Since we entered the 21st century, the distance between science and society has rapidly shrunk. Not only is science, and technology as well, expected to produce new innovation, but it also has the significant role of solving global issues created by science itself. Nanotechnology is attracting attention as one of the bases of “is-sue-solving type” science and technology which can promptly meet such “social wishes”. This report describes the results of the entire overview of the nanotech-nology/materials field including national R&D projects, relevant investment strat-egy, research potential, technological evolution and commercialization trends of each country in the world. The future issues of Japan are also referred to in this report based on such results.
Nanotechnology is a cutting-edge field of science and technology dealing with the microscopic world of the atomic and molecule scale in physics, chemistry and biol-ogy, which is inseparable from the field of materials science and engineering. Presently dozens of countries in Europe, America and Asia are all allocating na-tional budgets to prioritize nanotechnology as their intensive strategic measures. The reason for this is, not only is nanotechnology itself the state of the art in sci-ence and technology, but it is also an evolving technical field which accelerates the fusion of various fields. The fusion is the source of competitive power and en-hancing the integration of nanotechnology towards creating new industry. In this report, the development of nanotechnology itself through the interdisciplinary and engineering fusion is defined as “Systems-Nano I”, while the process evolving into innovation by involving existing technologies will be defined as “Systems-Nano II”. Especially in the latter case, fusion and technology convergence of nanotechnology jumps out of the “foxhole” with existing technologies will take the leading role.
The consistent concept behind this report is “Systems Nano”. Japan has pre-dominated in nanotechnology by making multi-layered progress for the past ten years with the “Progress Nano” and “Fusion Nano” of which are preliminary steps before “Systems Nano” was desired. Now that we have accumulated vast results and knowledge in the nanotechnology area, the time is ripe for “Systems Nano” and it is necessary to design technologies meeting “social wishes”. Based on expert discussion in addition to the knowledge accumulated by the Center for Research and Developmental Strategy (CRDS), 30 areas were selected as fields which we should pay close and constant attention for at least the next ten years. These areas have been organized into green nanotechnology, bio-nanotechnology and nano-electronics from the “Systems Nano” viewpoint, and summarized in the form of overview charts. From overviewing these areas with such viewpoints, the three areas of nanotechnology matches well the three goals of “Green Innovation”, “Life Innovation” and “Reconstruction/Recovery” mentioned in the 4th Science and Technology Basic Plan for the five years of FY2011-2015. In order to support the “Systems Nano”, the necessity for the following measures are described, i.e., the construction of common user facilities and bases for the fusion and streamlining, the establishment of a funding system and framework to provide incentives for the coordination and fusion, measures to develop human resources to support the fu-ture nanotechnology industry, and construction of frameworks corresponding to the issues of environment, health and safety (EHS) and standardization.
In order to proceed with the needs-driven R & D sought in the previously men-tioned “Systems-Nano II”, it is necessary to unfold “social wishes” into requested functions in terms of science and technology and then design structures and mate-rials meeting the requested functions under various constraints. In other words, the enhancement of a “design based” R & D is the key of future science and tech-nology policy. It is also important to improve skills for design while responding actually to “social wishes”. On the other hand, the further upgrading of science and technology itself remain crucial. Thus, needless to say, the “analysis based” R & D, which originates from the ideas of the scientific community, is also indis-pensable. However, in order to shorten the time span reaching innovation, empha-sis should be placed more on the “design based” R & D. Actually, many clues and possibilities of “design based” R & D have been found when analyzing the present state of the 30 prioritized areas extracted from the overview.
As the basis of the previously described assertion, the results of the analyses of present state including international comparisons are outlined below in the order of green nanotechnology, bio-nanotechnology and nano-electronics.
Green nanotechnology is drawing a lot of attention worldwide, and each country is vigorously engaged in this technology from basic research to industrialization. On the whole, Japan has taken the lead in every stage from the basic research to industrialization in this area, neck and neck with Europe and America. However, in today’s drastic advancement of globalization, the speed of business excels the speed of science and technology by far. For example, from the delay in decision making, Japan lost its leading position in the share of solar batteries and secondary (rechargeable) batteries to China and Korea, which countries are also rapidly catching up Japan in the basic and applied research and development areas. In order to overcome such situations, Japan needs to create a positive cycle with business and R & D, for example, to quickly realize the practical application of a competitive product such as a secondary battery of the next generation that has ten times the present capacity costing only one tenth of the conventional product. This can be taken as a warning to the basic research areas such as artificial pho-tosynthesis, power semiconductor devices, green process catalysts, etc., where Ja-pan has been staying ahead of other countries. Even if Japan takes a lead in the basic research stage, it is easily outrun in the systemization and industrialization process if it lags behind in implementing supportive measures such as large-scale industry-academia collaboration projects, establishing R & D hubs, and developing abundant human resources. In the international comparisons carried out in the report, Japan’s delay in the construction of R & D hubs compared to the rapid pro-gress of Europe, USA and China has been indicated, which is a matter of concern. On the other hand, there are areas in which Japan maintains overwhelming pre-dominance such as the inter-ministry collaborative program of the “Elements Strategy / Alternative Technology for rare earth elements”, from basic research to industrialization. Regarding this technology, U.S DOE has initiated a center of excellence and Germany is proceeding with its active utilization of computational science, while China and Korea are trying hard to catch up. Nevertheless, there are on-going large-scale projects in Japan, and research is making solid progress under the collaboration of theory, materials development and characterization.
In the basic and applied R & D of bio-nanotechnology, Japan, Europe and USA are competing neck to neck. In the nano drug delivery system (Nano DDS) and bio imaging, Japan is proceeding with unique and competitive R & Ds. On the other hand, in industrialization, Japan’s competitiveness is weak, in applications of biomaterials with large market size and as a result, there is a tendency in further lowering the applied research development capability. The delay in enacting necessary legislations and immatured venture companies are the back ground be-hind the weak competitiveness. China and Korea fall short of the general levels of Europe, USA and Japan in the basic and applied research and development, but are rapidly gaining strength in limited areas taking advantage of public support. Korea’s bio-nanodevices using the technologies in their competitive semiconductor devices is about to surpass Japan in the industrialization of this field.
In the field of nano-electronics, Japan maintains generally high technical levels, but considering the global progress in the consolidation of R & D facilities and al-liance in a global scale in the semiconductor area, we cannot be too optimistic about the future. Especially regarding the area of ultra-low power logic and memory, which is the main battlefield, Japan is already lagging behind Europe and the USA from the R & D stage, but now must face Korea and China quickly catching up. This is mainly caused by the decline in Japan’s competitiveness in the semiconductor industry. In order to overcome this situation, Japan needs to drastically revise the academic-industrial collaboration system and develop and secure human resources from a mid-and-long term perspective as a basic remedy. As for the core technology of “More than Moore”, such as the 3D integration chip for heterogeneous advanced devices and sensing device and systems, Japan’s basic research level is high from a global standard, and several large-scale projects are under way. The problem also lies in the future practical application, where Japan should recognize its weakness in the development of its higher layer as represented by the design of the crucial circuits and systems.
The similar could be said for the processing technology, measuring technology and computational technology etc, which form the common base of nanotechnology and materials technology, where Japan’s level of basic research is high from a global standard, yet it allows Europe and the USA to lead when industrialized. There are some cases in which Japan commercialized products ahead of Europe and USA, such as for the high resolution sophisticated atomic force microscope. However, it is needed to seriously accept the fact that many of the measurement devices and simulation software in the laboratory are foreign products. It is also indicated that while the European researchers tend to take a long time to create and develop measuring technology, Japanese researchers tend to remain in basic research, in which scientific papers are easier to be compiled for publication.
The total amount invested in the nanotechnology field on a global scale including both public and private sectors exceeds 1.5 trillion yen as of 2010 (according to a survey by NSF). Various predictions have been announced on the market size for nanotechnology in 2015, which fall within the range of 85 trillion to 270 trillion yen. In this regard, this report describes in detail the transition and future plans of the various approaches conducted around the world on nanotechnology, thus showing the future issues of Japan. The essential points are shown below.
(1) In 2001, USA, Japan and Korea followed by Taiwan, China, EU all set up na-tional initiatives for nanotechnology. With the exception of Japan and China, all nations renewed or continued their national initiatives for nanotechnology even after 2011. The USA and Korea highlighted “Technology Convergence” and aimed at speeding up the “Systems Nano”. China established an international nano-technology academic base in Beijing, and a huge industry-government-academic techno-park in Suzhou (Souzhou Industrial Park: SIP), while Taiwan succeeded in establishing a certification system called “Nano Mark” for nanotechnology products.
(2) Since 2006, many emerging nations including Asian countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRICs) aimed at innovation by governmental funding to advanced science and technology. The national nanotechnology initiative of each country symbolizes this. Now Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Iran have also entried, making the total to several dozens of countries throughout the world. Thailand has started to seriously invest its budget into nanotechnology. Iran has begun producing high academic results, and is top class in the Middle East region. Russia has set up a public corporation for nanotechnology and is investing in re-search organizations abroad.
(3) In global competition where speed is necessary, in order to reduce the time span from discovery and invention to commercialization, it is important to construct open user facility networks for effectively promoting the integration of dissimilar fields and academic-industry collaboration. USA, EU, China, Korea and Taiwan have made substantial strategic investments to user facilities for the last decade. Japan is aiming to catch up with the new project for user facilities named “Nanotechnology Platform” since 2012.
(4) To establish the scientific education system of a unified school program from kindergarten to high school known as K-12 with nano science and technology as the core, the preparation of text books and teacher training programs for this purpose were promoted in USA and Taiwan. Korea made English texts for higher education based on nanotechnology. Some universities in the USA and Korea even established nanotechnology faculties.
(5) EHS, ELSI (Ethical, Legal and Social Issues) and relating international stand-ards and specifications (ISO, IEC) for the public engagement are actively discussed. Emphasis is made officially as the nation’s measure in the countries of USA, EU, Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.
This report deals with the trend and issues of Japan regarding each of the fol-lowing items separately and indicates the merits and demerits of the measures. They are: the hubs of R & D, education and human resource development, coopera-tion between industry, academia and government, coordination between ministries and agencies, funding systems, EHS issues related to societal acceptance, interna-tional collaboration and standardization. Especially in the case of constructing the infrastructure for user facilities and the programs for human resource development, USA, Korea and Taiwan have already achieved their initial purpose by allocating a certain quota share from the overall planned budget for nanotechnology. There is no such quantitative quota set in the Science and Technology Basic Plan of Japan, which is the reason why it did not function as a strategy. Not only in the case of nanotechnology, as future policy issues, we should also take measures to improve such problems immediately. The previously mentioned EHS issues are a good example for future budget allocations using this method.
User facilities and centers of excellence (COE) networks which enhance integra-tion and fusion is the most important infrastructure for increasing investment effi-ciency. So, we always need to keep watching the state of the new program entitled “Nanotechnology Platform” which have just started from fiscal year 2012, and make sure its operation is continued and expanded. We are also in the phase of considering whether to introduce a common “one-stop” service for users, not only for nanotechnology user facilities but also for photon science research bases and large scale facilities such as for X-ray Free Electron Laser (XFEL) including super computers. To realize this, more rapid globalization of research universities and collaborative research centers is a pressing issue. It will become necessary to progress with adopting English as an official language for those working on-site, including administrative staff, attract human resources from throughout the world, including the Asian countries and also create an environment that can connect with networks of other countries. It will also become necessary to absorb and integrate knowledge of dissimilar fields, grasp the social wishes from a global perspective and provide higher education that cultivates situational judgment adaptable to sudden environmental changes. Nanotechnology aiming at “Systems Nano” would be a good stage for this purpose, and it is strongly hoped that not only the government but also the academia will make voluntary efforts to improve the environment.
As it can be seen, statistical data shows quantitatively, that Japan is lagging behind Europe and USA in the “systemization and industrialization in many areas in the nanotechnology/materials S&T field, and is also being threatened by the Asian countries in some of the areas. At the same time, it can be emphasized that the nanotechnology and materials field is a field which Japan has been leading academically and industrially from a historic point of view, and which represents Japan’s advantage compared to other fields. The following are indicated as the major issues, which are, the lack of measures to promote the prompt implementa-tion of research results to society, problem in the mechanism of government and industry moving toward technology convergence, and a problem set in the minds of those involved in science and technology.