The education ministry announced Friday that it will support 111 universities and technical colleges that plan to build or expand their science-related departments as part of efforts to bolster Japan’s science education, especially in fields related to green and digital technologies.

The schools will receive grants through a ¥300 billion ($2.1 billion) fund set up by the government, as the country seeks to improve its international standing in science and technology research. According to a report released by a ministry-affiliated think tank last year, Japan ranked 12th worldwide for the number of highly-cited scientific papers in the three years through 2020, a dramatic fall from fourth in the early 2000s.

In Japan, 35% of students graduate with a degree in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math — compared with 38% in the U.S., 42% in South Korea and Germany and 45% in Britain. While the nation's ratio has remained unchanged, other countries have recently made moves to raise their ratio of science majors in order to lead fast-changing industries.