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Economy

Japan to step up funding of practical research

TOKYO -- With scientists from Japan receiving the Nobel Prize in physics for developing blue LEDs, the government intends to divert more money toward research that leads to products, including assistance to small and midsize businesses.

     Blue LEDs are now widely used in lighting and electronic devices, and their contribution to energy conservation and society in general has been recognized around the world. This has led to an effort to address Japan's weakness in turning its basic technologies into actual products and production techniques.

     Specifically, the government will revamp financing priorities at the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), which provides roughly 140 billion yen ($1.2 billion) a year to support technological development. It will ask researchers from the private sector and others to submit research subjects, and these will be analyzed to see what industries could develop from those technologies. NEDO will boost financing of research that has the potential for commercialization.

     NEDO, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, will step up support of startups that have technologies but lack funds. Development of new technologies in such high-tech fields as electronics and chemicals is said to cost 10 billion yen to 20 billion yen. NEDO aims to provide about 30% of its budget to small and midsize businesses within a few years, up from less than 10%.

     The ministry believes that there are untapped innovative technologies at small and midsize companies, given that Nobel laureate Shuji Nakamura was an employee of Nichia, a midsize business in Tokushima Prefecture, when he commercialized blue LEDs.

     Furthermore, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) will promote joint research between universities and corporations in addition to personnel exchanges starting as early as next fiscal year. It will also start receiving skilled doctoral students, possibly several dozen a year, and pay them to conduct research that leads to the commercialization of technologies.

     Currently, Toshiba is using AIST's technologies to try to commercialize a new type of memory that can sharply reduce the power consumed by personal computers.

(Nikkei)

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