Dual-Use Technologies: Establish Cooperative System Among Industry, Government, Academia

Europe, the United States and China are strengthening their defense capabilities by utilizing advanced technologies for both military and civilian purposes. Japan also needs to enhance its international competitiveness through cooperation among industry, government and academia, while at the same time improving its defense capabilities.

The government has decided to reflect in the nation’s security measures the results of research conducted by national research and development agencies that are under ministries and agencies’ jurisdiction. Nine areas of research have been identified as particularly important, including “information security” and “unmanned and automation systems.”

Currently, there are 27 national research and development agencies, including the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), that are conducting research in a variety of fields, such as the maritime, information and communications sectors. The aim is to utilize the knowledge gained by these agencies for the development of defense equipment, in order to efficiently strengthen defense capabilities.

Japan’s annual budget for science and technology amounts to ¥4.8 trillion, but the Defense Ministry’s portion accounts for only slightly less than 5% of that. This cannot be called sufficient.

Advanced technologies can be used for both military and civilian purposes. It is highly important to proceed with the development of such dual-use technologies.

In addition to cooperation among ministries and agencies, the government also intends to increase collaboration with such parties as companies that possess superior technologies and university researchers. In the next fiscal year, the government will establish within the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency (ATLA) a research organization that will support outside researchers, to promote the development of defense equipment.

The government said it would tolerate failure as part of the efforts to acquire innovative technologies. This concept has likely not been seen in the government in the past.

However, the ATLA already has four research institutes: one for each of the three forces of the SDF — the Ground Self-Defense Force, the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Air Self-Defense Force — and the Future Capabilities Development Center, which is responsible for cyber countermeasures.

In addition, there are many research institutes also within other ministries and agencies that handle cutting-edge technologies. If the government sets up a new organization within the ATLA, it should consider reorganizing these institutes across ministries and agencies.

To promote dual-use technologies, it is essential to have the participation of researchers from universities and other entities that are willing to get involved in the development. However, it cannot be said that such an environment is currently in place.

The Science Council of Japan, a representative organization of scientists, has long rejected research for military purposes due to the perception that scientists have contributed to war.

Last year, the council finally compiled its position on dual-use technologies, hinting at the possibility of allowing relevant research, but in a statement released last month the council expressed its reluctance, saying there is a “risk of possible disadvantage to the researcher” if they are involved in such research.

What does “disadvantage to the researcher” mean? If it means that people who participate in the research and development of equipment will be criticized, that is a problem within the academic community. The council should respect researchers’ decisions and enable them to engage in research without hesitation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 1, 2023)