TOP > Interviews > Ichiro Taniguchi Industrialization of Space Development and Utilization in Japan
Chairman, Space Activities Promotion Committee, Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation); Executive Corporate Advisor, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation; Doctor of Engineering.
Born in Hyogo prefecture in 1936. After graduating from the Department of Physics at Kyoto University in 1959, Dr. Taniguchi joined the Central Research Laboratory of Mitsubishi Electric Corporation. He was transferred to the Kamakura works in 1971, and worked as General Manager of the Control Systems Department and the Missile Systems Department. Subsequently, he became Deputy General Manager of the Communication Systems Center, and General Manager of the Kamakura Works.
Dr. Taniguchi became the Corporate Vice President, Member of the Board, Group Vice President, Electronic Systems in 1991, and after becoming a Corporate Senior Vice President, Member of the Board, Group President, Electronic Systems in 1995, and Executive Vice President, Member of the Board, Group President, Electronic Systems in 1997. He was promoted to the position of president and CEO in June 1998. And he was appointed Chairman in 2002, and after becoming a Director, Executive Corporate Advisor in April 2006 and has been Executive Corporate Advisor since June 2006.
Since 1997, he has also been Chairman of the Space Activities Promotion Committee of Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation).
Q. Could you give us a brief outline of the Space Activities Promotion Committee of Nippon Keidanren?
The committee was formed in 1961 to study the direction of industrial space development and utilization, and to make proposals for national policy. It was eight years before the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA), now JAXA, was born. The committee is divided into one group that plans space development and another that plans space applications, consisting of 56 manufacturers and companies that benefit from space utilization. Every year, the committee presents policy proposals to promote Japanese space development. We also run public education campaigns by publishing pamphlets on space development, for example.
Q. What is the importance of space development for Japan?
The Science and Technology Basic Law came into force in 1995, to promote scientific and technological creativity. The law determines the basic outline of science and technology policy in Japan, which is crucial for our national prosperity and independence. Japan has few natural resources; therefore science and technology are our only means of sustaining the nation. For this reason, I believe that promoting space development benefits our national interest, and is also very important in terms of developing human resources for the future. The United States, Europe, Russia, China, Korea and India also consider space development and utilization to be part of their national strategy. They are also not hesitant to use it as a diplomatic tool. For instance, China recently offered its space-related equipment, facilities, and knowledge to developing nations in Africa, asking in return for sustainable energy resources. I think that Japan should also be making significant use of space development as part of its national strategy.
Unfortunately, however, in the Second Science and Technology Basic Plan (2001-2005), space development suffered more severe budget cuts than other sectors. In the end, the cuts decreased the number of engineers at space-related companies by about 30 per cent. This is a great shame. Japan has many top-notch technologies and components. We mustn't lose sight of these.
So, we at the Space Activities Promotion Committee of Nippon Keidanren, JAXA, and the Space Activities Commission (SAC) petitioned the Council for Science and Technology Policy and other related ministries to recognize the importance of space development. And fortunately, in the Third Science and Technology Basic Plan (2006 to 2010), endorsed by the Cabinet in March 2006, space-related activities are positioned as one of the nation's four secondary priority areas. These are energy, manufacturing technology, social infrastructure, and “frontier,” which includes space. Also, technologies for space transportation systems, and marine-Earth observation and exploration systems are now among the five critical technologies as established by the Council for Science and Technology Policy. The importance of space development is starting to be recognized, and I expect that we will soon be able to be more positive about Japan's space budget. We in industry will continue to make efforts along these lines.
Q. Compared to other nations, do you think that the Japanese government has taken enough initiative in space development?
In my opinion, the Japanese Prime Minister generally says little about science and technology on occasions such as his New Year and inaugural addresses. In comparison, the President of the United States spends a significant amount of time covering science and technology in his annual State of the Union address. The President of China also talks often about science and technology, and particularly about space development. Both national leaders have proposed lunar exploration missions as long-term projects, and promised to increase their nations' space budget. This may be a result of a closer relationship between national leaders and administrators of space agencies. For example, the NASA administrator can meet directly with the U.S. President, while there is no such a system in Japan. Also, a budget difference exists between Japan and other countries. Japan's 2006 space budget - about 250 billion yen - was drastically lower than its peak of about 300 billion yen in 2002. Although the 2007 budget is slightly higher, it is merely a tenth of the U.S. space budget, which is itself much lower than that of Europe.
It is very important for a nation to clarify its policy on space development. In space-faring nations such as the United States, Europe, Russia, China, Korea and India, space development is an important part of national strategy, and their laws governing outer space are well developed. But in Japan, there are still no laws governing the use of space. The Space Activities Promotion Committee of Nippon Keidanren made policy recommendations in June 2006 for the formulation of a Basic Space Law. Thus far Japan's efforts towards space utilization have focused primarily on development. The Basic Space Law, however, consists of three pillars: security, industrialization, and research and development.
We have also recommended setting up a governing body for space development strategy headed by the Prime Minister. In our proposals of July 2007, we are going to appeal for the urgent formulation of a Basic Space Law, which will integrate and reinforce support for space activities. We will also underline the significance of enhanced space development and utilization, including space industrialization. Basic Space Law is essential to advance Japanese space development and utilization, and to prepare our nation for a new space era. (*)
It also seems to me that public education about space activities is not aggressive enough in Japan. It is very important to inform the public of the nation's involvement in space development and science, and to get people interested. But in reality, annual operating plans give short shrift to communications, which is the same at Keidanren. The media cover satellite or rocket launches, but JAXA's other operations are seldom introduced to the public. Even though the importance of public relations is understood, it is very difficult to come up with an effective appeal to the public. In that sense, the JAXA Web site is a good tool. But I'd like to see communications efforts on a more national level, so people will become more aware of space activities. Everyone knows that their daily life benefits from space utilization, in the fields of communications, broadcasting, weather forecasting, and GPS navigation. I think that Japan's space activities need to be more aggressively advertised.
(*) The legislation for Basic Space Law was submitted to the Diet after this interview, on June 20, 2007.