Please view the main text area of the page by skipping the main menu.

News Navigator: Japan is trying to spark 'innovation,' but what does that mean?

Lithium-ion batteries (Photo courtesy of Asahi Kasei Corp.)

The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about Japan's move to boost innovation in research and development.

Question: In what context is the word "innovation" being used in Japan?

Answer: It's used in this country to mean "technological innovation," but the concept is not originally limited to technology. The dictionary definition is "a new idea" or "something new." Under the bill to revise Japan's Basic Act on Science and Technology that the government has submitted to the ongoing ordinary Diet session, the term "innovation" is defined as "the act of creating drastic changes to the economy and society by generating new values through a discovery, invention or other creative activities." The revised law will be called "the basic act on science, technology and innovation."

Q: What are some examples of innovation?

A: GPS and the World Wide Web, to name a couple. Innovations from Japan include blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and lithium-ion batteries, as well as anime and instant ramen noodles.

Q: How is it related to people's everyday lives?

A: Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter (1883-1950) said in the 1910s that innovation was the driving force of economic growth, and this belief is still widely held. Today, the so-called GAFA American tech giants (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon) are introducing innovative ideas and products using artificial intelligence and other technologies, leading the U.S. economy.

In Japan, on the other hand, private companies have been struggling to come up with innovative ideas in recent years, prompting the central government to try to bolster its support.

Q: What is the Japanese government trying to do?

A: For example, the government will pour 115 billion yen (about $1.07 billion) into large-scale "moonshot" research and development projects. The initiative aims to encourage "disruptive innovation" -- new creations so momentous that they will transform the prevailing wisdom and change society. As "seeds of innovation" are also hidden in basic research, which may appear to be of no use for technological innovation, it's important to support a wide range of inquiry.

(Japanese original by Tomohiro Ikeda, Science & Environment News Department)

Also in The Mainichi

The Mainichi on social media