mobility and intellectual independence, rewarding researchers for patents, promotion of interdisciplinary and international interactions, and better use of the physical infrastructure. The three major government organizations (MITI, STA, and Monbusho) allocated an estimated total of $120 million for nanotechnology in fiscal year 1996.

Published: September 1999; WTEC Hyper-Librarian