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Criticism Finds Its Target : Japan Opens Consortia to Foreign Firms

June 30, 1989|From Reuters

TOKYO — Reacting to recent criticism from abroad, Japan announced today that it will admit foreigners to some government-industry research projects that have been criticized as being intended only for the benefit of domestic industry.

Foreign companies will be welcomed to consortia run by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry. Previously, only the Japanese subsidiaries of foreign firms have been eligible.

"Foreign firms will be welcome to join these projects. But they are funded by Japan and are for Japan. If foreigners have no interest, that's fine too," a top official said.

Larger projects unite researchers from industry, government and academia in seven- to eight-year programs costing up to $210 million.

They have been credited with underpinning Japan's industrial prowess in microchips, new materials, optics, robotics and other fields. In a reflection of Japan's advanced technology, programs are increasingly of a basic, rather than applied, nature.

Foreign governments have criticized the consortia as closed programs designed to support the advance and expansion of Japanese industry.

"This is a positive step and along the lines we've been encouraging," said Richard Getzinger, counselor for scientific and technological affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

Whether foreign companies opt to join the consortia may depend on intellectual property rights, dispute settlement procedures and other issues expected to be ironed out by the end of July.

"Although the door is opening, many companies may not choose to walk through it," said Michael Mintz, director of the office of technology for Dow Chemical International Ltd.

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