Rising sun for EU Research: Commissioner Busquin to visit Japan

December 5, 2003

Brussels, 4 December 2003

European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin will visit Japan from December 5-9 to participate in the G8 Carnegie Group conference, the meeting of G8 research ministers, to promote future scientific co-operation between Japan and the EU. Topics on the agenda will include nanotechnology, hydrogen and fuel cell technology, nuclear energy including ITER, and biotechnology research. He will open the first Biotech forum, under the EU-Japan roundtable of industrialists. The Commissioner will meet with top Japanese government representatives and hold a series of meetings with Japanese business executives. He will also discuss the possibility of starting negotiations for an EU-Japan scientific co-operation agreement.

"In cutting-edge and frontier technologies such as hydrogen and fuel cells, and nanotechnology, Japan is a world leader. It invests more than 3% of its GDP in research an objective the EU has set itself for 2010," says Commissioner Busquin. "That is why we need to upgrade our partnership with our strategic competitor, Japan. The European Research Area is open to the world. By working with our partners, we can harness this technological potential and move towards making the EU the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world."

Busy schedule

The Commissioner will begin his visit with a tour of the Tsukuba Science Laboratories. He will meet with Minister of State for Science and Technology (CSTP), Mr. Toshimitsu Motegi, Minister Takeo Kawamura of the Ministry for Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Minister Shoichi Nakagawa from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and Mr. Shinzo Saito, President of the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute (JAERI).

In talks with Ministers and political counterparts, the Commissioner will underline the issue of ongoing negotiations for a Science and Technology (S&T) agreement to expand current S&T co-operation, between the government of Japan and the EU. The Commissioner may also suggest the creation of a high level expert group to discuss future co-operation and make the appropriate recommendations for its expansion to key areas of the knowledge-based economy.

G8 leaders united

The Carnegie meetings were started in 1991, as an opportunity for science and research ministers and advisers of the G8 countries to meet informally. These meetings enable countries to develop a closer working relationship, to increase their understanding of various national perspectives, and to exchange views on science issues. Science is very much linked to social and ethical needs and such informal meetings provide an appropriate forum for exchanging opinions on such issues.

During the Tokyo meeting, former minister and current chair of the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) research committee, Mr. Koji Omi, will give a lunchtime address on the "Kyoto Davos Forum of Science", as proposed by the Japanese government for November 2004. The Commissioner will be welcomed by the LDP, in particular by Mr Hiroyuki Hosoda, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, Member of the House of Representatives and Former Minister for Science and Technology.

Investing in the future

The Commission has allocated €700 million in nanotechnology research through the 6th Research Framework Programme over four years. "Integrated projects" and "networks of excellence" will help to promote stronger links between research and innovation. EU-Japan co-operation in this field has developed actively, in particular with the participation of the European Commission in the major conference and exposition NanoTech 2003 + Future, held in Tokyo last February, and the adoption of joint conclusions on research priorities with American and Japanese partners.

Further co-operation with Japan will focus on vital nanotechnological research in industries as diverse as energy storage and distribution; detection, measurement and testing; robotics and prosthetics, and information technologies. Nanotechnologists study, manipulate and control individual atoms and molecules, making it possible to build machines on atomic scale, and to create materials and products with "nano-scale" structures and peculiar properties. Nanotechnology will allow Europe and the rest of the world to do more and better with fewer resources.

Energy for the 21 st century

While in Japan, the Commissioner will test drive a hydrogen-fuelled car, also used by Japanese Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, to demonstrate how the future of automobiles should gradually move away from a reliance on non-renewable power towards hydrogen fuel-cell take-up. Renewable, cleaner energy has long been a prime concern of the EU, particularly in view of meeting the Kyoto Protocol targets. However, hydrogen and fuel cells are currently too expensive and research efforts in this field too scattered.

EU policy initiatives, including the launch of the "Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Platform" with hydrogen sector stakeholders, and EU-funded projects are already advancing research, development and demonstration of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. But continued investment is necessary, from a variety of sources, including the EU Research Framework Programme, national and regional research funding and the European Investment Bank (EIB). This will ensure future energy supplies for the world's needs and to facilitate the development and deployment of cost-competitive, world-class hydrogen fuel-based energy systems for applications in transport, stationary and portable power.

Building on biotechnology

Biotechnological applications will be discussed during visits to top Japanese research centres, including the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) when the Commissioner, accompanied by Dr. Kisaburo Kodama (Vice-President of AIST), will look at research into medical applications of nano-biotechnologies.

Nuclear power

Japan, France and Canada are competing to be selected as the final site for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). ITER is hailed as the first nuclear fusion prototype facility on an industrial scale and will be on the Commissioner's agenda in informal talks with Japanese officials and business representatives.

Japan has several (fission) nuclear power plants and Europe itself relies on nuclear power for much of its electricity. However, by 2005, more than 70% of such power plants will have passed their 20-year life span, with almost 30% more than 30 years old. The European Commission has worked for many years with the support of expert groups on the progressive harmonisation of safety requirements and practices to ensure the highest standards of nuclear safety in the fields of radiation protection, radioactive waste disposal, and plant safety. Commissioner Busquin will address co-operation possibilities in the field of nuclear research with Japanese counterparts.

For more information:

On Carnegie G8

http://www.ceip.org/files/projects/npp/resources/g8/summit.htm

On nanotechnology

http://www.cordis.lu/nanotechnology/

http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/growth/gcc/pressroom-nanotechnology.html

On hydrogen and fuel cells

http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/energy/nn/nn_rt_hlg1_en.html

On biotechnology

http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/biot1.html

On nuclear energy

http://europa.eu.int/comm/energy/nuclear/index_en.html

On ITER

http://www.iter.org/

DN: IP/03/1659 Date: 04/12/2003

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