[ Nippon Keidanren ] [ Journal ]
Messages from "Economic Trend", October 2008

Current Demands On Japanese Technology

Vice Chairman, Nippon Keidanren
Chairman, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd.

On May 31 Kibo (meaning "hope" in Japanese), a space laboratory Japan spent 20 years developing for the International Space Station (ISS), set off into space aboard the space shuttle Discovery. Following the experimental module's successful hookup to the ISS, a feat accomplished by Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide undertaking an extravehicular activity (EVA), experiments in fluid mechanics immediately got under way in the module under zero gravity. Going forward, further experiments already on the slate are expected to lead to breakthroughs in the areas of life science and materials science. One day, Japan is also projected to share in the responsibilities for maintaining the ISS, along with the United States, European Union and Russia, through provision of the H-IIB rocket (a larger-scale version of the H-IIA) and H-II transfer vehicle (HTV) -- a cargo transfer spacecraft, both now under development.

I was privileged to attend the Discovery's launch at the Kennedy Space Center, and I got an immediate sense of the high expectations held by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin and so many others toward Japanese technology and toward this nation's potential contributions to the global community. I came away with the reaffirmation that it is Japan's technology that underpins both our country's competitive strength and our presence on the international stage.

In the near term, one role of Japanese technology of great importance and deserving of special mention will be responding to environmental and energy problems. As the focus of discussions at the recent Hokkaido Toyako Summit demonstrated, simultaneous advancement of the "3E's" ? Environment Protection, Energy Security and Economic Sustainable Growth ? will inevitably be a formidable task; but Japan should look on this difficult challenge as a prime opportunity.

Japan already possesses a wealth of state-of-the-art technologies relating to environmental and energy problems, technologies developed in the wake of the oil crisis of the 1970s, and today the nation continues to strive steadfastly to develop ever more innovative technologies. I believe that if Japan applies the fruits of these efforts and strongly pushes forward with initiatives to boost energy conversion efficiency, promote expanded use of renewable energy and nuclear power, and encourage widespread adoption of electric vehicles, our country will be able to reduce its dependency on fossil fuels dramatically and thereby prevent the limitless outflow of our assets to the energy-rich nations. That accomplishment, I contend, would enable Japan to achieve the 3E's and also place Japanese technology in a position of leadership to resolve the problems on global scale that come with population growth.

What I believe is called for today is, through exhaustive debating of the issues at hand, to undertake effective technology assessments and economic evaluations, draw up a clear roadmap, and then take specific actions swiftly.

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