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The Thirty Meter Telescope is one science project that does well in Japan’s new budget request.

The Thirty Meter Telescope is one science project that does well in Japan’s new budget request.

TMT Observatory Corporation

Japan's budget proposals bode well for science

TOKYO—Japan's ministry of education gave the country's researchers something to cheer about today, announcing it was asking for a healthy 18% increase, to $11.1 billion, for science and technology spending in its proposed budget for the next fiscal year.

"At least part of the increase is due to [Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's] administration's support for innovation," says Yoshiaki Ando, an official with the ministry's research promotion bureau.

The requested increase in spending goes virtually across the board. But in line with the innovation mantra, the proposal calls for a 53% increase, to $494 million, for a collection of new and continuing programs intended to help turn laboratory discoveries into new products and industries. 

But there is also support for basic research. The ministry wants $2.4 billion, a 5.8% increase, for grants-in-aid for scientific research, which fund individuals and small groups at universities and research centers. Ando says that the increase covers new schemes to encourage interdisciplinary research and to help young researchers forge ties with researchers around the world. A budget line supporting a number of life science projects, including work on regenerative medicine and brain science, will rise 13.6% to $922 million. 

Particularly notable is increased support for big science facilities. A category covering upgrades to the SPring-8 synchrotron and the Japan Proton Accelerator Research Complex will go up 15.6% to $960 million. Separately, the ministry is asking for $54 million as Japan's contribution for next year to the international Thirty Meter Telescope project, now entering the construction phase on Mauna Kea in Hawaii; $11 million in support for the Kamioka Gravitational wave detector, now under construction in central Japan; and $76 million to continue work on a next-generation information network linking Japan's universities.       

Government-wide S&T spending won't be known until officials gather the requests from the various ministries. Ando says the total is likely to be shaved in coming negotiations with the Ministry of Finance, though "we're going to try to keep these numbers." The budget will be finalized and submitted to the legislature in December and take effect 1 April.