Topic

Innovations Made in Japan

Japan is an important partner for Germany in the sciences, as Angela Merkel’s meeting with Japanese researchers in Tokyo in mid-March demonstrates. The GIGA also maintains a research platform there.

Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit Japan on 9 and 10 March 2015. The sciences and innovation are part of her agenda. She will be a guest at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan) in Tokyo – the home of robot Asimo – and will take part in discussions with the Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (CSTI), an advisory body with representatives from academia and industry that reports directly to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The GIGA has also maintained close ties with academic partners in Japan for several years. In October 2014 it also established a research platform there in order to strengthen its interaction with the academic community in Japan and the region. Dr. Iris Wieczorek is currently representing the institute on site. Wieczorek is an expert on academic policy and innovation processes in Japan in international comparison. She wrote a contribution entitled "Academics and Research: Is Japan the Most Innovation-Friendly Country Worldwide?" for the German Federal Agency for Civic Education’s (Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung) current country report on Japan.

Japan is among the leading science and technology nations in the global innovation race. The 2012 Nobel Prize in Medicine and last year’s Nobel Prize in Physics were awarded to Japanese scientists.

Nevertheless, the country has demonstrated increased weakness in its scientific achievements in recent decades, as several national studies have shown. The country is having difficulty attracting international talent, and the current generation of young scientists appears not to be very mobile. The country is thus in danger of isolating itself from the global scientific market; reforms have been restricted too heavily for many years due to the rigid political system and the political economy.

A new awareness of the crisis has come about as a result, and the negative trend is to be countered with ambitious political measures. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe views science and innovation as the basis for the country’s economic upswing. Given the strong political commitment regarding the sciences, technology, and innovation and given the quality of the research infrastructure, Japan has the potential to continue to play an important role in the worldwide race to innovate. Merkel’s visit to the Miraikan is certainly an important signal pointing in this direction.

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