Science & Technology Corner
United States Department of Defense and Japan Ministry of Economy,
Trade and Industry Establish a Terms of Reference for Robotics
Cooperation in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Recovery
In the aftermath of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, close U.S.-Japan cooperation during Operation Tomodachi has led to enhanced engagement and collaboration among subject matter experts in response to Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Recovery challenges. To continue to foster these relationships, Mr. Alan Shaffer, acting-Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering (ASD(R&E)), signed the Robotics Terms of Reference with Tadashi Miyagawa, Director-General, Manufacturing Industries Bureau of Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) Headquarters on July 31, 2013.
A significant portion of U.S. expertise in robotics research is funded and demonstrated by the U.S. Department of Defense as part of its basic and applied research and development (R&D) efforts. But historically, there has been little R&D cooperation between Japanese universities and industry with the U.S. Department of Defense.
“This U.S.-Japanese Robotics cooperation agreement promises tremendous technology contributions to future humanitarian assistance and disaster recovery situations,” said Mr. Shaffer. “This agreement allows for important intergovernmental science and technology collaboration between our countries.”
Japan’s participation in DARPA’s Robotics Challenge (www.theroboticschallenge.org), focused on spurring the development of technology to benefit humanitarian robotics to aid in future disaster response, is an example of a valuable initial opportunity. Future activities may include increased U.S.-Japanese participation in working groups in specific areas of humanitarian robotics R&D, attendance in workshops and conferences, and visits to affiliated universities and laboratories. Japan’s potential involvement in these types of activities may help to identify common U.S.-Japan interests.
For Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, technology transferred under future humanitarian robotics cooperative projects is to be limited to dual-use technology. In addition, a stronger partnership between the two countries may allow for greater productivity in future basic science and other dual-use technologies.