Japan to Boost Financial Aid for Young Researchers to Revitalize Japan’s Global Standing in Technology Research

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

With the aim of boosting Japan’s slumping research capabilities, the education ministry is planning to launch financial support for groups of young researchers engaged in international collaborative research in advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence and medicine. The support from the ministry will include travel expenses from Japan and costs for organizing research conferences. The ministry hopes the initiative will enhance Japan’s research capabilities by facilitating interactions with leading researchers abroad, thus achieving results in promising collaborative research.

Japanese researchers often have limited discretionary funds and struggle to secure the necessary funds to attend international conferences due to cuts in operational subsidies to national universities. Many laboratories prioritize spending on equipment and personnel over such expenses.

Under the new system, support will be provided for projects led by young researchers in collaboration with bodies such as in the United States, European countries and Australia. Joint projects with China and Russia will be excluded for reasons of economic security.

The financial aid will specifically cover travel and accommodation expenses, venue costs for research retreats and honoraria for foreign researchers invited to Japan. The support targets teams conducting cutting-edge research in eight fields, including AI, energy, semiconductors and medicine. The Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) and the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED) have already selected 52 teams that will receive the financial support.

Among them are an Osaka University team involved in research on next-generation semiconductors in collaboration with the United States, and a team from the University of Tokyo conducting research on information technology that integrates AI with telecommunications, in cooperation with Finland.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry will provide full-fledged support starting in fiscal 2024, utilizing a fund of ¥50.1 billion established in fiscal 2022. Up to ¥500 million will be allocated per team over five years, with a total of up to ¥16.6 billion being subsidized by fiscal 2028. Over 70% of the funding provided by the JST and over 50% of that from the AMED will be used for networking and building connections among researchers. The initiative aims to foster a virtuous cycle of participation in promising international joint research projects and producing excellent results.

According to statistics released last year by the ministry’s National Institute of Science and Technology Policy, Japan’s international standing has declined, as evidenced by the country achieving its lowest-ever rank of 13th in significant research papers that fall within the top 10% of citations. A decrease in international joint research, due to travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic and economic reasons, has also made young researchers less inclined to study abroad, contributing further to this slump.

“The new support should serve as an opportunity for Japanese researchers to join the international intellectual network and enhance their research capabilities,” JST President Kazuhito Hashimoto said.