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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Remarks By Prime Minister Abe at 14th Annual Meeting of the STS Forum

October 1, 2017

Kyoto, Japan

[Provisional Translation]

Chairman Omi, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for having me again. Five years in a row I have joined your annual meetings, and each time I have emerged even more optimistic about our future.

I am a big believer in what science and technology can do. To solve some of the structural problems we face, we must advance and benefit from science and technology. It is as simple as that.

Take, for example, agriculture. In my country, farmers are aging and their numbers are declining. But let's look at the positive side.

One good example is robotics, and what it can achieve.

This August on a farm in Hokkaido, there were four tractors running shoulder-to-shoulder. They were not normal machines; they were speaking with each other. In fact, those four tractors were in constant communication among themselves, collaborating with each other.

These are automated, self-driving tractors. Connected to each other, their movement is accurate— accurate to within a mere inch or so. The precision of their actions will get even more striking as they will be linked with Japanese GPS in the future.

(Take a moment and have a look at the video to see how they run.)

Robot tractors could work, rain or shine, day and night, even while the owner sleeps. And that is just one small piece of evidence that technology could make our agriculture all the more promising. You need worry about farmers aging no more.

Next is about open innovation. For us to promote open innovation, deregulation holds the key.

Just about now, near Tokyo and mostly on public roads, a major experiment involving self-driving cars is underway.

Toyota and other Japanese car and component makers are of course taking part. But, they are not the only ones. BMW, VW, Mercedes Benz, Bosch and Continental are also coming to join the experiment.

With the participation of the German giants, the experiment has evolved into a classic case of attempting to seek open innovation. Creating something new by combining knowledge fostered elsewhere is the crux of open innovation, and in order to develop a new driving map that is dynamic and interactive, open innovation is key. And yet why are the Germans coming to Japan for an experiment?

Because, among other reasons, it is in Japan that the regulations governing self-driving are kinder to innovators than in any other country. May I say it again? No other country has regulations as kind as Japan for innovators.

Indeed, it has been more than a year since Japan's National Police Agency published its guidelines for those wishing to test self-driving cars on public roads.  And the guidelines allow you to drive anywhere at any time without asking for any permit. Worth repeating: anywhere, anytime, and no permit. The only condition is that you must be ready to take over the wheel whenever necessary. But that is it.

I have been pushing all the line ministries to change their regulations to catch up with new technologies. The pharmaceutical industry is yet another example. Because my government changed the regulations, it is in Japan that you can develop drugs and put them into marketplace as fast as in any other country. No wonder that even from California, there are some who have chosen to move to Japan to test their new medicine.

I am determined that in this age of science and technology making huge strides ahead, I must turn Japan into a cradle of innovation where the Japanese, the Germans, and anyone from overseas can work together to always create something new.

Thank you so much.

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