Nuclear safety and biotech boosted in Japan's budget

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Biotechnology, venture businesses and nuclear safety all receive extra support in Japan's latest supplementary budget, approved by the parliament last week, which is aimed at putting the nation's economy on a full recovery track.

As well as a strong emphasis on public works projects, the supplementary budget — the second this year — includes generous support for science. This is largely a result of prime minister Keizo Obuchi's Millennium Project, which seeks to promote new industries in areas such as biotechnology, information sciences and environmental technology (see Nature 401, 313; 1999).

The supplementary budget totals ¥6.79 trillion (US$66 billion), of which ¥907.6 billion is earmarked for science and technology, and ¥773 billion for supporting small and medium-sized businesses.

The Science and Technology Agency (STA) will receive ¥16.4 billion for life sciences, including ¥4.3 billion for nuclear magnetic resonance facilities being built at the new headquarters of the Genomic Sciences Centre, ¥1.2 billion for proteomics research, and ¥2.4 billion for the analysis of human complementary DNA (cDNA). The agency will also receive ¥46.1 billion for additional efforts in nuclear safety, following the accident at a uranium-processing plant in Tokaimura, Ibaraki Prefecture.

The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), which takes over some of the nuclear safety responsibilities of the STA in 2001, and the Ministry of Health and Welfare will receive ¥30.8 billion and ¥11.6 billion, respectively, for nuclear safety research.

MITI will receive ¥12.5 billion for biotechnology-related research, including proteomics projects, while ¥35.6 billion will support venture businesses, particularly entrepreneurial activities at universities.

A budget boost for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries will speed up the rice genome sequencing project by almost four years (see Nature 401, 102; 1999).

Public works projects include building at national universities, such as the new campus at Kyoto University. They also include plans for new life-sciences-related research institutes.

The budget brings Japan's science spending beyond ¥17 trillion, as promised by the Science and Technology Basic Plan, which pledged to double science spending between 1996 and 2000.

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Saegusa, A. Nuclear safety and biotech boosted in Japan's budget. Nature 402, 451 (1999) doi:10.1038/44912

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