Japan will allow its largest state-funded research and development agency to get involved in military research for the first time to help boost development of export-worthy defence technologies.
The information was revealed by Reuters, citing two insider sources.
The development fits into the strategy of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that aims to get a larger stake in the global market for Japan’s technology companies by boosting research and development.
The New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) will work with private companies on innovative projects, identifying promising technologies.
The companies involved will retain commercial rights to the technology developed.
Over the past years, Japan has been departing from its decades-long anti-military policy that prohibited Japanese companies from exporting technologies with potential military use abroad. The export arms ban was discontinued last year, in the hope of improving the return on investment for local tech firms that have so far been confined to the local market for sales.
According to the sources NEDO will be restructured to accommodate the new responsibilities and will operate similarly to the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
"There may be technology lying around that nobody paid attention to before," one of the sources told Reuters.
Japan is reportedly concerned that innovations may go unused or fall into the hands of foreign companies through acquisitions, mergers or other business deals, the source added.
While a NEDO spokesman said the agency had no intention of getting directly or indirectly involved in military research, an official at the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry, which oversees NEDO, said a dual-use role would probably be possible without needing to tweak the agency's charter.
"Doing dual-use programmes at NEDO has been proposed by some people, but no decision has been made," Atsushi Fukuda, the ministry's director for innovation promotion, told Reuters.
Companies across the technology spectrum including robot-makers, sensor-developers and advanced material designers could prevent from the new development.