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MEXT to support regional universities become world-class research centers

  • November 6, 2017
  • , Nikkei , P. 9
  • JMH Translation

Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) will start a support program for regional universities that are making advances in world-class research in specific fields in order to retain established researchers in regional universities and attract those from overseas. The government aims to strengthen competitiveness in the area of science and technology by establishing internationally relevant research centers outside of influential state-run universities. Six institutions will be selected via an open application system and the government will fund 300 million yen per year for ten years to those selected.

 

This program is positioned to be the equivalent of the World Premier International Research Center (WPI) Initiative, designed to develop world-class research environments, targeting universities based in rural regions. Nine institutions have been selected to be WPI, including the University of Tokyo Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe and Osaka University Immunology Frontier Research Center, most of which have become global research hubs that attract foreign researchers.

 

The new program will target universities that have never been designated WPI. Selected universities and institutions will focus on training young researchers and develop systems to accelerate research, such as inviting talented researchers from overseas. In addition, the program will encourage funding from the private sector through industry-academia partnerships to ensure survival of the research centers after the grant expires.

 

Japan has struggled to publish many high-quality research papers that are often cited by other researchers. It lags behind not only major countries in the West, but also China. Compared with Germany, which is similar in scale to Japan in research funding and number of researchers, Japan produces more quality papers in its high-ranking universities. When comparing universities that are not high-ranking, however, Germany scores an overwhelming victory. The new program is intended to level the financial playing field for regional research institutions to mitigate the disparity between the haves and have-nots.

 

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