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U.S. Absent From Japan's New Center

Japan launched an R&D program in superconductivity this month without the international collaborators that officials there had hoped to attract. Some U.S. researchers said they didn’t know they had been invited, while others are waiting to see how the program develops. The International Superconductivity Technology Center (ISTEC) that opened January 14 is being funded by about 50 Japanese companies, including large electronics firms such as Toshiba and Hitachi, electric utility compani

Stephen Greene

Japan launched an R&D program in superconductivity this month without the international collaborators that officials there had hoped to attract. Some U.S. researchers said they didn’t know they had been invited, while others are waiting to see how the program develops.

The International Superconductivity Technology Center (ISTEC) that opened January 14 is being funded by about 50 Japanese companies, including large electronics firms such as Toshiba and Hitachi, electric utility companies, major steel and materials corporations, and several banks. The effort is being coordinated by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITT), which will support research at the non-profit foundation’s new laboratory in Tokyo.

To soften a perception that the effort is meant to achieve world dominance in superconductivity applications (see THE SCIENTIST July 13, p. 1), MITT has emphasized that foreign firms are welcome to join. But that message seems not. to have reached many U.S. scientists.

“It’s...

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