President Biden and Prime Minister Suga during a joint summit in April 2021 [Image: Prime Minister’s Office of Japan / Twitter]

Assessing US-Japan R&D Collaboration in Science and Technology

Asia Japan

In July, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace published a report on the United States and Japan’s alliance in science and technology, examining the opportunities and challenges increased research and development (R&D) present in the countries’ domestic frameworks. Overall, an increased US-Japan commitment to science and technology research and collaboration will strengthen bilateral ties.

Looking at recent projects and initiatives, it is clear increased R&D collaboration is at the forefront of US-Japan relations. For example, the 16th Japan-US Joint Working Level Committee (JWLC) Meeting on Science and Technology took place in June. Representatives were brought together from both governments to exchange ideas on existing science and technology projects and areas for new collaboration. The meeting also highlighted a project arrangement on quantum information science between the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports Science and Technology of Japan (MEXT) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The project will highlight and showcase research and development on quantum communication, computing, emulation, devices, sensors, foundries, and materials. 

The JWLC meeting also highlighted and expanded upon initiatives launched during the Biden-Suga Summit earlier in April. The summit was crucial to ensure a continued joint commitment to increasing innovation and solving global challenges. Biden and Suga launched the Competitiveness and Resilience (CoRe) Partnership, aimed at generating economic growth guided by open and democratic principles, supported by transparent trade rules and regulations, high labor and environmental standards, and aligned with a low-carbon future. The partnership will focus on competitiveness and innovation, the COVID-19 response, global health and health security, and green energy and recovery. In addition to the CoRe Partnership, the leaders also launched the US-Japan Climate Partnership, focusing on clean energy technology and innovation between the two countries and beyond.

Science and technology collaboration between the United States and Japan can also be found at the local level. For example, Japanese companies are developing hydrogen technology to integrate into the Port of Los Angeles to lower carbon levels. In January, the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) extended its artificial intelligence research with US universities, working on research projects in autonomous driving, robotics, and machine-assisted cognition (MAC). The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs lists various joint projects and affiliations between local and national organizations. The United States and Japan also collaborate on projects in other countries, including the Japan-U.S.-Mekong Power Partnership.

Japan serves as a crucial ally to the United States, both at the national and local level. The United States trade with Japan in 2020 totaled $252 billion. Japan is the United States’ fourth-largest goods export market. Japanese multinational enterprises (MNE) support over 800,000 domestic jobs, creating more jobs than any other Indo-Pacific country’s MNEs. Trade with Japan supports an additional 2 million US jobs.

Overall, joint R&D collaboration in science and technology between the United States and Japan highlights and serves as a strong foundation for continued relations.

Isabel Ayala is a participant in the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington. She is a senior at the University of Texas at Austin concentrating in Asian Studies and Government.