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Competitive Funding Programs

A-STEP (Adaptable and Seamless Technology Transfer Program through Target-driven R&D)

Promoting technology transfer from academia to industry so that the research outputs of universities and public research institutions, which could create significant economic impacts, can be efficiently put into practical application.

Objectives

This program supports collaborative industry–academia research and development (R&D) based on the results of high-quality basic research (research output, intellectual property, etc.) to ensure that the benefits of such research are passed on to Japanese society. Depending on the R&D phase and the objectives of each particular project, A-STEP determines the optimal R&D funding and R&D period to enable the seamless pursuit of medium- to long-term R&D. Through this approach, the program aims to bridge the gaps between academic research results and industrial needs to realize highly effective and efficient innovation.

Program Scheame of A-STEP

Unique characteristics of A-STEP

  • Flexible Starting Point
    Researchers can start from any stage (any support type) of A-STEP according to their R&D phase.
  • Seamless R&D Support
    Researchers can continue their R&D by applying for another support type of A-STEP before the R&D period of their current projects end.
  • Advice for Effective and Efficient R&D
    JST appoints external experts to be the supervisors and advisors of this program and they provide advice to each project on their R&D plans, etc.

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Overview

A-STEP consists of three stages, Stage I, Stage II, and Stage III. It covers a broad range of R&D phases, from the potential verification of technological seeds to development for practical application.

  • Stage I
    Stage I has two support types. One is the “Strategic theme-focused type” and the other is the “Industrial needs response type.”
    The mission of the “Strategic theme-focused type” is to return outstanding achievements of JST’s basic research programs to society and to create the foundations of new industries. For this type, the R&D themes are selected based on notable research achievements of JST’s basic research programs. JST selects one or two R&D themes every year, holds open calls for proposals, and adopts about five projects for each theme. Applicants should be joint teams consisting of researchers both from academia and industry.
    The “Industry needs response type” aims to bolster Japanese industrial competitiveness by contributing to the solution of technical issues common in industry. JST selects the R&D themes for this type, based on requests from industry groups, rather than respective companies. Again, JST selects one or two R&D themes every year and adopts about 10 projects for each theme. Applicants should only be academic researchers, but JST organizes meetings once or twice a year for each theme so that people from industry can exchange opinions with academic researchers.
  • Stage II
    Stage II has one support type, the “Seeds development type.” The aim of this type is to lower the technical risks of research outcomes of academia and to establish the core competencies of private companies by using academia’s technology seeds.
    Stage II differs from Stage I in that it doesn’t set any specific R&D themes, but targets all science and technology fields except for the medical and pharmaceutical fields.
    With this type of funding, researchers from both academia and industry can spend the funds from JST, but the companies involved are required to share some portion of the total R&D cost. They have to provide an amount equal to one forth to one half of the funding JST provides (matching funds). The percentage which the companies need to contribute is determined according to their capital size.
  • Stage III
    Stage III is the R&D phase close to the market. The main players in this stage are private companies. Depending on the R&D scale and its period, as well as the company size, two types of funding are offered in Stage III, “NexTEP-A type” and “NexTEP-B type.”
    “NexTEP-A type” is like an interest-free loan which is designed for private companies that will take on the challenge of carrying out the practical application of academic research despite the high risk of R&D. The companies supported by this type have a repayment obligation if they succeed in achieving a technological goal that they and JST have set together in advance. If they fail to achieve the pre-set goal, however, they only need to repay 10% of the total R&D cost and 90% is exempt from repayment. In addition, successful companies also have an obligation to pay to JST some portion of their sales resulting from the R&D supported by JST.
    “NexTEP-B type” is a funding type only for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) who work on relatively small-scale development research. SMEs supported by this type don’t have a repayment obligation, but they are required to share half of the total R&D cost during their R&D period (matching funds). In addition to this, these companies have an obligation to pay to JST some portion of their revenue resulting from the R&D supported by JST, for a period of up to 10 years.

A-STEP Support Content

  Stage Ⅰ Stage Ⅱ Stage Ⅲ
Support Type Industrial needs response type Strategic theme-focused type Seeds development type NexTEP-B type NexTEP-A type
Objectives Bolster Japanese industrial competitiveness by contributing to the solution of technical issues common in industry Return outstanding achievements of JST’s basic research programs to society and create the foundations of new industries Lower the technical risks of research outcomes of academia and establish core competency of private companies by utilizing academia’s technology seeds Support private companies who carry out high-risk development which uses research achievements of academia.
(NexTEP-B is available only for small and medium-sized enterprises whose capital is 1 billion yen or less.)
R&D Fields Specific R&D themes*1 Broad area*2
Applicants' Affiliation*3 Academia Academia and Industry Academia and Industry Industry
IP Not required Required
R&D Expenses (supplied by JST) up to \ 25 million per year up to \ 50 million per year \ 20 million ~500 million
per R&D period
Up to \ 300 million per R&D period Up to \ 1.5 billion per R&D period
Grant Matching funds Matching funds plus payment of royalties Quasi-loan plus payment of royalties
R&D Period 2~5 years Up to 6 years 2~6 years up to 5 years Up to 10 years

*1  Specific R&D themes
Industrial needs response type (1 theme)
(2015) Development of key technologies for compact neutron source and its industrial application
Strategic theme-focused type (2 themes)
(2015) Technological development of ion sensor with nanometer-scale spatial resolution and discernible signal sensitivity
(2015) Creation of energy harvesting technologies for IoT and wearable devices

*2 Broad area: All science and technology fields except for the medical and pharmaceutical fields

*3 Applicants from academia should hold the position of full time researchers at universities or public research institutions in Japan. Applicants from industry also should hold a full time position at companies with Japanese corporate status.

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