Is the world flat? Globalizing Japan's innovation system


Atsushi Sunami, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, Tokyo

Professor Sunami will be discussing the development of R&D strategies for major Japanese corporations, in an Asian context. Japan is still very behind in terms of globalization of R&D and incorporating the dynamics of Asia into Japanese R&D activities. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had put together a plan called “Innovation 25,” which is a road map for Japanese innovation looking toward the year 2025. The tone of the current Japanese cabinet’s policy toward innovation is
“opening up.”

The Japanese economy is just coming out of a 15-year recession. Industrial sectors have gradually started investing in R&D activities. However, Japan’s overseas R&D share is still quite low. Most Japanese R&D is still conducted in Japan. The only regions in which R&D activities are greatly increasing are in Asia. Many Japanese firms are moving into China, which is understandable given the recent expansion of the Chinese economy. However, not many Japanese firms have set up subsidiaries in India, in contrast to US and some European companies. The few Japanese firms in India are concentrated in the auto industry rather than services.

Japan does not engage in very much outsourcing or hiring of foreign engineers. The demand for IT engineers is, of course, increasing. Most of the in-flow of highly-skilled labor comes from China, and Chinese students dominate those foreign students studying in Japan who subsequently stay and work for Japanese companies.
However, despite the fact that many of those students acquire technology related degrees, the majority of them work in back office support, doing translation and so forth. Almost half are employed by small and medium-sized firms. So although there are many foreign students now studying in Japan, they are not part of the Japanese R&D.


About the speaker
Atsushi Sunami is Associate Professor and Director of the Science & Technology Policy Program, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS), Deputy-Director, China Research Center, Japan Science and Technology Agency. He holds BSFS from Georgetown University. He obtained MIA and PhD in Political Science from Columbia University. From 2001 to 2003, he was a Fellow at Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry established by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Japan. He also worked as a researcher in the Department of Policy Research at Nomura Research Institute, Ltd. from 1989 to 1991. He was a visiting researcher at Research Center for Advanced Economic Engineering, University of Tokyo, Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex, and Tsinghua University, China. His research has concentrated on a comparative analysis of national innovation systems with particular focus on China and India, and an evolutionary approach in science and technology policy-making process. He is currently working on a book called “Era of Open Innovation and China” (in Japanese, NTT Publishing) forthcoming in 2008.

Venue: Conference room, 4th floor, Keizer Karelplein 19

Date: 18 March 2008

Time: 16:00 - 17:00


UNU-MERIT