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History of Japanese Governmental Support for Technology Transfer

The origins of JST’s programs promoting collaboration between universities and public research institutions and the industrial sector can be traced back to 1958 when the Development Division of RIKEN commenced the Contract Development Program. This program’s current successor is called A-STEP (Adaptable and Seamless Technology Transfer Program through Target-driven R&D). For over 50 years, JST and its forerunners have promoted pioneering and platform-building R&D utilizing the leading-edge output from Japan’s universities and research institutes. Over this time JST has adapted its role in response to the changing needs of society.

Timeline of Tech Transfer History

Timeline of Tech Transfer History

CIPS: Center for Intellectual Property Strategies



Establishment of the RIKEN Development Division

In the aftermath of World War II, Japan’s economy lay in ruins. The Japanese government determined that to achieve successful economic reconstruction and recovery it was essential for the country to develop and utilize its own science and technology resources. This domestic science and technology base would then be closely integrated with Japan’s postwar industrial development. At RIKEN (The Institute of Physical and Chemical Research), which had been re-established as a public corporation in 1958, the newly set up Development Division pursued efficient new-technology development and the widespread utilization of research output. During this initial phase, the manufacture of synthetic quartz crystal was chosen as a key technology seed to be transferred from a national university to practical industrial applications.


Establishment of the Research Development Corporation of Japan (JRDC)

JRDC—one of the forerunners of the present-day JST— was separated from RIKEN in 1961 as an independent entity. As Japan’s economy developed, trade liberalization became unavoidable. Consequently, it was recognized that to remain economically competitive, Japan would need to ramp up its domestic capabilities in new technology and innovation. Against this backdrop, the Japanese government created JRDC through the separation of RIKEN’s Development Division. JRDC’s two core functions were Contract Development and Development Mediation.

  • Contract Development

    The Contract Development Program focuses on new-technology R&D projects that are deemed crucial to the national economy but difficult for private-sector firms to undertake alone owing to the high-risk nature of the projects. Hence, such projects are carried out under a framework that enables the government to shoulder most of the risk involved while private companies participate in development projects on a contract basis. This is the basis by which the Contract Development Program aims to create domestically sourced technology.

  • Development Mediation

    The Development Mediation Program acts as a facilitator working on behalf of universities and public research institutions. The program focuses on comparatively low-risk development projects that are based on the research output from universities and public research institutions. Private sector firms and start-up companies can take on such projects through the Development Mediation Program. In 1967, this program expanded to include patent licensing for Japanese government-held patents.


Establishment of JST

In 1996, JRDC was merged with the Japan Information Center of Science and Technology (JICST). In 2003, this entity was reorganized under Japanese law as an independent administrative institution, becoming the present-day JST. Since then, JST has overhauled the Contract Research Program, including the establishment of specific programs targeting mid-sized corporations, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and technology start-up companies. It has also set up a support program for companies undertaking drug discovery research and development, a process which requires a very long-term commitment of substantial development costs by research institutes.

In 1996, JST began appointing science and technology coordinators in each region throughout Japan under its Regional Science Promotion (RSP) Program. This program aims to identify and cultivate regional technology seeds and promote commercialization of new technologies on a regional basis. Since 2000, JST has also pursued programs that aim to expand opportunities for matching the output of university research projects with private companies. This includes the operation of databases, the holding of symposia and programs to develop technology transfer-related human resources. As outlined above, JST’s role has evolved and adapted to the changing needs of society. It continues to review and improve its programs in accordance with Japanese society’s demands and works to facilitate the practical application of advanced research emanating from universities and other research institutions.

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