Industry ministry to seek ¥116 billion to promote innovation

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry plans to request ¥116.6 billion ($950 million) for projects to promote innovation under the government’s fiscal 2016 budget, more than 2½ times the amount earmarked under the 2015 budget, Jiji Press learned Friday.

Among such projects are those to increase the use of artificial intelligence and develop next-generation transport systems toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, according to informed sources.

The ministry will seek the hefty amount in accordance with the government’s growth strategy, which is one of the three pillars of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policy, dubbed “Abenomics.” Capitalizing on technological innovation, the government is aiming to create a society that can achieve economic growth despite a decrease in the population.

In total, the ministry’s budget request for the year from next April will rise 21 percent from the level it secured for fiscal 2015 to ¥1,371.2 billion — ¥395.5 billion under the general account and ¥975.7 billion for an energy-related special account, the sources said.

Of the envisaged innovation-related funds, the ministry will newly seek ¥13.9 billion for research on artificial intelligence and so-called big data, or vast amounts of electronic data accumulated on the Internet, the sources said.

Some ¥3 billion, up 10-fold, will be sought as resources for support for venture businesses engaging in research and development activities.

The ministry will demand ¥56.8 billion to increase the number of hydrogen stations to help promote fuel-cell vehicles and for research on autonomous driving technologies.

Elsewhere, as part of measures to speed up the reconstruction of areas affected by the severe nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the ministry is considering launching a new subsidy program with the aim of encouraging companies to set up offices or factories in the areas, the sources said. A specific amount to be sought will be decided in the work to compile the fiscal 2016 budget, the sources said.

In addition, the ministry will request ¥132.7 billion, up 6 percent, for support for local communities hosting nuclear power plants.

A new assistance program will be established for local communities, which would receive reduced amounts of funds under an existing subsidy program due to the scrapping of nuclear power reactors, the sources said.

The ministry hopes to double the amount of funds for supporting energy-saving efforts by households and factories to ¥242.9 billion, the sources said.




Source: Industry ministry to seek ¥116 billion to promote innovation

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