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              FACS NEWSLETTER

              Introduction of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology

              The Largest Public Research Organization in Japan

              Koji Abe

              The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST)

              International Affairs Department, International Relationship Office

              e-mail: koji-abe@aist.go.jp

              On April 1, 2001, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) made a fresh start. (Fig. 1) The AIST is a reformed research organization, integrating the 15 research institutes, which were operated in the Agency of Industrial Science and Technology (the former AIST) affiliated to the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Table 1), and the Weights and Measures Training Institute. 

              This made the new AIST the Japan's largest public research organization, having research facilities in Tsukuba as a pivot and also in other regions throughout Japan. In the fiscal year 2001, AIST is budgeted 750 million US dollars and around 3,100 employees, some 2,400 researchers and 700 administrative staff, are working.

              Fig. 1  View of AIST Tsukuba Central and East East



              What should the new AIST bring about? - AIST's mission -
              As Japan's largest public research organization, AIST has three main missions in order to develop industries and improve the quality of life by enhancing industrial-techno infrastructures. We are capable to attain this with our variety of research fields covered such as electronics/information technology, biology, materials, energy, manufacturing technology, survey/measuring, earth science and the environment.

              1) Strengthen the industrial technologies
              Maintaining and strengthening industrial technologies in the internationally competitive level is essential for industrial revitalization. Furthermore future breakthrough in industrial technologies will be accomplished through the wider spectra of research and interdisciplinary studies. AIST will actively promote the exploitation/verification of new technological seeds and interdisciplinary fields to attain these goals.

              2) Mitigate energy and environmental issues
              Alternative energy source envisioning long-term energy supplies, energy saving technologies and environmentally-friendly technologies are the keys for sustainability. However, the fact that these require the relatively long lead-time and impose higher risks makes it difficult for private companies to gain good returns in a short term. Therefore, it is we as one of public organizations that actively tackle with these issues in cooperation with the government.

              3) Strengthen the intellectual infrastructure
              In accordance with the policies to strengthen the intellectual infrastructure, AIST makes contributions from an objective, fair and reliable standpoint, providing various information and research results. Specifically, we actively work on measurement standards, geological surveys, the supply of standard materials, the revision of industrial standards, the acquisition of various analysis/evaluation expertise, and the creation of databases.

              Function and Characteristics of AIST
              AIST aims to benefit the society through creative research results in science and technology. AIST has been restructured based on the following points to accomplish our three main missions.

              (1) Operation of Independent Administrative Organization
              AIST, positioned as an independent administrative organization from a governmental organization, is acknowledged more autonomous controls on its personnel and structural matters. As a result, AIST strategically assigns the manpower of 2,400 researchers to the fields of life science, information technology and environment research where high social demand is observed. (Fig. 2) 

              (2) Opening up New Frontiers through Integration of Various Fields
              AIST took over the full human resources from the former 15 laboratories that cover almost all fields of sciences and technologies, ranging from biotechnology to earth sciences. It is advantageous to explore interdisciplinary fields and new technological frontiers in the course to pursue industrial applications from basic science. Synergetic and competitive activities will also be promoted on the base of creative ideas.

              (3) Open Networking of R&D Facilities
              With research facilities integrated in Tsukuba and unique research bases located in each regional block (Fig. 3), we have formed a close technology development network among the private, academic and government sectors. Through this network, research and technological potentials can be accumulated, and through a transfer of technology the overall level of industrial technologies employed in Japan can be improved. AIST fully intends to assume the proud position of one of the world's leading research organizations through strategic construction of global research bases and networks. 

              (4) International Coordination and Collaboration
              Analyzing the situations of overseas research organizations and research trends in the world, AIST strongly promotes international collaboration. More than 700 cooperative projects under the bilateral agreements of Japan in science & technology are running in AIST. To activate international collaboration, AIST has also concluded 19 international research cooperative agreements, including 12 with Asian institutes as of December 2001. In AIST, a thousand overseas researchers (postdoctoral researchers, guest researchers and others) discuss face to face with AIST staffs and mutually stimulate research motivations and potentials. More than half of our researchers come from Asia.

              (5) Publication of Research Results
              AIST is responsible for the continuous distribution and dissemination of world-class research results as a pioneer in technological development. We actively promote the release and standardization of such results. We will also precisely monitor, analyze and publish trends in industrial/scientific technologies home and abroad, and help create intellectual properties for all human beings as well as expand intellectual sphere.

              What is the Structure of the AIST? 
              -Flexible and Autonomous Organization -

              The structure of AIST, as shown in the organizational chart (Fig. 4) has been designed to maximize the advantage of an independent administrative organization, and ensure our autonomous functions. 

              In order to appropriately adapt to the characteristics of individual research fields and respond to the multiple phases of each research mission and R&D project, we adopted several forms of research units. All the research units are summarized in Table 2. The following four types are the main bodies of research units:
              [Research Center]
              With a limited term of three to seven years, researchers will focus on their strategic topics, which have a clearly defined mission and could have a strong impact on the academic world, industry and society. To achieve our objectives, the provision of research resources including budget, personnel and space for the research centers will be given priority. Research centers are composed of dozens of personnel including postdoctoral fellows and outside researchers from business and academia. AIST employs a top-down management in which the heads of the centers have full authority. Top research leaders recruited from leading universities and business sector in Japan and abroad head 12 of the 24 centers.

              [Research Institute]
              The research institutes carry out AIST's mid-term range missions with a broader coverage of research fields and longer life times. It appreciates a bottom-up approach as research subjects coming from the ideas of individual researchers and nurtures the specialized abilities of the participants. The activities and results are periodically evaluated and restructuring shall be carried out when needed. The 22 research institutes shown in the organization chart are established according to the following three indexes.
              (1) Clear correspondence to social needs and AIST's missions, 
              (2) Opening up new technological fields through integration of different fields, 
              (3) Full use of the potential of the organization by the combination of technological familiarity

              [Special Division]
              Two Special Divisions have been tentatively established at the AIST Kansai with the aim of working flexibly with existing local industry and research sectors in conducting research at various stages of development, from pure research to practical application.

              Greater coordination among public research organizations, private sector and academia will be fully expected to result from this venture.

              [Research Initiative]
              Seven Research Initiatives are positioned as mobile organizations to be established according to themes with high fusion in different fields and themes directed toward urgent administrative needs. Consequently, Research Initiative will be established on demand at any time.

              All the research units are located in nine bases through Japan: Hokkaido, Tohoku, Tsukuba, Tokyo Waterfront (http://unit.aist.go.jp/waterfront/en/), Chubu, Kansai, Chugoku, Shikoku, and Kyushu (http://unit.aist.go.jp/kyushu/english_top.html). The unique research base, Tokyo Waterfront, is newly established in Tokyo Academic Park as the core of the coordination between universities, private sector and government agencies.

              Detailed information of each Research Units and latest topics are available at AIST homepage (http://www.aist.go.jp/index_en.html). 

              [Research Support Departments]
              The research support departments provide a self-managing function for the system to respond to domestic and international demands. Departments include: the Planning Headquarters, which locate in Tokyo and Tsukuba, providing control for the entire organization based on the top-down management of the President; the Technology Information Department, proposing national industrial technology strategies based on survey of the latest technologies and trends in research; theInternational Affairs Department, being responsible for making cooperative arrangements with foreign institutions and establishing and maintaining foreign bases of operations; and the Public Relations Department, performing the central function of propagation of the activities and results of the organization; Collaboration Department, contributing and collaborating with outsides through Collaboration Centers.

              The Evaluation Division is established to provide feedback to the organization management through strict evaluation of research directions and achievements, which appoints the evaluation committees consisting of members of universities, private sectors, and government agencies.

              Brief Introduction of Main Research Fields
              Since AIST has quite wide research field as mentioned above, here we briefly introduce our research concept in each main field.

              Human Safety and Quality of Life
              Focusing on the fields of biotechnology, medical engineering and human welfare, AIST promotes developing technologies toward safe and high quality of life. It acts as the base in the fields of biotechnology with main focuses on cell biology and environmental biology, so as to contribute to the creation of new industries. What we carry out in the fields of medical engineering and human welfare science based upon cross-disciplinary research between medical and engineering fields are to develop biofunction substitution technology, medical treatment diagnosis, to conduct R&D of welfare equipment, sensing technology for human stress and physiological conditions, and to handle technological problems common to those technologies.

              The Hyper-Information Society
              Information communication technology is critical to developing the industrial activities. The need to be accessible to information and people at any time and any place is growing rapidly. To realize such a hyper-information society where you can do business on the information network in a free and safe manner, we promote developing technology necessary to analyze, process, accumulate and retrieve immense amounts of data at high speed. We also aim to materialize the flexibility of human intelligence with engineering approach and to develop technologies to build systems in human activities. Furthermore, our efforts are to develop innovative technologies on electronics, semiconductor and electronic devices that are indispensable to advanced and high-speed equipment.

              Harmony with the Environment
              In order to realize a sustainable society where handles restrictions stemming from resources and environment, we reinforce technological development aiming at minimizing risks of chemical substances, purifying toxic materials emitted in the environment and preventing depletion of the ozone layer and consequent global warming. Other challenges are: life-cycle-assessment technology to diminish the negative environmental load caused by products and its production process; recycling technology to minimize waste; development of new green materials; development of chemical reaction processing technology with no toxic substances and fewer by-products.

              Stable and Efficient Energy Resource
              It is necessary for us to tackle issues such as limited fossil energy fuels and global warming at global level. In order to establish an environmental-friendly infrastructure to support vital social activities, we develop key technologies as follows: techniques for more efficient utilization of existing electrical and thermal energy sources; techniques for energy conservation such as energy storage; new energy technologies to reduce negative environmental load; electric devices for diversification of power sources; electric power networks; innovative technology such as one as superconduction in power transmission. We also promote research into techniques for discovering and developing new underground resources.

              Innovative and Crossdisciplinary Technology
              Thanks to the development of atomic architechtonics and molecules on a Nanometer scale and novel solid ultra-fine processing technologies, we are able to construct infinitesimal small assemblies. We expect this innovative technological development to be a cross-disciplinary technology for increased integration of electronic particles, exploration of functional elements based on a novel concept of quantum effects as well as measuring, analyzing and precise machining in the fields of biology and materials. We make endeavors to develop these new nanotechnologies and to establish principles of structure on new materials, devices and system by clarifying the physical properties, functions and effects that are peculiar to nanostructures, and moreover, to contribute to building the system of innovative and cross-disciplinary technology in the society of the 21st century.

              Machine and Manufacturing Technology
              With a goal of establishing environment- and human-friendly machine technologies, our activities are to add high additional values to machine engineering by developing green technologies such as inverse manufacturing, miniaturized machines with advanced functions at higher speed, by searching for new functions utilizing micro-nanoscale effects and by using functions stemming from a combination of nanosale techniques.

              Materials and Processing Technology
              We contribute to the creation of new industries by creating novel materials and developing new processing technologies. Our effort is to develop techniques controlling internal organization and material structure and to create materials with new functions as a base of information processing technology and multi-functions. Another goal is to create materials rich in physical and chemical characteristics that are able to form a basis for the development of sustainable society. Furthermore, we encourage developing materials processing techniques that exploit particular reaction conditions in order to evade restrictions due to environmental issues and energy and production costs.

              Geological Surveys
              AIST maps basic geography in order to compile information on the geological foundations of urban areas and to assist in preventing possible natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and other geological catastrophes in Japan. Specifically, we compile a geological map by conducting precise surveys throughout the Japanese Archipelago. Other compilations are maps on environmental geology, earth chemistry, precise foundation structure in metropolitan areas, and active faults based on trench surveys. We are also to provide databases on volcanic activities in the Holocene Era that cover detailed information over the last 10,000 years. In order to secure a steady supply of energy resources, we provide environmental information on basic resources at home and abroad. Aiming at standardizing geological information toward the solution of global issues such as environmental problems, we compile a database by rounding up the information from East and Southeast Asia regions and disseminate it globally.

              Standards and Measurements
              Measurement standards and certified reference materials are the common "rulers" indispensable to developing science & technology. AIST progresses converting traditional standards to more precise and universal physical quantities, and developing measurement standards of length in nanoscale and that of temperature at ultra-high temperature. In the field of certified reference materials, ultra microdetective-analysis technologies are being developed for the environmental and medical fields. Our effort is to make it possible to provide measurement standards and certified reference materials in accordance with international agreements in collaboration with other standards organizations by promoting joint research projects and advancing the international coordination of standards. 

              Last updated:2016-05-06