Professor, Division of Clinical Gene Therapy, Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine;
Member, Intellectual Property Committee of the Cabinet; Founder & CEO, AnGes MG, LLC
What Strategy Should We Implement for Open Innovation?
A new DND Policy Dialog site for "Innovation 25" has been launched. I am sure you have read about Innovation 25 in the papers, but it is a new policy central to the Abe Administration. Professor Kiyoshi Kurokawa, whom we all know, has assumed the chair.
For the official aim of Innovation 25, please visit Prof. Kurokawa's DND special series on 'Innovation 25.'
Mr. Deguchi sent us an urgent mail soliciting policy proposals for Innovation 25. This is quite a job as the policies to induce innovation need to be determined by looking ahead at 2025. Mr. Deguchi, like a journalist that he is, never lets anything pass by (and we are given a hard time because of it).
anything pass by (and we are given a hard time because of it).
Until now, if I may risk being misunderstood, Japanese policies were too shortsighted. Having a ten-year plan at the most, the planning has been mainly for five-years. Of course a time-span of five, ten years are quite important for planning (there have been many reforms brought about in that time-span). But they are meaningless unless under a long-term strategy of 25, 50 years. With the advent of this Innovation 25 policy, I keenly feel that Japan has changed quite a bit.
Before going into my proposal for Innovation 25, I would like to first consider the significance of Prof. Kurokawa's appointment as the Cabinet's Special Adviser. As you know, after taking leave of the post of President of the Science Council of Japan, Prof. Kurokawa has assumed the position of the Special Adviser to the Abe Cabinet. This appointment as Special Adviser has quite a significant meaning.
In fact, to think that there has been no adviser in charge of science and technology in the Japanese cabinet so far! In China or Singapore, the Chairman or the Prime Minister was a technocrati himself, and in France or the United States, a Special Adviser for Science and Technology has always been appointed, offering his opinion to the top. In this sense, Japan has finally joined in the advanced nations.
I have met the Special Advisers for Science and Technology in France and England, but they are in a way much more of a 'politician?' than the politicians, and had brilliant opinions regarding national policies involving scientific technology. These countries have succeeded in dealing with the obvious fact that policy management without knowledge of scientific technology is quite implausible. For example, without the understanding of scientific technology it is naturally difficult to determine the appropriate policies against the nuclear tests performed by North Korea. I have tried to convince many a government official on the importance of a science and technology adviser, but this became possible only with Prime Minister Abe's understanding of scientific technology. I hope that this appointment of a science and technology adviser will become a permanent one from now on, and not just a one-time appointment in the Abe Cabinet.
Now, to move on to the main proposal for Innovation 25. In his opening speech, Prime Minister Abe has stated: "I see innovation not merely as new breakthroughs and technological inventions but as encompassing a broad spectrum of possibilities including new initiatives and technical ideas. Up until now Japan has tended to pursue ad hoc policies to realize very near-term goals and profits. I very much encourage all of you to discuss, from a long-term perspective and from a variety of angles, what kind of society will be achieved through new visions and innovation, how we should prepare for that, as well as recommend policies we should consider toward this end."
In each field of medicine, engineering, and information technology, a strategy will be considered, but 'an innovation strategy that would change the whole society?' could actually be more difficult than imagined. Confronted with this new policy proposal, I stopped short and was at my wit's end for a while. Were we really able, for example, to predict 25 years ago (in 1980) the birth of Yahoo and Google and the coming of the Internet society? Even in my specialized field of medicine, how much did we foresee the super-aging society of today 25 years ago? Frankly speaking, the few who did, most likely were laughed at, I presume.
In that sense, it is insufficient to just come up with strategies for each individual area. First, it is essential to have discussions on building a system that will continuously give rise to innovation. The science and technology of Japan until now advanced within closed doors of each company or university. From now on, unless open innovation is implemented it is impossible to expect a leap in progress and reform. That is why I think that first and foremost our task in hand is to establish a social system for open innovation. In particular, as human resource development is essential for open innovation, it is important that we provide nurturing grounds for those who can bring about innovation so as not to crush or stunt their growth. We are frequently reminded that the majority of the Nobel Prize winners are awarded for their work in their 30s.
Secondly, we need to provide the tools for implementing innovation. Even if, for example, an idea for an epoch-making medicine were to be conceived in a university, within the academia it is impossible to sustain an on-going innovation. The conventional pharmaceutical industries cannot do it alone either. There is a technique called RNA interference---for which there are high hopes of generating epoch-making medicines---that was awarded this year's Nobel Prize. However, there is a large innovation-gap between the birth of innovation and its actual implementation in society. We need the tools to fill in this gap, but what are these tools?
Secondly, we need to provide the tools for implementing innovation. Even if, for example, an idea for an epoch-making medicine were to be conceived in a university, within the academia it is impossible to sustain an on-going innovation. The conventional pharmaceutical industries cannot do it alone either. There is a technique called RNA interference---for which there are high hopes of generating epoch-making medicines---that was awarded this year's Nobel Prize. However, there is a large innovation-gap between the birth of innovation and its actual implementation in society. We need the tools to fill in this gap, but what are these tools??
The bottom line is how to come up with those who generate innovation and with the arena for their activities as well. I would first like to see the policies elucidated on creating a social environment for innovation. Many university-based ventures have been born, but not many companies are challenging innovation. Ventures are supposed to take risks, but in Japan the reality is far from that. Thus my initial proposal is: a strategy to set up a social environment that can implement open innovation.
I would like in my second series to consider a proposal for the individual areas.