1, 06. 2006
When you compare expenses for basic research between Japan and the United States, you will find that the United States stands 2.5 times more than Japan in terms of the amount of money. On the other hand, the percentages of the sum for basic research out of the total amount for research & development were 14.6% for Japan and 12.1% for the United States respectively. In the 1980s, the trade friction developed into the diplomatic problems between the two countries. At that time the United States criticized Japan as saying, "Japan is getting profit, making use of basic research of the United States." Japan denied the claim as saying, "It isn't true. Japan spends money for basic research, too." The data she submitted as a proof was the numbers above.
In late '80s, I was covering Japan's electronic technology for series of article in a magazine. As I was visiting a number of large manufacturers' institutes, I felt that Japanese companies have become to spend money for basic research too. Japanese researchers used to paint the Watson Institute of IBM as a model. They used to say that they should also make researches like that. Unfortunately after the collapse of the bubble, Japanese companies' investments into basic research and R & D fell sharply.
While I was doing the coverage for the magazine, one thing impressed me quite much. For a person in the world of media, it was a great hint that envisaged the future.
The technology whose utilization appeared on the horizon at that time was built upon the foundation of basic research. The incredible things I heard then have come true. I witnessed a number of cases that those things turned into commercial products. Among these products are the name-card reading device, the automatic translation machine and 3-D semi-conductor memories. Especially there were many researchers who thought that dramatic development of the capacity of semi-conductor memories and enlargement of thin display panels were the foundations of information technology (IT). Nearly twenty years have passed since then. These two products, namely semi-conductor memories and large-sized display panels have taken the center stage of the information society. It is Korea's Sumsung Electronics whose management focused on these two IT products and became a world top-ranked company.
In fact, there is another basis in the information society. It is contents that bloom on the foundation. It was a precious hint for me twenty years ago.