Site: Ministry of International Trade and Industry
Tokyo 100, Japan
Date Visited: November 14, 1994
Report Author: F. Leonberger
F. Leonberger, and both the A and B Teams, except for G. Saxonhouse
MITI has been and continues to be the principal government funding agency for optoelectronics in Japan. MITI has funded a small number of large multiyear programs that have fixed lifetimes for technology advancement and has ongoing licensing and other intellectual property activities. The two most recent programs are the optical portion of the Real World Computing Program (FY 1992 - 2001) and the Optoelectronics Technology Research Corporation (FY 1986 - 1995). The former program will incorporate the new United States/Japan Joint Optoelectronics Program (JOP). MITI is also a sponsor of OITDA, and as such is involved in technology and business data compilation and forecasting.
T. Saeki described the previous MITI optoelectronics programs and the one in the planning stage, the Femtosecond Technology Program. He also discussed a number of intellectual property issues related to the programs. The Femtosecond Technology Program may possibly be as large as 20 billion yen(~$200 million) over 10 years. Its content is still being specified, but it will be at least partially oriented towards applications and communications (terabits). It will not focus exclusively on laser tools and technology or high-speed scientific studies (as the program name might imply). A number of non-MITI personnel are involved in planning the program, including Japanese university experts. It is envisioned that the program will involve a limited number of Japanese companies (about 10), foreign companies, and universities.
With respect to intellectual property (IP), the major programs are each handled differently. The basic concept is that an entity is formed (e.g., the Optoelectronics Technology Research Co.) that is funded by both the government and private companies (through their investment in the program). All IP developed by the program becomes the property of the entity, and outside companies as well as corporate program members can license the IP. The IP royalties are divided amongst the founders of the entity. Typically one-half to two-thirds goes to MITI and the balance goes to the corporate funders. The Optoelectronics Technology Research Co. program has resulted in 200 patent applications, only 2 of which have also been filed outside Japan.
Overall government funding of optoelectronics in Japan is provided by MITI and several other agencies. The Ministry of Education funds only the universities. The Ministry of Post and Telecommunications (MPT) used to fund NTT prior to that company's privatization, but now only funds the MPT government labs. The Ministry of Science and Technology funds a small amount of work through its space and energy programs.
It is interesting to note that the Japanese government has not significantly supported work in two major optoelectronic areas: displays and optical data storage. In displays, the JTEC team was told the activity was driven by Sharp to develop the electronic calculator market. MITI believes this history is consistent with its policy to only support precompetitive R&D and not to fund commercial product development.
K. Kaji summarized the OITDA forecasts for optoelectronics. For optoelectronic equipment, the forecasted sales numbers are 6.9 trillion yen(~$69 billion) in 1995 and 11.9 trillion yen(~$119 billion) in 2000. For optoelectronic components, the corresponding-year numbers are 1.4 trillion yen and 3.2 trillion yen(~$14 billion and ~$32 billion). These forecasts for the out years were done four years prior to the JTEC panel's visit and were scheduled to be updated in 1995 (i.e., OITDA updates forecasts every 5 years). The actual reported industry performance has been considerably below the early 1990s' forecast. The major sales areas continue to be displays, data storage, and telecommunication equipment.
The JTEC panel's visit to MITI represented the formal start of the JTEC panel visits. The panel members met MITI officials and learned about the government's role in developing optoelectronic technology. MITI is looking to the future of optoelectronics and envisions more international collaboration, as evidenced by the JOP program and the planned femtosecond program.