Intent of research
For about the past 30 years, the Japanese government has introduced many policies in order to further promote science and technologies, such as technology transfers and intellectual property systems, which have been developed mainly in the United States. This has been linked to the trend of a revival of United States model of higher education policies since the 1990s. Nevertheless, will such policies lead to the vitalization of Japan’s research universities and the strengthening of international competitiveness in the area of Japanese scientific and technological innovation?
As for major factors behind these poor conditions, firstly, science and technology policies seem to have been premised on the existing scientific community, which has been focused on catch-up type policies following World War II. Secondly, it appears that on both the researcher side and research university side, there has been a failure to accurately understand the divergence between the traditional ideals of academia and the desired direction of the government (and taxpayers), and a lack of awareness and effort with regard to harmonizing these. In Japan, academia, which is the receiver of financial support, is decisively lacking the organizational power to appropriately understand the policies of the government, and to tie this to actual scientific and technological creation.
Nevertheless, even though a change in thinking may be needed for the academic community, it is not right to only call upon individual scientists and researchers to address the inconsistencies up to now. What is important is “knowledge management” reforms for the research organizations themselves. This would involve linking together many actors such as scientists who have diverse research intentions, systems inside organizations, and organizations outside of universities, and having this lead to innovations with high levels of feasibility. These types of university management capabilities started to become well known among academia in the United States in the 1980s. With the arrival of a full-fledged knowledge-based society and the deepening of the relationship between industry and universities in areas such as ICT and biotechnology, universities in the United States have reformed academic systems based on their own efforts.
There are three points related to problem consciousness in the context of the promotion of this project. Firstly, in Japan, the perspective of integrating higher education policies and scientific and technological policies has been weak, so—as a policy—a system for supporting contributions to scientific and technological innovations by research universities has not been established. Secondly, in terms of both higher education policies and central players at research universities, there is a lack of recognition that the science and technologies created by research universities are closely related to national growth strategies and security. Furthermore, it seems that perhaps the national government’s policies that have financially supported higher education have been lacking in an approach of recognizing research universities as “independent actors.” A viewpoint in which research universities are seen as actors in society, and the outcomes that each of them have delivered based on independent management and governance are seen as leading the way toward public good for research universities as a whole, seems to be missing from Japan’s higher education policy.
The “meta system” foundation for connecting the research seeds produced by research universities and academic research institutions with innovation based on cooperation with various actors inside of organizations and external institutions, is decisively weak in Japan’s higher education. The objective of this project is to empirically clarify what type of management is needed to create this type of system, and to propose policies in order to enable the implementation of this type of system at research universities in Japan.
Professor, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies