Shoring up Japan’s research performance

Japan’s government establishes an endowment  fund of  a ¥10-trillion (US$75-billion) fund and hopes that it will kickstart a new era of discovery and innovation for some of the country’s most prestigious universities. The plan seeks to emulate the model underpinning many of the leading private research institutions in the United States, where endowments worth billions of dollars produce regular financial returns to sustain running costs.

The government’s university endowment scheme is a ‘big moment’ for Japanese science, says Takahiro Ueyama of the Japanese government’s Council for Science, Technology and Innovation, the plan’s key architect.

In particular, he noted: “How are we to create independent, autonomous research universities? To be independent, you have your own robust, financial base.

Our focus should be on young researchers. The reduction of block funding [government payments given periodically to universities] has particularly affected younger researchers in recent years – they have to do too much administrative work. We need to expand the research time for younger researchers by employing assistants and administrators.”

“The money the fund provides should be used to encourage younger scientists to do international collaborative work”, – he added.