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Japan gov't to draw up guidelines for universities to prevent technology drain

TOKYO -- The government is set to formulate guidelines calling on universities in Japan that collaborate with foreign companies for joint research projects to develop legal compliance systems to prevent technology drain, it has been learned.

The move comes as the United States and China are stepping up regulations for joint research studies on technologies that can be diverted for military use, and is aimed at averting risks of Japanese universities being subject to sanctions by those countries.

It is the first time for the Japanese government to draw up guidelines to control universities over their joint study projects with foreign enterprises. Under the guidelines, which the government eyes to put together by this fall, universities are expected to be urged to take measures such as securing experts to ensure thorough management of research information and results.

In Japan, government bodies and major companies have developed legal compliance systems to prevent leakages of technologies and products that can be applied for military use to other countries in accordance with the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act and other regulations. However, domestic universities have lacked such integrated systems, with each laboratory tasked with managing research information and results in many cases. While universities carry out research and development on cutting-edge next-generation technologies, they have lagged behind in preventing a technology drain due in part to a lack of experts specialized in confidentiality and export rules.

Through the upcoming guidelines, the government is seeking to establish a system to strictly control research information and results by having universities comply with the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act and other regulations.

Specifically, the guidelines will urge university secretariats to map out management policies on joint research and share them across faculties, as well as to secure lawyers and other experts versed in legal compliance. The guidelines will also ask universities to regularly check whether measures to prevent technology drain overseas are thoroughly implemented, as well as to enhance problem response measures.

Furthermore, the government is also mulling making the development of such management systems a condition for universities to take part in government-backed research and development projects.

In November last year, the U.S. government designated 14 spheres such as artificial intelligence and data analysis methods as "emerging techniques" that have the potential for military applications, and announced a policy to beef up regulations to prevent technology drain -- with China in mind.

Under the policy, universities and companies outside the United States will be required to obtain permission from U.S. authorities if they are to export to China and other countries subject to regulations products and technologies involving techniques divertible for military application that were developed through joint research with the U.S. Such establishments will also need authorization if they are to exchange information with employees and students from those countries at research laboratories and elsewhere on their grounds.

If any serious violations of these rules were found, those universities and companies could be shunned from businesses and research projects on U.S. soil as part of sanction measures.

China, meanwhile, is also planning to tighten control on joint research studies on technologies that can be applied for military use. Amid the ongoing conflict between the United States and China, technological spheres to be subject to regulations could expand even further, as the U.S. is also aiming to make international rules for regulating technology drain.

The Japanese government is poised to finalize the forthcoming guidelines in light of these movements overseas.

(Japanese original by Kenji Shimizu, Business News Department)

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