from the World-Watch dept.
The Asahi Shimbun in Japan ran an interview Koji Omi, Japanese State Minister in Charge of Science and Technology Policy ("Koji Omi: Unite nanotechnology with biotechnology", 8 April 2002), about the government's future strategy and outlook on the subject of nanotechnology. Some interesting comments by Mr. Omi:
- Although Japanese nanotechnology is said to be advanced, actually, I am very worried about its future. While companies are conducting research that looks five years ahead, none of them is directed at 20 years into the future. Traditionally the Japanese idea of nanotechnology has been molecular-level processing to expand the capacity of integrated circuits by reducing the size of circuit elements used in information technology. Silicon is the material currently used to make circuit elements. When I visited the United States in January and exchanged views with top-class researchers in Washington and elsewhere, they all agreed that the days of silicon as circuit element material are numbered. The question is how can we beat the limits of silicon. I think nanotechnology can serve as a means to overcome the problem.
- I visited the newly established Beckman Institute at the California Institute of Technology. Specialists in physics, chemistry, biology and computer science are doing research in the same room. I also met with researchers at such top-level U.S. universities as Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford and University of California, Berkeley. They all shared the view that from now on, such interdisciplinary research will become increasingly important. . . . In Japan, however, research systems are sectionalized. Physicists study physics, chemists concentrate on chemistry and biologists engage in biological research. Researchers don't even know what their colleagues in other field are doing in the lab next door. At this rate, I am worried that we would eventually lose the competition as all-around players. Even when capable talent enters an important field of research, they may be able to lead the race up to a point but could soon run into a wall.
- [A planned graduate school university in Okinawa] will have a 500-strong faculty and the same number of students. In keeping with European and American universities, the school year will start in September and all classes will be held in English. In terms of education and research, the central subject will be biology but it will be merged with physics, chemistry and information technology. In other words, it will be a fusion of nanotechnology and biotechnology.