Japan to launch £637 million tech fund for AI and 5G

The country is looking to boost its domestic tech sector and reinforce economic security

Japan is set to establish a 100 billion yen (£637 million) fund that will accelerate research and development of advanced technologies and reinforce economic security.

The government is planning to launch the fund next year and investments will be focused on quantum technology, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and biotechnology, according to Nikkei Asia

The fund will be managed by the country’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization and the Japan Science and Technology Agency and will also be used to fuel research into 5G networks, big data, and semiconductors.

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The money will be allocated to companies and universities with the aim of carrying out demonstrations and practical applications, and promoting research and development in areas the government considers to be important.

The fund will potentially be co-administered by the Cabinet Office, Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and the National Security Secretariat. It is set to be included in Japan’s fiscal 2021 budget which will be formed after the general election on 31 October.

The government also wants to prevent researchers and technology from leaving the country through the fund, as in the past it has struggled to keep its talent and faces the risk of insufficiently funded companies being acquired by rivals overseas. As part of this, the government will create a law to protect domestically developed tech, to be introduced in January. It will focus on a system that prevents tech leaks to other countries.

Prime minister Fumio Kishida, who took office on 4 October, is hoping to increase domestic tech development. He also wants to correct the "harmful effects that result from deciding public finances on a single fiscal year basis” and change the state budget rules to ensure the funds are available for five years instead.

This comes as part of a push to develop more technology in the country, as in June the government approved a £238 million semiconductor research project with TSMC to develop new chip technology in the country, amid an ongoing global shortage. Over 20 Japanese were set to take part in the project, of which the government would pay half.

During the same month, it emerged TSMC was thinking of setting up a chip plant in Japan which was then confirmed last week, as the country tried to attract more foreign investment into its manufacturing sector. The facility will sit near an existing plant owned by Sony, one of the company’s key suppliers, and help meet demand for image sensors, automotive microcontrollers, and other chips.

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