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Japanese government offers up $1bn for moonshot projects

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According to Nikkei Asian Review, the Government of Japan is preparing to distribute almost £1bn in public research grants to support ambitious work to develop technological to meet national and global challenges, including ‘cyborg’ systems to replace failing bodily functions and autonomous systems for collecting plastic waste in the oceans.

An unnamed source told the publication that the government has laid out 25 areas of research, with a focus on developing new technologies to help manage major crises, such as the health and social care difficulties facing Japan’s ageing population. World-leading innovation in the robotics sector, particularly with regard to social robots, has been partially credited to an urgent need to develop technologies to assist Japan’s growing elderly population.

The generously-funded program aims to attract researchers from all around the world, as well as to develop whole new industries around the products of the research projects. The selected research projects will be supported with a budget of 100 billion yen (£780m) for the first five years, with further support for the following five years.

According to Nikkei Asian Review, the government is calling for ambitious ‘moonshot’ projects with individual deadines for achieving goals ranging from 2035 to 2060. The project areas will be ranked in order of priority as the government invites research proposal submissions.

The projects areas include ‘artificial hibernation’, which could be applied to humans to achieve greater longevity, and ‘cyborg’ technology to help older people losing some of their bodily functions; this technology could replace some human functions using living organisms or robotics by 2050.

Other areas revealed by Nikkei Asian Review include projects to automate work, including in removing the need for human intervention in fisheries, forestry, construction site work, and agriculture by 2040, and projects to prevent further environmental damage by eliminating all industrial waste and emissions by 2050, and fighting pollution by creating autonomous systems for collecting and recycling ocean plastic waste (also by 2050).

The government are also seeking the development of artificially intelligent systems capable of detecting Nobel Prize-worthy discoveries by 2050.

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