New Prime Minister and his R&I involved ministries

A new Prime Minster was elected by the ruling party of Japan earlier this month. His priorities match former Prime Minister Abe’s, but he announced some new initiatives. Japan's science and technology budget for this fiscal year has increased by...

A new Prime Minster was elected by the ruling party of Japan earlier this month. His priorities match former Prime Minister Abe’s, but he announced some new initiatives. Japan’s science and technology budget for this fiscal year has increased by 3.3% from the previous year. There are several societal challenges in Japan, and this is evidence that expectations for science and technology are growing as a measure to cope with them. In this blog post, we would like to give an overview on how such science and technology budgets are used in Japan, but since the composition of public organizations related to science and technology budgets is complex in Japan, I will first explain the relevant government ministries and agencies on this post.

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was formed on the 16th of September. At the first press conference after his inauguration, Prime Minister Suga said that his top priority would be to deal with the coronavirus, and that he would seek to foster economic recovery at the same time. The prime minister also vowed to establish a “Digital Agency” to promote the digitalization of government administration, and instructed all cabinet ministers to promote digitalization.

In addition to the problems related implementing digitalization, Japan currently faces a number of other challenges, including a declining population due to a low birthrate and aging population, global environmental and energy issues, and stagnation in industrial competitiveness. Innovations in science and technology are expected to play an important role in solving these challenges. 

Japan’s science and technology related expenditures are implemented by a number of relevant ministries and agencies based on the action plan of the “Council for Science, Technology and Innovation” and the resource allocation policy reflected in the plan.  The S&T budget for the last two years were 3,840.1 billion JPY in FY 2018, 4,237.7 billion JPY in FY 2019, and 4,378.7 billion JPY has been proposed as the budget for the current fiscal year (April 2020 – March 2021), which is 3.3% increase of that of the initial budget of 2019.  Below is the allocation for each of the relevant ministries:

Created by editing 科学技術関係予算令和2年度当初予算案令和元年度補正予算の概要について (the Cabinet Office)

These budgets are distributed to different kind of organizations, and the following chart shows some organizations that the S&T budget is allocated to:

Among the above organization, OSI Tokyo would like to briefly introduce relevant ministries within research and innovation.

The Council for Science, Technology and Innovation is one of the “assembly on important policies” established within the Cabinet Office. Under the leadership of the Prime Minister and the Minister in charge for Science and Technology Policy, the role is to plan and coordinate comprehensive and basic science, technology, and innovation policies from a position higher than that of each ministry. As a forum for the Prime Minister, other Ministers, and intellectuals, it aims to provide an overview of science and technology in Japan as a whole, and to plan and coordinate comprehensive and basic science and technology related policies. The chairman of the meeting is the Prime Minister. The maximum number of members of the Council (excluding the chairman) is 14 and is appointed by the Prime Minister from among relevant Cabinet members, government officials and experts in the private sector.

Its mission is to develop creative human resources with rich humanity centered on the promotion of education and lifelong learning, to promote science, sports, and culture, to promote science and technology in a comprehensive manner, and to conduct administrative affairs related to religion. The Sports Agency and the Agency for Cultural Affairs are established as external bureaus.   In terms of the science and technology policy, Council for Science and Technology Policy is established in the Cabinet Office, and MEXT decides its outline. MEXT is the main research oriented ministry in Japan.

Agencies and organizations under MEXT: JSPS; JST; AMED; RIKEN; NIMS; JAXA

METI is responsible for promoting economic structural reform, industrial policy, trade policy, and the stable supply of resources and energy.  The Agency of Natural Resources and Energy, the Japan Patent Office, and the Small and Medium Enterprise Agency are established as external bureaus. In order to strengthen Japan’s industrial technology capabilities through the creation of innovation, METI fosters the development of an environment that promotes innovation in the private sector and other sectors, while also promoting various initiatives in the country to enhance intellectual resources.

Agencies and organizations: AMED; NEDO; AIST; JAXA

The MHLW is responsible for ensuring and improving the lives of the people, improving and promoting social welfare, social security, and public health to contribute to economic development, improving working conditions and other working environments for workers, securing jobs, and supporting repatriation, and wounded and sick retired soldiers, bereaved families of war victims, and families without returnees.  The MHLW promotes research activities to implement administrative policies based on scientific evidence in the fields of health, medical care, welfare, and labor, that are closely related to people’s lives.

Agency under MHLW (shared): AMED

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is in charge of a wide range of duties, including the management and operation of the basic administrative system, the ensuring of smooth distribution of information by electromagnetic means, the ensuring of fair and efficient utilization of radio waves, the ensuring of proper and secure implementation of postal services, and the resolution of disputes concerning environmental pollution.  The MIC uses monies related to science and technology for the following systems: Strategic Information and Communications R&D Promotion System; Support for Advanced Technology Development for Cultivating New Communications and Broadcasting Businesses; Research Promotion System for Private Sector Basic Technology; Research and Development System for Fire and Disaster Prevention Science and Technology, etc.

Sub organization: JAXA

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is responsible for ensuring the comprehensive and systematic use, development, and preservation of national land, the development of social infrastructure, the promotion of traffic policies, the sound development of meteorological services, and the safety and security of the seas. Its functions include national land planning, national land use, development of social infrastructure, development of comprehensive traffic system, use and expropriation of land, city planning and urban planning projects, development and maintenance of sewerage, rivers, seashore, roads, etc., flood control and irrigation, erosion and torrent control, supply and construction of houses, development of residential environment, development and security of railways, etc., safety of ships, security of aircrafts, development of public office facilities, development of ports and harbors, and meteorological services.

The mission of the MAFF is to ensure a stable supply of food, promote the development of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, enhance the welfare of agriculture, forestry and fisheries workers, promote rural areas and hilly and mountainous regions, etc., fulfill multiple functions of agriculture, promote forest conservation and culture, enhance forest productivity, and appropriately conserve and manage fishery resources. In addition to the agriculture, livestock, forestry and fisheries industries, the ministry is responsible for ensuring the safe and stable supply of food and promoting rural development.

The mission of the Ministry of the Environment is to conserve the global environment, prevent pollution, protect and maintain the natural environment, and otherwise preserve the environment. The tasks under its jurisdiction include planning and drafting policies for global environmental conservation, regulation for pollution prevention, protection and development of natural parks, development of scenic spots, conservation of wild fauna and flora, and conservation of the natural environment. As one of its main missions, the Ministry of the Environment comprehensively promotes environmental administration by taking charge of waste and recycling related to global environmental conservation and the formation of a sustainable society. In addition, the office is responsible for regulations, guidelines, policies, and plans concerning the protection of the ozone layer, prevention of marine pollution, regulation of factory location, development of pollution control facilities, conservation of forests and green areas, regulation of chemical substance applications and manufacturing, management of chemical substances, promotion of resource reuse, conservation of rivers and lakes, and environmental impact assessment.  In some cases, the Minister of the Environment is required to make decisions jointly with the Minister of METI and others, and in other cases, the Minister of the Environment is required to consult with the Minister of MLIT and others when making decisions.  On the other hand, when the affairs under the jurisdiction of other ministries and agencies include the affairs and projects related to environmental conservation, they may be required to make decisions jointly with the Minister of the Environment.

These Japanese ministries have various organizations and agencies related to science, technology and innovation, and each of them have many initiatives, programs and projects. Some of them include cooperation programs with agencies overseas, and as Japan’s science and technology budget increases year by year, such cooperation is expected to increase, as well. In this blog post, we briefly describe Japanese ministries, but will come back later to cover also other organizations in the charts, in a blog series of the Japanese science and technology system.

Shiori Schules and Michael Jacob