1. Switzerland Related News

Swiss Universities at EHEF in Tokyo and Osaka

Science & Technology Office Tokyo, May 31, 2018

Like every year, the Science & Technology Office was promoting Swiss Universities at the European Higher Education Fair (EHEF) at Meiji University in Tokyo on May 19th and at the International House in Osaka on May 20th.

2. Science and Technology Policy in Japan

Police launch expert panel to discuss rules for autonomous vehicles

The Japan Times, May 22, 2018

Police on Tuesday launched an expert panel tasked with discussing driving rules for autonomous vehicles, including a potential revision to road traffic laws.

Survey in Japan looks to assess outlook for foreign engineers

Nikkei Asian Review, May 24, 2018

As Japan faces a looming shortage of system engineers and programmers, the government will survey engineers already in the country and companies to find out how to attract more tech talent, Nikkei recently learned.

Government white paper promotes use of ICT for efficient fishing

The Japan Times, May 25, 2018

The government underlined in its annual report Friday the need to make more active use of information and communication technology, or ICT, for efficient fishing operations.

3. Education

Japan wants to teach kids how to patent their ideas

Nikkei Asian Review, May 14, 2018

Until 2016, Japan was No. 2 in international patent applications, after the U.S. Now China holds that spot. China overtook Japan in 2017, according to World Intellectual Property Organization data. It was the first time for China to clinch the position.

Pilot schools cash in as drone business takes off in Japan

The Japan Times, May 20, 2018

As Japan positions itself to take advantage of the growing trend in drones, another sector is popping up in the promising market — drone schools.

Minor degrees eyed for engineering students

The Japan News, May 27, 2018

The education ministry plans to push for the full-fledged introduction of a major-minor degree system that will allow engineering students at universities and graduate schools to select a secondary subject from a wide range of areas spanning the humanities and the sciences, starting from next academic year.

4. Life Science / Health Care

1st ES cell clinical trial aims to aid babies with weak livers

The Japan News, May 02, 2018

The nation’s first clinical trial to transplant embryonic stem (ES) cells into a patient began at the National Center for Child Health and Development (NCCHD) in Tokyo on April 30.

Mutation discovered to protect against Alzheimer’s disease in mice

RIKEN, May 04, 2018

Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Brain Science have discovered a mutation that can protect against Alzheimer’s disease in mice. Published in the scientific journal Nature Communications, the study found that a specific mutation can reduce the characteristic accumulation of the amyloid-beta peptide that occurs.

How to build a better banana with skin you can eat

Nikkei Asian Review, May 06, 2018

As any child can tell you, that the first thing you must do to eat a banana, is to peel it. Until now. A Japanese researcher has developed a new strain of banana with edible skin so it does not need to be peeled. It can also be grown in cooler climates than regular bananas, and does not need chemical pesticides to help keep it free from disease.

Japan looks to compile nursing care plans based on AI analysis

The Japan Times, May 07, 2018

The health ministry is considering the use of artificial intelligence to draw up care plans for nursing care insurance recipients.

Researchers develop ‘pain-free’ breast cancer detection method

The Japan News, May 14, 2018

A group led by Kobe University has developed a new image inspection method to detect breast cancer with high accuracy by using a transmitter that sends weak radio signals when placed over the breast.

Japan approves first trials of stem cell-based heart treatment

Nikkei Asian Review, May 16, 2018

Japan is set to host the world's first clinical trials involving the use of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells to treat heart failure.  A special health ministry panel on Wednesday gave Osaka University the green light to carry out the study, pending final authorization from the health minister. This would be the second instance of using iPS-derived cells for disease treatment in Japan, after groundbreaking trials involving retinal cells launched in 2014.

Animal-to-human transplants get closer

The Japan News, May 16, 2018

A study on growing transplantable human organs in pigs and other animals will likely start as early as this autumn. The project will mark the end of a ban on such research following the publication of a national report on the issue. While the study is expected to lead to a new source of human organs, which have been in short supply, some issues remain, such as technical obstacles and ethical concerns.

Japan keeps edge in stem-cell medicine with heart study

Nikkei Asian Review, May 17, 2018

Japan's decision on Wednesday to greenlight a study using stem cells for treating heart failure shows how far the field has progressed in the decade since the cells were first developed.

Kyoto University to start providing Embryonic Stem cells for clinical studies

Nikkei Asian Review, May 22, 2018

Kyoto University said Tuesday it will start providing human embryonic stem cells by July to colleges and private companies for clinical trials. The cells, like induced pluripotent stem cells, can create various types of organs and tissues.

Scientists discover key mechanism behind the formation of spider silk

RIKEN, May 29, 2018

A group of scientists led by researchers from the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science (CSRS) have examined the soluble precursor of spider silk and found that a previously undiscovered structural element is key to how the proteins form into the beta-sheet conformation that gives the silk its exceptional strength. Spider silk is known for its exceptional toughness and flexibility.

5. Nano and Micro Technology / Material Science

Sweat pores improve fingerprint recognition tenfold, researchers say

Nikkei Asian Review, May 01, 2018

A team of researchers in Japan has developed fingerprint recognition technology that detects sweat pores in fingers to increase the reliability of authentication.

Japan juices efforts for new electric-vehicle battery

Nikkei Asian Review, May 06, 2018

Leading Japanese manufacturers have teamed up with the government in a program to develop solid-state batteries, which are expected to power the electric vehicles of the future.

Transparent screen opens window of opportunity for video marketing

Nikkei Asian Review, May 15, 2018

Japan's Dai Nippon Printing has developed a projection screen that is nearly as transparent as glass, presenting retailers and advertisers with a potentially powerful new marketing tool.

Japanese mold makers break into new businesses

Nikkei Asian Review, May 16, 2018

After a spell in the doldrums, Japan's mold-making industry has rallied in recent years. Increasingly popular electric vehicles do away with the engines that are many mold-makers' bread and butter. But some manufacturers are honing their techniques to make products for battery-powered cars.

6. Information & Communications Technology

Smart convenience store opens in Huis Ten Bosch hotel

The Japan News, May 02, 2018

An unmanned smart convenience store opened Tuesday in a hotel in the Huis Ten Bosch theme park in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, southwestern Japan.

MUFG to launch AI research body

The Japan News, May 03, 2018

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group plans to establish an organization as early as next month to look into the use of artificial intelligence in loan application screenings and market trend predictions. The new entity will be called MUFG AI Studio.

Japan tapping gait recognition tech in criminal probes

The Japan Times, May 08, 2018

Gait recognition technology, a method to identify people by characteristics shown unconsciously in the ways they walk, is being utilized in criminal investigations in Japan.

IBM selects Keio to host first quantum computing hub in Asia

The Japan Times, May 17, 2018

Keio University opened a research hub Thursday that can access IBM Corp.’s cutting-edge quantum computer system through the internet, with the aim of studying the possibilities of harnessing quantum computing.

7. Software / Mobile Services & Applications

Japanese service Ragri cultivates a synergy between farmers and online game players

The Japan Times, May 01, 2018

A service launched by an agriculture venture in 2010 combines the fun of an online game with tangible benefits, as players receive produce in exchange for managing a virtual farm linked to real-world cultivation.

Tokyo-based startups look to link consumers with restaurants to curb food waste

The Japan Times, May 04, 2018

In affluent Japan millions of tons of still-edible food waste are thrown away each year, evoking a sense of guilt for many. According to the agriculture ministry, 6.46 million tons of untouched food were discarded in 2015.

Ex-Goldman trader Yuzo Kano is hiring old rivals to build a cryptocurrency empire in Tokyo

The Japan Times, May 10, 2018

Yuzo Kano is trying to build a global cryptocurrency powerhouse, one former financier at a time. The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. alumnus, who turned bitFlyer Inc. into Japan’s largest bitcoin exchange, is scooping up traders and bankers from both his old employer and former rivals as he embarks on an ambitious international expansion.

Cryptocurrency tech eyed for money transfers

The Japan News, May 14, 2018

Mitsubishi Corp. and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc. (MUFG) will create a new international money transfer system in cooperation with major overseas financial institutions, it has been learned.

System allows virtual views of live acts

The Japan News, May 15, 2018

A University of Tokyo-led team said Monday that it has developed a virtual reality system that can let people vividly enjoy live concerts and stage plays wherever they are and whenever they want. By wearing dedicated headsets, users can virtually be in the audience even if they are away from live performance venues.

Next-generation technology tipped to reboot Asian economies after smartphones peak

The Japan Times, May 16, 2018

The technology boom powering Asia’s economies is about to get a reboot. Explosive growth in new-era gadgets such as wearable devices and internet-linked home appliances is tipped to offset cooling sales of smartphones, which have already dinged Asia’s tech manufacturers.

Fujitsu and Lenovo unveil face-reading AI for homes

Nikkei Asian Review, May 17, 2018

Fujitsu and Lenovo Group have developed a device that reads facial expressions and tracks movements using artificial intelligence, the Asian technology companies said Wednesday, as part of a push into new data analysis services amid a shrinking PC market.

Student's idea for app that pulls up athlete profiles on demand gets nod from Tokyo organizers

The Japan Times, May 17, 2018

A student’s idea for making a facial-recognition app for smartphones that can provide speedy access to the profiles of Olympic athletes who appear on TV has drawn interest from the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee, which hopes it can meet the changing needs of modern sports fans.

Smartphones now the preferred choice for internet access in Japan, surpassing PCs for first time

The Japan Times, May 25, 2018

Japan passed a milestone as more people accessed the internet from smartphones than personal computers last year, a government survey showed Friday.

Police departments turn to AI in bid to anticipate crime

The Japan News, May 27, 2018

The Metropolitan Police Department is considering the introduction of a crime prevention system that uses artificial intelligence and big data to predict when and where crimes might occur.

8. Energy / Environment

Substance found to reduce coral bleaching

The Japan News, May 11, 2018

A team including researchers from Kyoto University announced that it has found a substance to reduce coral bleaching, which leads to the extinction of coral reefs.

Japan weather agency to use new supercomputer

NHK World, May 16, 2018

Japan's Meteorological Agency says its new supercomputer will sharply improve forecasts of torrential rains and typhoons, which will enable earlier evacuation of people in these events.

Only 1% of Japan's largest coral reef is healthy, study finds

The Japan Times, May 18, 2018

Japan’s largest coral reef has not recovered from bleaching due to rising sea temperatures, with only 1 percent of the reef in a healthy condition, according to a government study.

Environmental DNA database to be created

The Japan News, May 21, 2018

The Fisheries Agency plans to create a database for marine resources based on the environmental DNA of fish, which is genetic material that is left in seawater, according to sources.

9. Space Development

Japan space agency to test reusable rocket to shave costs

Nikkei Asian Review, May 02, 2018

Japan's space agency will develop a reusable rocket that can carry payloads into orbit on two consecutive days, aiming to cut the costs of space transport, the need for which continues to grow.

Kenya's first satellite released from Japan's Kibo module at ISS

The Japan Times, May 12, 2018

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) released three foreign-made microsatellites, including the first Kenyan-developed satellite, from its Kibo experimental module at the International Space Station on Friday night.

Mercury probes by Japan, Europe to be launched

The Japan News, May 15, 2018

Two probes in a joint Mercury exploration mission between Japan and Europe, named BepiColombo, will be launched from French Guiana in South America aboard an Ariane 5 rocket in October. Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, is 4,880 kilometers in diameter and two-fifths the size of Earth.

Abundant water likely to exist under 'moon rabbit,' Japanese research team says

The Japan Times, May 15, 2018

Abundant water is highly likely to exist in the form of ice under Oceanus Procellarum, a lunar mare known as “moon rabbit” in Japan, a Japanese research team has said.

Hayabusa2's Star Tracker has successfully imaged Ryugu!

JAXA Hayabusa2 project, May 15, 2018

Hayabusa2 is currently operating its ion engines as the spacecraft approaches asteroid Ryugu. But on May 11, the ion engines were temporarily stopped so that the onboard Star Tracker could take a photograph of Ryugu. This observation of the direction of Ryugu from the spacecraft will be used for optical navigation

Japan launches entrepreneurial matching platform to boost space startups

The Japan Times, May 31, 2018

In a bid to boost investment in domestic space startups, the government launched on Thursday an online platform to help connect investors with entrepreneurs seeking funds to put unique ideas into action.

10. Engineering / Robotics / Automotive

From office watcher to farm protector and crop duster, unmanned aircraft playing unusual roles

The Japan Times, May 20, 2018

At exactly 5 p.m. one recent Friday at Taisei Co., a flying drone alerted workers at the building maintenance firm that the day’s work was done.

Drone deliveries ready to soar in Japan but lingering issues likely to keep post office in business

The Japan Times, May 20, 2018

A drone carrying a package sails through the air, touching down to make a delivery right on a customer’s doorstep. Amazon.com Inc. wowed the world in 2013 with a video purporting to show what the future of the delivery industry would look like. But are we any closer to that now? The answer seems to be no — at least in Japan.

Mitsubishi Electric to tout smart trains in Asia

Nikkei Asian Review, May 24, 2018

Mitsubishi Electric is developing train control systems to optimize energy usage and monitor consumable parts, hoping to capture demand from rail operators in burgeoning greater Asia.

University unveils robot for detecting gene doping

The Japan News, May 24, 2018

The University of Tsukuba unveiled to the press on Wednesday an experimental humanoid robot capable of performing gene doping tests. The university, which is undertaking research on automating doping tests for athletes, hopes to enhance the reliability and efficiency of such tests with the use of the robot.

Toshiba Tec robot checks fast-changing inventory and prices

Nikkei Asian Review, May 29, 2018

Point-of-sales specialist Toshiba Tec began trials Monday for a robot that can check the price and stock of items on the shelves, helping retailers in Japan and elsewhere as they introduce automation to help deal with a severe labor shortage.

Self-driving vehicles to surpass 30% of new cars in Japan

Nikkei Asian Review, May 30, 2018

Japan aims for self-driving vehicles to account for more than 30% of new-car sales by 2030 as the country works to maintain its technological edge and narrow Europe's lead in forging rules for the field.

China and Japan seek common charging standards for electric vehicles

Nikkei Asian Review, May 31, 2018

China's state-owned power utility has offered to collaborate with a Japanese industry group to develop a unified standard governing the charging of electric vehicles, which could cut manufacturing costs and fuel the spread of the autos.

11. Physics and Nuclear Development

Device scans tuna fat without cutting

The Japan News, May 01, 2018

A research group of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology has developed a device that measures the proportion of fat in tuna without the need to cut into the fish.

Using the K computer, scientists predict exotic “di-Omega” particle

RIKEN, May 24, 2018

Particles known as “baryons”—principally protons and neutrons—are composed of three quarks bound tightly together, with their charge depending on the “color” of the quarks that make them up. A dibaryon is essentially a system with two baryons. There is one known dibaryon in nature—deuteron, a deuterium (or heavy-hydrogen) nucleus that contains a proton and a neutron that are very lightly bound. Scientists have long wondered whether there could be other types of dibaryons. Despite searches, no other dibaryon has been found.

Paradoxically, environmental noise helps preserve the coherence of a quantum system

RIKEN, May 30, 2018

Quantum phenomena are generally restricted to the atomic level, but there are cases—such as laser light and superconductivity—where the coherence of quantum phenomena allows them to be expressed at the macroscopic level. This is important for the development of quantum computers. However, they are also extremely sensitive to the environment, which destroys the very coherence that makes them meaningful.

12. Startups

Fukuoka pitches itself as Japan's 'startup city'

Nikkei Asian Review, May 04, 2018

The city of Fukuoka, on Japan's southern main island of Kyushu, is fast becoming a center for startups. Thanks to efforts to encourage young people to start their own companies, it now has the highest business formation rate among the 21 biggest cities in the country.

Japanese unicorn Mercari eyes overseas push after June 19 IPO

Nikkei Asian Review, May 15, 2018

Mercari's application to list on the Tokyo Stock Exchange was approved Monday, giving the flea market app provider a channel to fund its pursuit of new avenues of growth.

Japan shouldn't try and replicate Silicon Valley to spur innovation, venture capitalist says

The Japan Times, May 16, 2018

If Japan wants to spur innovation from startups, it shouldn’t try to replicate Silicon Valley. That’s the message from James Riney — head of venture capital fund 500 Startups Japan — to companies nationwide amid the increased attention given to startups.

African digital payment startup looks to expand in Asia

Nikkei Asian Review, May 17, 2018

Kenya-based digital payment startup using blockchain technology is seeking to partner with more Asian companies and plans to open an office in the region next year.

Turning Japan's cultural barriers into a startup gold mine

Nikkei Asian Review, May 23, 2018

The number of Japan-based tech startups has been on the rise since 2010, shadowing the advance of communications technologies. Foreign entrepreneurs have stood out when it comes to turning cultural differences into business opportunities, sparking a chain reaction of innovation.

Japan's young entrepreneurs embrace foreign tourists and workers

Nikkei Asian Review, May 27, 2018

With international tourism to Japan driving consumption in the graying society, younger entrepreneurs are tapping these visitors as well as foreign workers for business growth.

Japan's startup funding more than doubles in 5 years

Nikkei Asian Review, May 31, 2018

Japan's startup investments soared about 150% in the last five years as companies seek innovative technologies and create specialized funds to zero in on specific fields like artificial intelligence.

13. Intellectual Property Rights / Technology Transfer / Alliances

Japan's megabanks to chip in to SoftBank Vision Fund

Nikkei Asian Review, May 11, 2018

Japan's three megabanks have decided to participate in SoftBank Group's Vision Fund, as they look to do more business with the growing technology companies the fund invests in.

Tanzanian man looks to transform Dar es Salaams busy bus system using app he developed with Japan-based startup

The Japan Times, May 14, 2018

It is not unusual for overseas visitors on their first visit to Japan to be impressed by the country’s efficient rail network, with its heated seats and computerized message boards providing passengers with information updates.

Kyoto University opens large research base in Amazon jungle

The Japan Times, May 14, 2018

Kyoto University has opened a large research base in the jungles of the Amazon basin in Brazil. Previously, there had been no accommodation available on the ground for researchers from around the world studying flora, fauna and ecosystems in the area, so they had to use ships anchored far away or other facilities as their base for research.

Japan to give wind power a spin in Russia's Far East

Nikkei Asian Review, May 15, 2018

Japan will build and conduct trials of a wind power generation system in Russia's Far East, one of the joint projects growing out of a 2016 economic cooperation pact.

Honda to tie up with world's largest battery maker in China

Nikkei Asian Review, May 23, 2018

Honda Motor will team up with Contemporary Amperex Technology, the world\\\'s largest battery maker, to develop an electric vehicle that it sees as key to its global strategy.

NTT Data partners with Indian firm to tap 3D mapping market

The Japan Times, May 23, 2018

Data Corp. has joined up with an Indian mapping company to develop large-scale 3D map data sets, for supply to telecommunications and other sectors in the South Asian country.

Tokyo lures in overseas hedge funds and fintech

Nikkei Asian Review, May 24, 2018

Hedge funds and financial technology groups are busy expanding to Japan, lured in recent months by the vast wealth waiting to be unlocked and a landscape more welcoming to fund managers and innovators.

Fujitsu looks to Israeli-born startups for edge in cybersecurity

Nikkei Asian Review, May 27, 2018

As the threat of cyberterrorism grows worldwide, Fujitsu is keen to leverage its partners' expertise to gain a step on its rivals. The Japanese company aims to broaden its business through the partnerships and increase its sales of cyberdefense products and services to 300 billion yen ($2.71 billion) by the year through March 2020.

Australian solar plant to have world's largest power storage capacity

Nikkei Asian Review, May 29, 2018

A roughly $1 billion solar energy project in Australia will employ one of the biggest power storage facilities in the world, with Japanese and Western companies contributing funds.

China tapped by Japanese retailer as lab for automated stores

Nikkei Asian Review, May 31, 2018

Japan's Aeon opened a new research center in Shanghai with a local startup, aiming to reshape the future of retail by harnessing leading Chinese technologies like artificial intelligence and electronic payments.

14. General Interest

Toyota chief sees 'kaizen' as way to innovate

Nikkei Asian Review, May 09, 2018

Toyota Motor is turning to its old mantra of continual improvement, or kaizen, as it seeks to become as innovative as Tesla and Google.

US college degrees lose mystique among Asian students

Nikkei Asian Review, May 15, 2018

For ambitious young Asians, studying in the U.S. has long been a natural choice. They venture across the vast Pacific to pursue degrees with global cachet and, perhaps, take a shot at the American dream.

Self-driving cars in Japan clear insurance hurdle

Nikkei Asian Review, May 16, 2018

Japanese insurers are preparing to cover collisions between self-driving vehicles and pedestrians under premium automobile policies, helping clear the way for these next-generation cars to hit the streets.

Japan's restaurants deploying pictograms to help picky foreign eaters

The Japan Times, May 21, 2018

With tourism raging, pictograms have become an important tool for restaurants eager to describe their ingredients to customers whose allergies or religious beliefs require them to avoid certain foods.

Famous for its resistance to immigration, Japan opens its doors

Nikkei Asian Review, May 30, 2018

The Koto area of Tokyo is just waking up when Dang Ngoc Hoang and his four Vietnamese colleagues arrive at the construction site at 6:30. Along with a group of Japanese colleagues, they will spend the day moving heavy wooden pilings and pouring concrete for the foundation of a seven-story condominium block. 

15. Calls

Early Bird tickets are now available for Swiss Robotics Industry Day!

Join us for the fourth edition of the Swiss Robotics Industry Day, a unique opportunity for the industry to gain insight into cutting edge research & emerging technologies.

More events on the Japan Science and Technology Office homepage: Check it Now!

The information in this newsletter is an opinion excerpt of news material from Japan and gathered to the best knowledge of the writer. The newsletter tries to provide information without any news preferences, and takes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information. No legal liability or responsibility can be taken. The information is provided for informational purposes only. No part of the newsletter may be used for any commercial or public use. Open disclosure of this newsletter is not permitted.