Funding up for science research

Kyodo News

The government will appropriate ¥223 billion for grants in aid for scientific research at universities and other facilities in fiscal 2011, sources said.

The ¥23 billion increase is the biggest since the subsidy program was created in 1918.

The increase, despite an era when the government is trying to curb spending, partly reflects major Japanese scientific achievements, including the two scientists who won this year’s Nobel Prize in chemistry and the return of the Hayabusa probe from an asteroid in June, the sources said.

The government will allocate ¥3 billion for development of the asteroid probe’s successor — Hayabusa 2 — in next year’s budget as requested by the science and technology ministry, they said.

According to plans by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Hayabusa 2 will be launched in fiscal 2014 to observe the asteroid 1999JU3. It is expected to return to Earth in 2020 with a capsule containing samples of rocks and other materials.

The government will include ¥2.3 billion in next year’s budget to develop and promote an unmanned system that will automatically run near the ocean floor to search for marine resources, including rare earth minerals.

Japan has been pursuing ways to procure rare earth materials on its own since China temporarily cut off exports of the resources, which are vital for manufacturing high-tech products.

For the grants in scientific research, the ministry had demanded an increase of ¥10 billion in its budget requests last summer.

The government has decided on a cut of 0.5 percent to ¥1.15 trillion in grants to cover personnel and other expenses at national universities, the sources said.

The cut will save ¥5.8 billion, which will be used to create a new subsidy program to support the acquisition of large-scale experimental equipment.

A subsidy program for operational expenses at private universities will be trimmed by 0.4 percent to ¥320.9 billion.