Welcome Speech

Mr. Jiro Shibata (Director General, NISTEP,Japan)

  To open the conference, I would like to give a brief speech. Thank you very much for attending this conference in spite of your busy schedules. We are very grateful to you, and to all of our guest speakers, for coming all the way here. I would also like to thank the APEC Center for Technology Foresight and Tsukuba EXPO '85 Memorial Foundation for co-organizing the conference.

  When drafting national science and technology policies and formulating business technology development strategy, it is essential to grasp the longer-term development trends in science and technology. For this reason, Japan's science and technology agency has conducted technology foresight exercises every 5 years since 1971. The most recent technology foresight study (the sixth) selected from 14 sectors and 1100 technology subjects ranging from electronics to materials, life sciences to the environment, and traffic. There were about 4000 participants from each field in science and technology in Japan. Thus it was a very large-scale and inclusive project. Inspired by Japan's activities, many foreign countries have shown an increasing interest in science and technology foresight, especially in Europe and Asia, in the 1990s.

  In Germany in 1993, a very similar technology foresight study was conducted, subsequent to Japan's fifth science and technology study, so that in April 1994, it was possible to make an international comparison between Japan and Germany's study results. Nearly 60 percent of the results were similar. The difference was only three years in terms of actualizing the foresight period, indicating a high level of international consistency. Cooperation between Japan and Germany has continued in the fields of material processing, information electronics, life sciences and the environment, from the earliest stages of a project onwards. Both countries acknowledge that this excellent cooperation was promoted by the joint technology foresight work. Following a mini-Delphi exercise, the Science and Technology Agency invited German, British, French, American and Australian experts to Japan for the first international conference on technology foresight in June 1995. Cooperation with Germany is continuing, with about 30% of the themes of the foresight studies in common with Japan's themes.

  We have speakers at this conference from Britain, Australia, Sweden, New Zealand, and Korea. In these countries they have conducted foresight studies. We also have speakers from Asian countries including China, where science and technology foresight has been conducted. In 1998, the coorganizer of this conference, the APEC Center for Technology Foresight, was established as the first international institution for technology foresight, based in Thailand.

  I would now like to talk about the situation in Japan. In 1996, the current basic plan for science and technology was approved by the Cabinet but it is effective only until this year. So at the moment the Science and Technology Council, which is an advisory body of the Prime Minister, is conducting revisions of this basic plan, with the ultimate aim of achieving a country which has an intelligent sense of existence, which contributes to the future of human beings and which secures a safe life for its citizens. The prioritisation of science and technology is being actively considered. From January 2001, the Ministry of Education and the National Science and Technology Agency will be integrated along with the current Science and Technology Council. They will be reborn as the General Science and Technology Council. This will deal with science and technology policies more broadly, and in this context, we will begin a seventh foresight study this year.

  We will devote ourselves to development for the future in terms of science and technology. In this situation, we are very happy that experts in this field are attending here. Our institute is pleased to hold a second technology foresight international conference. We hope that this conference will lead to more foresight studies and contribute to further methodological developments in foresight. Thank you very much.