Government to expand research subsidy program

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry building

The government will expand a research subsidy program from next fiscal year to promote joint international research, offering a new grant of up to ¥500 million per project, a tenfold increase compared to existing subsidies.

Looking ahead to the containment of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry wants to encourage Japanese researchers to participate in world-leading joint research under the Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research program.

Teams seeking the new grant will be required to include young researchers so that the program helps to develop talented personnel.

The program, which offers subsidies for a wide range of research including natural science, social science and the humanities, will be expanded to further promote cutting-edge research.

A new grant of up to ¥500 million over a period of up to seven years per project will be offered, with the option to extend the period to a maximum of 10 years. The aim is to secure large-scale, long-term research funds to compete with overseas research teams.

Teams with 20-40 members led by researchers who have a strong research track record and an international network will be eligible to apply. In order to foster young researchers, about 80% of the team must be postdoctoral researchers or doctoral students.

The ministry anticipates about 15 projects a year will be eligible for the grant.

The related budget will be included in the supplementary budget for this fiscal year, which the government aims to be approved this year.

According to the science ministry, the pandemic has stalled overseas research placements, but the situation is expected to improve due to global vaccination campaigns.

The ministry has decided that it is necessary to enhance the subsidy program so that young researchers can be dispatched for as long as two to three years. It has been said that Japan is losing its international standing in terms of research. The government hopes the expanded program will increase the presence of Japanese researchers overseas.

The program currently includes subsidies for small groups conducting pioneering research and researchers who have held their doctoral degrees for less than eight years, among others. In addition, Japanese researchers who return from abroad to conduct research in Japan are eligible for subsidies of up to ¥50 million.

Researchers who apply for subsidies under the program will be required to report the source of all their funding, including funds from overseas, to increase transparency and prevent the outflow of advanced technology.

Researchers who receive foreign funds will be eligible to apply for the program, but if they falsify their reports, they risk having their applications rejected or their funding canceled.