Abstract for the Fourth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology.

The Track of Japanese Nanotechnology Efforts: Present, Players, and Possibilities

by Tanya C. Sienko
National Institute of Science and Technology Policy, Japan

Japanese governmental organizations such as MITI and STA have indicated interest in pursuing nanotechnology efforts. At the moment, most so-called "nanotechnology research" should be reclassified as "micro-machine research". Japanese companies have expressed interest in the field as well, but consider nanotechnology (in the U.S. sense of the term) to be only at the research level at present. Much of the work is being carried out by interdisciplinary groups in government laboratories and universities, although the giant corporations are also making a very good showing.

Possible future roadblocks from a policy viewpoint include the lack of small companies to carry the banner for "blue-sky ideas" which turn out to be total breakthroughs, and repercussions from the Aum Shinrikyo bio-chemical research. Another possible difficulty is the lack of almost any link (so far) between nanotechnology and biotechnology in Japan.

Aside from explaining who the present players are in Japanese nanotechnology research efforts, I would also like to present results from the NISTEP Technology Forecasting Survey indicating where Japanese experts think the field is going. My final topic will be on special characteristics I see affecting Japan's future development of commercial nanotechnology.