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Employing the concept of techno-governance to analyse the field of biomedical engineering in Japan

Author: Susanne Brucksch

Source: Global Perspectives on Japan (GPJ), No.1 (2017), pp.95-125
Publisher: Forum Tauri Press
Keywords: Japan, technogovernance, STS, innovation, biomedical engineering, medical devices


This paper approaches the field of biomedical engineering in Japan, which is hallmarked by several contradictions. Medical devices are one of the leading technologies. Surprisingly, most devices are imported to Japan, despite being one of the largest markets for medical products and its fast demographic change. More precisely, there has been a decline in innovation activities in biomedical engineering over the past two decades. Rather recently the government under Prime Minister Abe took the lead and launched various innovation strategies. For instance, the Comprehensive STI Strategy and Japan’s Growth Strategy integrate the field in the Abenomics scheme as a focus area to achieve a “healthy and active aging society as a top-runner in the world”, and to reinforce “industrial competitiveness in the areas of pharmaceuticals and medical devices”. Therefore, this article suggests analyzing innovation activities in biomedical engineering from a technogovernance perspective broadened by STS to allow the analysis of formal and informal structures, norms and values, relevant actors, power balance, and its consequences. Thus, particularly, the term technogovernance needs to be specified and reflected in the Japanese context. To approach the field, this paper draws mainly on findings from the research literature, official statistical data, and preliminary results from an ongoing interview study conducted in 2016 in Japan.