Nikkei Discussion with President Yonekura of Sumitomo Chemical and Professor Jeffrey Sachs


Discussion with President Yonekura of Sumitomo Chemical and Professor Jeffrey Sachs, who visied Japan in March is published on THE NIKKEI WEEKLY(Vol 45, No.2, 287/May 28, 2007)

"Extreme poverty can be ended, not in the time of our grandchildren, but our time."

Source: THE NIKKEI WEEKLY(Vol 45, No.2, 287/May 28, 2007)

How were the editorials of “Innovation 25”?


There was a meeting with the editorial writers of Japanese newspapers on the 24th and some immediate reactions about “Innovation 25” appeared in the op-ed. 

On Sunday May 27th’s edition of Yomiuri Newspaper (3rd page of the morning edition) it was titled “Japan’s future is up to innovation” and the content was as follows. 

●In order to invigorate Japan’s future, we must substantiate Innovation steadily. 

●The government issued a long term strategic guideline “Innovation 25” for creating an affluent country with hope for people. “Innovation” means technical and/or social reform. “25” stands for 2025 which is the goal year to achieve its objectives. 

●As its name shows, this guideline points out specific goals to achieve in the field of high technology development by 2025.

●At the same time, they are suggesting policy issues such as educational reform, reconsideration of regulatory system and financial support so as to stimulate technology development and its diffusion.

●With the total population declining and the aging population growing at a tremendous speed, we can not avoid significant drop in productivity if we leave the situation unaddressed. Fast growing China will eventually exceed Japan’s GDP. India also has that potential. 

●This strategic guideline has an extremely important role as a road map to fully utilize Japan’s science and technology competence to maintain its national power. 

●Some technological goals include sharp decrease in the number of dementia patients by the progress of Alzheimer disease research. There are also other various goals in the list such as decreasing household chores and childcare workload by the utilization of advanced robots etc. 

●If the number of dementia patients decline and the elderly are in good condition, working style and social security system will be pressed for a drastic reform. Individual’s leisure time will expand and scope of activities will be broadened, which may lead to a change in people’s lifestyle. 

●If technological innovation and social reform match, Japan’s vitality will increase. Its global competitiveness will be also maintained. However, the premise of that is to secure good human resources. 

●The strategic guideline emphasizes reforms of universities, the core institution for education and research, as issues which should be tackled in the coming 3 years. One example of the reform is the policy to increase research grants for young researchers whose thinking is still flexible. 

●The guidelines also support acceptance of talented people from overseas to university as professors and advises to aim at doubling their recruiting ratio. Unless education / research institutions open their doors, conducting world class research is no longer possible. 

●The guidelines also encourage eliminating the classification of arts and sciences upon recruiting students, promote liberal arts education and also to offer more lectures given in English language. These are important perspective for developing world class human resources. 

●United States and European countries also have been sending out policies that bears the word “Innovation” for several years now. Apparently we share common perspective of the problems. If Japan fails to act quickly, the country may dwindle down. 

●We must not be outdone in securing human resources or in competition of development of new techniques. 

In Sankei Newspaper (2nd page of the morning edition) of Monday May 28th , an article titled 【Opinion】 “Innovation 25 ? passion to bring out the nails that stik out” follows like this.   

● “Innovation” is a frequently used word among industrialized countries. In simple terms, it means technical reform, but it is not only about invention, but rather creating new values and social changes, a drastic reform from the inside. 

●The final report of “Innovation 25” is now finalized.  It is a long term strategic guidelines prepared through the discussions and study by the government strategic board. Innovation 25 is one of the important policies of Prime Minister Abe’s administration which bears the role of offering a long term strategic guidelines foreseeing 2025. 

●Japan does not have choice but to face the future decline of population and increase in aging population. On the other hand, the speed of information technology and globalization is overwhelming. Also, besides global warming, issues are countless such as food and energy. The guidelines indicate goals and action plans on how to tackle these challenging issues by innovation. 

●The goals set by the guidelines are high. In order to achieve those goals, it takes not only technology but also reforms in social system and a spirit of challenge. We highly evaluate the guidelines for setting such goals for true innovation.   

●By conquering current issues, they hope that Japan will promote economy and contribute to the world. This report fully and strongly manifests such spirit.   

●The guideline is proposing a swift social system reform to set the ground for innovation. They also list issues that should be addressed in the coming 3 years.

●The highlight of the above  is “expansion of investment to the next generation” and “university reform”. They are proposing to increase research grants for young researchers. We strongly support the proposal.

●The guidelines are also having reform of immigration control in their view for the enhancement of attraction of foreign talents to Japanese universities, institutions, etc. 

●To open the gates of Japanese universities to the world, promote credit transfers between Japan and overseas universities.  By eliminating the classification of arts and sciences for entrance examination, merge the fields of academic study and nurture new types of human resources. 

●They also showed a unique policy of “nurturing human resources” by bringing out the “nails that stick out” This is also something to look forward to. 

●There are criticism that Innovation 25 is something-for-everyone. Reform accompanies pain. Let us start by asking people for their understanding. 

There were articles in other newspapers as well but for my part I think what is important is the future PR strategy.   

“Innovation 25” final report


On May 25th, the last meeting of “Innovation 25” was held at the Prime Minister’s office. At last we have finally come this far. There is still yet to go for the administrative staffs though, lobbying related parties and the ruling party since cabinet approval is scheduled at the beginning of June. Obviously it is beyond one’s imagination that a word like “a nail that sticks out” is included in the official document for cabinet approval. We have also included some drastic contents such as the suggestion of “elimination of the classification of arts and sciences” upon admission of students to universities. The full text is available for your reference at the homepage of “Innovation 25”.

In the homepage, a letter to Minister Takaichi which I addressed as the chairperson, “Upon drafting the final report of Innovation 25” is uploaded also (in Japanese only).  For the past 2 weeks, our staffs have worked almost around the clock seven days a week. Since “getting approval from the cabinet” was our goal, we needed to get the consensus of each office and ministry, and this process obviously has “watered-down” the report.  As you all may be aware, this problem is one of the gravest problems that must be addressed in Japanese policy planning and government decision making process.

After Minister Takaichi finished the press conference, the Minister and the committee members were invited for dinner at the Prime Minister’s residence. The Prime Minister himself acknowledged our work.

Then, I took Shinkansen for Hamamatsu to attend the general meeting of Japanese Society of Nephrology celebrating its 50th anniversary where I was given an honor to deliver special lecture in the morning of the 26th.

Recognition of Scientific Adviser in the United Kingdom.

I was invited to a luncheon held at the British Embassy in Tokyo, when British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett visited Japan. I expected to meet again with "British Climate Ambassador" John Ashton , Special Representative for Climate Change for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), whom I met in London this January. There were many politicians, foreign officials and businessmen attending the event, including Sadako Ogata, President of Japanese International Cooperation Agency, and former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. There was another meeting for some politicians with Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett in addition to the luncheon, too. Nobutaka Machimura, former Foreign Minister, House of the Representatives (HR) member, Masahiko Takamura, former Foreign Minister, HR member, Kazuyoshi Kaneko, former Minister of State (Regulatory Reform, Industrial Revitalization Corporation, Administrative Reform, and Special Zones for Structural Reform), HR member and Yuriko Koike, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister for National Security Affairs, former Minister of the Environment, HR member showed up at the luncheon.

The seating order being decided beforehand, I was so surprised at being assigned to the main table, just next to Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett. This table had many prominent politicians including British Ambassador to Japan Graham Fry across the table from Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett and Sadako Ogata next to me. To tell the truth, I did not feel so comfortable at the table, hearing that Science Adviser is recognized as a highly respected position in UK. The difference of the recognition of Science Advisers between UK and Japan impressed me on the importance of the history as well as the responsibility of Science Adviser. I heard that Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government Sir David King meets with Prime Minister Tony Blair as frequent as once a week, while I as Special Science Adviser meets alone with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe once a month to exchange ideas for an hour or so, which you might have learned from a press release of the daily schedule of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

It has been a while since the last post. Innovation 25 is in its final stages.

20070503002It has been a while since the last post. I came back from Province and Egypt via Paris. Now is the best season in Paris. The horse chestnut leaves were so beautiful.

To complete the final report of Innovation 25, my staff and I have worked almost every night for two weeks, including weekends. For the cabinet approval of the ministers, each ministry and agency is busy with many things it has to do. This is difficult, but everyone has worked so hard and they are excellent, I always think we can use their talent for something else too. I have worked with them though at home, so in recent nights I have only slept for two to three hours. I sometimes send emails and give some instructions in the dead of the night.

Innovation 25 has been frequently covered by the media, so you may see this report from time to time. My Interview and the summary of the interim report of Innovation 25 are both in the Japan Journal, the English public relations magazine of the Cabinet Office. The English translation of this interim report is on the homepage of Innovation 25. I heard when Sanae Takaichi, Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs, Science and Technology Policy, Innovation, Gender Equality, Social Affairs and Food Safety, visited Germany during the Golden Week holidays (in early May), she was asked about this report and it drew increasing attention. Prime Minister Sinzo Abe also made remarks regarding its high-visibility. It is regrettable that until now, the Japanese government never had the idea to communicate Japanese policies to the world.

The world only feels ten percent of Japan’s presence. This is typical and cannot be excused, and is evidenced by Japan’s closed-minded mentality. Conversely, UK shows its presence perhaps ten times more beyond that of its substance. Please think about this. This is a part of significant, important and basic national strategy. Japan only responds after others put pressure on it to take action. Japan has little sense of grand vision, so it cannot develop a strategy, and therefore Japan gambles on tactics. Don’t you think you have heard this before?