This WTEC study was timed to coincide roughly with a number of important events in the field of superconductivity. Perhaps most significant was the tenth-year anniversary of the discovery in 1986-87 of the high temperature superconducting (HTS) oxide materials. This implied that a number of 10-year research projects in HTS in Japan, which began in 1988, would soon reach the end of their funding. The most notable of these, in size and international impact, is the International Superconductivity Technology Center (ISTEC). The panelists hoped that during our visit to Japan we would be able to determine the future plans for these large programs. In hindsight, the timing was close to perfect, in that the funding of a number of programs was being decided at the time of the panel's visit in January 1997.
In addition to collaborative projects in HTS materials and devices, Japan has had a number of other superconductivity projects that have ended since the 1989 JTEC report on superconductivity. Since then, the low temperature superconductor (LTS) Josephson Computer Project ended its 10 years of funding, and the 6-year Superconducting Sensor Laboratory (SSL) began and completed its program (1990-96).
Another event that made this panel's 1997 visits timely was the introduction in Japan of the Science and Technology Basic Law, which became effective in November 1995. (Table 1.1 presents an outline of the basic principles of this law.) This law is not a funding vehicle in itself, but rather is a set of guidelines and recommendations promulgated at the highest government levels to increase Japan's investment in science and technology. It was of great interest to this panel to try to discern in which directions, and in which institutions, this law was having an impact in early 1997.
In hindsight, a number of events made our visit particularly timely. We will not claim that we anticipated all these events!
Guidelines for S&T Promotion
Development of researchers' creativity
Harmonious development of basic, applied, and developmental research
Promotion of S&T in harmony with human life, society, and nature
|Responsibilities of [both] national and local governments in promoting S&T|
Formulation of S&T Basic Plan by the government through consulting the Council for Science and Technology, in
order to promote S&T policies comprehensively and systematically
Taking necessary measures to secure necessary funds for implementation of the Basic Plan
Measures taken by the nation
Balanced promotion of diversified R&D
Securing and training [of] researchers and technicians
Improvement of research facilities
Promotion of information-intensive research
Promotion of R&D exchanges