Historical Background and Perception of the Times
A look back at the development of Tsukuba Science City shows that the original foundation date has often been a controversial topic. Opinions vary as to whether it should be 1963, when the Cabinet approved its establishment; or 1967, when the actual construction work began; or 1970, when the Tsukuba Science City Construction Act was enacted. In this context, we consider the earliest year (1963), when the Cabinet approved construction, as the year Tsukuba Science City started. Based on this, we make a historic review of the city from three different stages.
The first stage, beginning from 1963, when Tsukuba was linked directly with Tokyo by the Joban Expressway, and ending in 1985, when Tsukuba hosted the International Exposition on Science and Technology (Expo ’85), was the so-called “stage of city construction as a national project”. Whereas the main purpose was to decentralize functions of the overpopulated Greater Tokyo area, the project was also initiated as a national venture to build Tsukuba Science City, an intellectual center with many national education and research institutions, taking advantage of the effects of integration and cooperation among those organizations. National education and research institutions as well as city infrastructural facilities were built in short succession. Construction sites could be seen all over this city abundant with nature, producing star-studded skies. In 1970, the Tsukuba Science City Construction Law came into effect. Evidently, putting construction plans into law played an important and effective role in speeding up the building process. By 1980, most of the relocation of national universities and research institutions was completed and Tsukuba began to function properly as a city, although large scale construction of city infrastructure continued until the opening of Expo ’85.
As is described above, the initial purpose was to bring the nation’s many educational and research institutions together to a region not far from Tokyo, and build a fully equipped, autonomous international city, as well as an intellectual center. Just as is written in Article 1 of the Tsukuba Science City Construction Law: “This law formulates a comprehensive plan for the construction of Tsukuba Science City. Upon implementation, it is designed to be a science city compatible for experimental research and education and with an infrastructure suitable for a well-balanced garden city. Meanwhile, it will contribute to alleviating the overpopulation of cites of the Greater Tokyo area”. For all intents and purposes, the emphasis of this law was on the construction of Tsukuba Science City. Promotion of activities and exchange between the educational and research institutions in the city and initiatives for urban development and growth were not taken into sufficient consideration. Amidst this, the Tsukuba Center for Institutes was established, and it is functioning actively as a Monbusho (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, previously Science and Technology Agency under the General Administrative Agency of the Cabinet) facility in fostering exchanges between national educational and research institutions and later, private research institutions.
The second stage refers to the period of city expansion after 1986. Not only were many industrial parks in the Surrounding Development District built, but Oho Town, Sakura Village, Toyosato Town, Tsukuba Town and Yatabe Town, and much later Kukizaki Town merged, bringing the City of Tsukuba into existence. In 1999, Tsukuba Congress Center opened as a core communications facility for Tsukuba Science City. In 2005, with the opening of Tsukuba Express (TX) that links Akihabara in Tokyo with Tsukuba, an extensive development plan for areas along the TX line was brought into operation. The new city formation and development have brought about three major changes to Tsukuba as a city, namely: city expansion as a practical extension of the “Tsukuba Brand” fostered in the first stage; direct access to Tokyo as a result of TX; and further expansion due to development in areas along the TX line.
Also in the second stage, based on the stance that science and technology are the foundation of future development for our country, the First Science & Technology Basic Plan was drafted in 1996, followed by the Second Science & Technology Plan in 2001. Expectations and requests for Tsukuba were growing. In 2001, national research institutions were transformed into independent administrative institutions, and in 2004, the University of Tsukuba was restructured as a national university corporation. In conclusion, the second stage, which coincided with the country’s administrative reforms and transition for science and technology policies, had observed physical changes such as city expansion and direct access to Tokyo. Internal changes were reflected in the fact that whereas national education and research institutions functioning under the new organizational system gained more freedom in decision-making and operation, it came with heftier responsibilities.
The third stage, beginning from 2006, is a new era for leaps in growth and maturation. The Third Science & Technology Basic Plan pins hope on Tsukuba to exploit its concentration effect to promote the cooperation and integration of R & D and to further enhance its functions as an international research center. Projects are underway in response to those expectations: The Japanese government proposed the challenging “Cool Earth 50” initiative, aiming to reduce global greenhouse emissions in half from the current level by 2050. To achieve this goal, Japan is committed to contributing to the world by taking advantage of its combination of advanced technologies and traditional social structures, establishing itself as a leading environmental nation, The “Tsukuba 3E (Environment, Energy, Economy) Forum” was established in line with this effort.
The forum set its goal to halve carbon dioxide emission in Tsukuba by 2030. In order to achieve this, members of the “Tsukuba 3E Forum” pledged to bring industries, academia, government and citizens together in returning R & D benefits to society. As an “Environmental Model City”, Tsukuba will disseminate its successful results at home and abroad, and strive for “Tsukuba Environment Style”, in an effort to contribute to curbing global warming. Participation is expected not only from public education and research institutions, but as a concerted effort by citizens, industries and the government. The “Tsukuba 3E Forum” goes a step ahead of the Fourth Science & Technology Basic Plan in the sense that it seeks to make Tsukuba an international center of low carbon emissions and a model to the world. Amid this, the function of Tsukuba Science City Network lies in ascertaining the common recognition about the path Tsukuba Science City has taken so far, as well as its present state, and in proposing for its future development focuses and specific approaches.
In June this year, a “Law on R & D Advancement Based on System Reforms and Efficiency Promotion”, or “Research Development Advancement Law” came into effect. A new “Research Development Corporation” was set up. New policies that clear away systematic and operational obstacles sprang up, including those designed to promote collaboration among universities and personnel exchange, cultivate younger researchers and employ foreign researchers. Tsukuba Science City, in particular, is expected to make further efforts to reinforce our country’s international competitiveness and raise our people’s living standard by proactively taking advantage of the new systems under the advancement law.