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Japan's Stimulus Propels Science Spending to New Heights

TOKYO—The economic stimulus the Japanese government announced last week includes $11 billion for science and technology according to a preliminary analysis released by the Cabinet office yesterday. Combined with previously planned spending, total national and local government support for science for the fiscal year through March will reach $57 billion—a new record. Much of the new money will go to applied research.

The stimulus package includes $958 million to upgrade research infrastructure, $107 million for disaster prevention and mitigation studies, $359 million to promote innovative medical treatments and pharmaceuticals (including $238 million for research on induced pluripotent stem cells and other regenerative therapies), and $437 million for next-generation energy technologies. Another $666 million will go to Earth, marine, and polar observation programs.

The largest science-related line item in the package is $2 billion to promote university-industry collaboration. Though details are still being worked out, some of the spending will aim to equip universities for industrially relevant research, and some will support R&D, according to a spokesperson for the Japan Science and Technology Agency, which will disburse part of the funding. "Even though Japan is strong in basic research and funding is increasing, I think it's true that there is little connection to industry," says Kazuhito Hashimoto, a physical chemist at the University of Tokyo who helped take a self-cleaning photocatalytic material from lab discovery to commercial use in cladding products. He hopes to use his position on a new Industrial Competitiveness Council to boost ties between universities and industry. "Of course to guarantee long-term growth, there must be investment in basic research and human capital," adds Reiko Aoki, an economist at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo who serves on the Cabinet's Council for Science and Technology Policy. She expects those areas to get more attention in the regular budget for the next fiscal year.