Earlier this year the Japanese Government announced their new ambitious Moonshot Program to promote disruptive innovations and tackle societal challenges. The budget is 100 billion JPY over five years, corresponding roughly to USD 1 billion, or more than 9 billion SEK. The Cabinet Office has set three main challenges or themes for the program; overcoming the aging society and low birthrate, restoring Earth’s environment while cultivating urban civilization, and pioneering new frontiers in science and technology. From the advice of an appointed Visionary Council, 25 candidate goals for the Moonshot Program has now been proposed, as a step in selecting the most promising fields and innovative ideas, where around 5-10 years or later are envisaged to be funded.
The visionary council, which is the advisor panel for the Moonshot Program, have met five times since March in order to decide the direction of the program, with hearings from the industry leaders and 1800 general public ideas, as well as input from the ministries and agencies. The members of the Visionary Council are some of Japan’s most unique professionals from different fields, chaired by Dr. Yoshimitsu Kobayashi who is the former chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), Dr. Hiroaki Kitano of SONY Computer Science Laboratory, and Dr. Youichi Ochiai the media artist. The other members are from the Japan Innovation Network and the World Economic Forum.
The list of the 25 proposed goals are translated to the following:
- Establish cyborg technology by 2050, for supporting disabilities.
- Establish ubiquitous transportation by 2040 that is not limited to public service.
- Making human behaviors and experiences available via avatars by 2040.
- Dramatically improve elderly quality of life by 2035.
- Achieve mainstream preventive care and wellness to improve people’s life by 2040.
- Realize access to medical service wherever you are by 2040.
- Realize automation of agriculture, forestry and fisheries by 2040.
- Full automation of all jobs in building construction by 2040.
- Achieve industry manufacturing with 1/100 of current resource waste/usage and maintain the current standard of living by 2050.
- Decrease energy consumption in ICT to 1/1000 of current usage by 2040.
- Achieve energy independence through sustainable and renewable energy by 2060.
- Achieve total recycling of resources and materials by 2050.
- No food-waste and streamlining of food delivery to people by 2050.
- Eliminate plastic waste from earth by 2050.
- Establish environmentally neutral urban cities with high standard of living by 2050
- Develop agricultural practices that contributes to global bio diversity by 2050
- Establish Tera Forming technologies by 2050, for inhabiting in previously non-inhabitable places.
- Creating AI systems to make scientific discoveries at a Nobel Prize level by 2050.
- Digitalize and create model of biological life by 2050, i.e. for reproduction, diagnostics and pharmaceuticals.
- Establish technologies for artificial hibernation by 2050, to help extend healthy human life spans.
- Develop a complete digital model of the brain, nervous system and connected organs, for modelling and understanding of inter-dependencies.
- Realize a general-purpose quantum computer network by 2050.
- Monitor the oceans and underground comprehensively and accurately by 2050.
- Monitor all celestial networks in the solar system and establish a sample return system from space by 2050.
- Develop high performance and autonomous robotics and satellites for space by 2045.
The Government will narrow down the candidate list to five to ten goals by consulting with experts. It will approve the final list at a meeting of the Council for Science, Technology and Innovation, chaired by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as early as late this year.
The program will then be implemented by the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), who later will set up calls for proposals for the actual projects. By using a stage gate process, the Government plans to support projects for up to ten years if the projects are considered successful and expected to create impact for the society.
The calls for proposals of innovative ideas will be open to broader target groups than normal R&D programs, including foreign researchers, as well as other acting groups. An aim for the implementation of the Moonshot Program is to assign younger researchers as project managers, and possibilities for new initiatives depending on external progress and overseas trends.
An objective for the Moonshot Program is to also deliver solutions to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, for which international collaboration is vital. There is an ambition from the EU Commission and the Japanese Government to explore collaboration between the Moonshot Program and the forthcoming EU Framework Program for Research and Innovation, Horizon Europe, which will contain the introduction of Missions, partly overlapping with the proposed Moonshot goals. Such cooperation of mutual interest is in line with the recently signed EU-Japan Strategic Partnership Agreement.
The Japanese Government expects to promote diversity, women, younger talents and researchers with the Moonshot Program. There will be good opportunities for Swedish actors to join forces with Japanese, to tackle joint societal challenges through international collaboration in research and innovation, and to bring forward disruptive innovations that make the world better.