Examining National Funding Programs for Science and Technology in Regional Areas in Japan

Sunday, 15 February 2015
Exhibit Hall (San Jose Convention Center)
Haruhiko Maenami, Tottori University, Tottori, Japan
The Japanese government has been running various funding programmes to promote scientific and technological progress in regional areas. Two of the main fields of regional science and technology supported by such national funding programmes include industry-academia collaboration and science and technology communication (STC). Yet, there has been an increasing awareness that national funding programmes to support regional practice of industry-academia collaboration and STC do not necessarily meet the needs emerging from the actual local practice. The aim of this research, hence, is to empirically explore issues of the government’s funding schemes to promote local industry-academia collaboration and STC for regional scientific and technological development at the level of local practice. We took a case study approach to examine two national funding programmes run by the Japan Science and Technology Agency. One of those programmes examined had a focus on industry-academia collaboration by Small and Medium Enterprises and was titled Rapid Response for Local Needs programme. This study estimated the regional differences in the support programme usage (numbers of applications) and their causes. The subjects considered for analysis this time were the total 878 cases submitted in FY2008. As a result, positive correlation was observed between the selected variables and the number of Rapid Response for Local Needs programme applications. In addition, three variables were obtained from the multiple regression analysis. These results suggested that the regional industry-academia collaboration support system will not be utilized adequately when it is a single system, and that the regional support resources are playing an important role in promoting usage. The other programme we examined was titled the Supporting Local Networks programme, whose main purpose was to promote community-based collaboration of local STC practitioners for more effective and sustainable practice of STC. Based on qualitative interviews with 43 local practitioners at eight communities geographically scattered across Japan, it was revealed that while the funding programme had brought a range of advantages to increase the quality and efficiency of local STC practice, the programme had required extra efforts from local practitioners for its own operation and continuation.  Findings from our two case studies point to the need for us to critically appraise values and meanings of national funding programmes for promoting regional industry-academia collaboration and STC practice.