The Japanese Research Landscape

© DWIH Tokyo

Japan is one of the world leaders in science, technology, and innovation. The country has many research strengths, such as hydrogen technologies, artificial intelligence, quantum research, cell biology and cancer research. Since 2001, Japan has continuously been spending more than three percent of its GDP on research and development. 25 Nobel Prize winners in the fields of Physics, Chemistry and Physiology or Medicine attest to the country’s strong research system. Japan ranks third in the world in terms of patents granted.

Who does research in Japan?

Research is mainly conducted at universities, research institutions and in the business sector. There are three different categories of universities in Japan: National, public and private universities. While about 80% of Japan’s universities are private, with only some of them focusing on research, most of Japan’s prestigious and research-oriented universities can be found among the national universities. There are also several research institutions in Japan with high scientific publication output in international rankings.
→ Ranking of Japanese Research Institutions and Universities
→ Japanese Research Output by Subject

The business sector also plays a central role in Japanese research. It accounts for almost 80% of the R&D spending in Japan (for comparison: In Germany, the business sector accounts for 60-70% of R&D spending).
• OECD Data on gross domestic R&D spending

Who manages the national budget and decides on research funding?

The framework and major goals of Japan’s science policy are outlined in the ‘Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) Basic Plans’ that are published every five years. They are compiled by the Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (CSTI), which reports directly to the Japanese Cabinet Office (CAO). The 6th STI Basis Plan, published in 2021, focuses on the measures and tools to implement Japan’s vision of a super-smart and connected “Society 5.0”.
→ STI Basis Plan 2021

As in Germany, Japanese ministries allocate the budget they receive from the Ministry of Finance on their own terms. Public R&D funds are mainly managed by CSTI, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC).

There are several programs for research funding available in Japan.

The “Kakenhi” (Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research) are competitive research funds to promote all kinds of scientific research through a bottom-up approach. They are managed by the Japanese Society for the promotion of Science (JSPS):
→ Funding programs by JSPS

There are also several programs that fund research in pre-determined areas. One is the ‘Moonshot Program’ that was created to support disruptive innovation. Many of these programs are managed by the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST)
→ Funding programs by JST

To what extent are Japanese universities collaborating with Germany?

Japan and Germany have close academic ties.

With regard to research output, the USA, China, Germany and the UK account for the largest share of Japanese collaborations on scientific articles (2021-2022).
→ Top 10 collaborators with Japan by share

There are more than 800 partnerships between Japanese and German universities (2022), more than twice as many as 10 years ago:
→ University partnerships between Japan & Germany

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) publishes information about student exchange numbers on a regular basis. In the years before the pandemic, about 2.000 Japanese were studying in Germany each year. The number of German students in Japan was significantly lower but has shown a steady upward trend. During the pandemic, mobility in both directions almost came to a halt due to the closing of the Japanese borders. Since their reopening in October 2022, the interest in Japanese-German exchange has been increasing. The Japanese government is aiming to restore student mobility numbers to pre-pandemic levels by 2027.
→ Information about Japan by the DAAD (in German)
→ Website of the DAAD Tokyo office (in German)

How to form a partnership with a Japanese university?

Many Japanese-German partnerships derive from personal contacts, for example when researchers meet at international conferences or events. Major Japanese universities also attend international university fairs like the EHEF, NAFSA, EAIE, or APAIE where contacts can be made and new partnerships formed.

In addition, the DWIH Tokyo and the DAAD Tokyo carry out events where researchers can connect or where university staff from Germany and Japan can come together. Please see our websites or subscribe to our newsletters for information on upcoming events, or subscribe to our newsletters.
→ DWIH Tokyo – Newsletter
→ DAAD Tokyo – Main site
(To subscribe to the DAAD Tokyo newsletter, please send us a brief e-mail at daad-tokyo{at}

Japanese universities can, of course, also be contacted directly, with the international office usually serving as the first point of contact. In addition, a large network of University Research Administrators (URA) has been in place since 2011 who can assist with establishing research collaborations and finding specific counterparts for researchers visiting from Germany. As of 2020, there are about 1.500 URAs employed at 169 institutions, covering all the major universities.

The DWIH Tokyo and DAAD Tokyo are always happy to support German universities looking for new Japanese partners in research and innovation. Please send your inquiry to{at}

Comprehensive general advice on implementing partnerships, legal aspects, risk and security management as well as funding opportunities is available from the DAAD Competence Center for International Science Cooperation (KIWi).
→ DAAD-Kompetenzzentrum Internationale Wissenschaftskooperationen (KIWi)

What kind of funding is available for Japanese-German research collaborations?

DWIH Tokyo publishes open calls for Japanese-German Collaboration on its website:
→ DWIH Tokyo: News

Information on individual funding for research stays abroad in Germany or Japan can be found in the DAAD funding database:
→ Database for Individual scholarships

For Japanese-German research projects, there are several sources of funding available, including:
– Funding by the German Research Foundation (DFG)
– Funding for university collaboration programs with Japan by the DAAD (in German)
– Funding by Horizon Europe (National Contact Point Japan)
– Funding for universities and individuals by the EU (National Agency for Erasmus+ University Cooperation, in German)

We also recommend signing up for the DWIH Tokyo newsletter to stay up to date about Japanese-German funding calls and networking events.
→ DWIH Tokyo Newsletter

Compiled by Julian Witzorky (DWIH Tokyo intern) and Dr. Laura Blecken (Head of Programs, DWIH Tokyo) and Axel Karpenstein (Director, DWIH Tokyo), in February 2023

Further Information on R&D in Japan

To learn more about fields of Japanese research and Japanese-German collaboration, we recommend browsing the DWIH news articles by keyword. For example, there are several comprehensive overviews about R&D in Japan in certain fields such as quantum technologies, hydrogen, AI or 5G complied by the German Embassy in Tokyo (in German):

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Updated on: June 7, 2024