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What will the future model of innovation in Japan look like?

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Jean-Christophe AuffrayDr Jean-Christophe AUFFRAY
Counselor for Science and Technology
French embassy in Japan

Japan is and will remain a technological giant, the 3rd most significant country for its domestic expenditure on research and the 2nd for the R & D investment in companies. Japanese companies maintain their focus: according to the daily newspaper Nikkan Kogyo, in 2017 their R & D budgets increased by 5.3% as compared to 2016, representing the 8th consecutive year of increase. However, several international rankings for innovation point out a slight downturn in Japan’s creative performance. This country which, with unparalleled efficiency, made technological innovation in enterprises the spearhead of its economy might nowadays need to adapt its ecosystem of innovation to other schemes. Japan is not (yet) the country of start-ups, and the mechanisms for drawing on new technologies or breakthrough technologies from the Japanese academic world might be less straightforward than in other countries.

Japan has become aware of this. The France-Japan Year of Innovation, which was initiated by the two governments in 2015 and completed in 2016, enabled France, which has 10 times more start-ups than Japan, to assert a certain know-how in this field. In addition to the many links created between the two countries, the France-Japan Innovation Year has also created a genuine interest inside Japan for the way France supports the commercialization of its public research and the creation of start-ups. The presence of a French International Technological Expert for Innovation placed by the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs at the JST, Japan’s leading science and technology agency, the opening of a French Tech Hub in Tokyo, the resonance of French initiatives to promote innovation on an international scale (Station F, Hello Tomorrow, etc.) amplify in Japan the image of a France that has succeeded in taking the shift of innovation.

What model of innovation will Japan bring forth in the coming years? What space will it make for external influences? One thing is certain: the issue of maintaining Japan among the world’s most prominent key players in innovation is very well recognised.