Business | IEC GENERAL MEETING IN TOKYO

Government supporting global standardization efforts

by Minoru Matsutani

Staff Writer

The government considers the standardization of technology a very important contribution that Japanese companies can make to the world because of their high technologies in many areas, including environmental technology, an industry ministry official said.

“Standardization is significant to makers and users as it can help to spread excellent technology to the world,” said Hirofumi Katase, director general of the Industrial Science and Technology Policy and Environment Bureau at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. “The government’s job is to create an environment to help companies with standardization.”

Acquiring standardization for technology is a key to spread technology to the world, in which companies can achieve marketing success and make global contributions. Since the enforcement of the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade in 1995 and the Agreement on Government Procurement by the World Trade Organization in 1996, demand has been rising for products certified by international standardization organizations such as the International Electrotechnical Commission, or IEC, Katase said.

Standardization in the environment and energy fields has become remarkably important recently, and the IEC has increasingly set up special committees in the area.

Especially in the area of smart cities, which are designed to optimize energy use by minimizing energy consumption and generating electricity, and renewable energy, the global move of standardizing technologies is accelerating. Amid such a situation, Japan has taken on the role of leading special committees on electricity storing systems and systems to deliver electricity with ultra-high voltage alternating current.

On environmental technology, the IEC has set up several Technical Committees and Japan is the leader of some of them. On smart cities in particular, the IEC set up a Systems Committee and Japan will actively contribute to it, he said.

In the area of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, Japan has been leading in the creation of international standards in methods to measure carbon dioxide emissions in the steel-making industry in the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO.

“Japan would like to be involved in and contribute to the creation of international standards that would lead to new technology and the solution to global issues in the environmental area,” he said.

Environmental change is a global problem and governments are likely to procure environmentally friendly equipment and infrastructure to meet the strict demands of the WTO’s Agreement on Government Procurement, he said.

Katase also pointed out that raising awareness of international standardization among companies, people and countries is an international interest. Japan is taking initiative in the world to raise such awareness, he said.

In particular, encouraging small companies to participate in standardization is a global concern because development of products and technology involves so many layers of small companies.

Generally speaking, small companies tend to not pursue standardization from domestic or international organizations for standardization such as the Japanese Industrial Standards Committee (JISC), IEC and ISO, as it is time-consuming and carries extra costs. The extra time and costs make it difficult for small companies to pursue standardization.

Also, there may be cases in which a small company with unique, distinct technology has difficulty achieving industrywide consensus. It would be even harder if the technology is used in multiple industries.

To solve the situation, Japan in July established a system in which the process of standardization will become easier and quicker. The Japanese Standards Association, or JSA, in July was given an additional authority to create working groups and documents for Japanese Industrial Standards (JIS) and international standards.

The government will also hold seminars for small companies and distribute pamphlets to make them aware of the importance of international standardization. Also, the JSA will function as an inquiry center on standardization, providing a variety of support for companies, particularly small companies, to acquire international standardization.

Additionally, the government is supporting other Asian countries with their efforts to better understand and acquire standardization and certification. In some instances, groups of companies from different countries work together toward obtaining standardization and certification.

For example, the government is providing training and technical support to developing countries in Asia in the areas of air conditioners, refrigerators and other home appliances.

“Japanese companies produce energy-saving appliances. These products enjoy good sales domestically and should also do well overseas,” he said. “The government would like to support products such as these.”

The lack of experienced people is also a global problem. Katase said the industry ministry would like to strengthen measures to train people engaged in standardization work.

“The standardization process involves examining data and creating documents. Universities and companies should teach such skills,” he said. “Also, we should educate not only engineers, but also sales people and company management about standardization. The government should provide training for this as well.”

As the IEC has a Young Professionals Program, which gives young people the skills and knowledge of standardization, the government has been conducting the Young Professionals Japan Program. In the program, 68 people are learning the basics of international standardization processes and attending lectures by those with firsthand experience in the standardization process.

“In many ways, what Japan is doing is a contribution to the world,” he said.

Japan’s various contributions will be highlighted at the 78th IEC General Meeting, to be held in Tokyo at the Tokyo International Forum in Chiyoda Ward, through Nov. 15.

It is the fourth IEC general meeting to be held in Japan, and the first since the one in Kyoto in 1999. Many meetings with Technical Committees and Subcommittees and official programs, such as Young Professionals Program, are held in conjunction with the IEC general meeting in Tokyo,

As of the end of October, there were about 2,500 registered attendees, with about 1,800 coming from outside Japan. These numbers will make the 78th meeting the largest in several years.

The reason for the popularity is probably that the hosting country, Japan, has set a theme of “Integration toward a Smarter World,” and has planned various sideline events in line with the theme. These events include “Technical Visits” to various companies showing off their newest technology, technical exhibitions, symposiums, technical demonstrations and cultural experiences, he said, adding Japan will host a “brand new style of IEC meeting.”

Technical Visits include visiting the Fukushima Renewable Energy Institute, AIST (Advanced Industrial Science and Technology) in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, where the most advanced research on renewable energy is taking place.

The general meeting also has some hospitality programs, taking guests to tourist places in Tokyo.

“This IEC meeting will give foreign experts opportunities to see, touch and experience Japanese products and technology that will help them with their standardization activities. They will also be able to experience the sights in Tokyo and experience Japanese culture,” Katase said. “We have received lots of support from the industry and academia for holding the IEC Tokyo meeting, which will be an important cornerstone to show that we will continue to be committed to make further contributions to the world.”


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