Starting in 1992 (the year Eric Drexler published Nanosystems), Japan spent a decade developing the foundations for bottom-up nanotech. They worked on four things:
1. "identification and manipulation of atoms and molecules" -- Obviously of great importance for bottom-up nanofabrication.
2. "formation and control of nanostructures on the surface and at the interface of materials" -- Likewise, very important.
3. "spin electronics" -- I'm not sure why this was in there; possibly to provide a short-term profitable spinoff (no pun intended).
4. "theoretical analysis of the dynamic processes of atoms and molecules" -- This sounds like research into bonding, and quite possibly relevant to mechanochemistry.
The leader, Kazunobu Tanaka, designed a highly interdisciplinary and collaborative working environment. He called for strong university participation. He put together a laboratory with 100 scientists sharing facilities, including cafeteria and relaxation room. He also recommends active use of sabbatical leaves and flexible university curriculums.
According to one article, "Dr. Tanaka says nanotechnology in Japan will not make any progress unless project leaders and researchers with a wide outlook are brought up. He adds that the master plan for developing nanotechnology in Japan should be discussed from the mid- and long-term viewpoint by young researchers with strong physical and intellectual ability."
This sounds to me like a very effective process for developing advanced technology. And this is not just theory; it's been put into practice in a decade-long foundational project that finished two years ago. Japan has now put hundreds if not thousands of research-years into bottom-up fabrication. And they've had plenty of time to think about the implications and applications.
I'm encouraged that they appear to be socially conscious. The reason for the sabbaticals is to allow the researchers to "reconfirm the positioning of their own studies in society." And the purpose of the flexible university curriculums is "to respond quickly to changing times and to meet current social needs."
Follow me on Twitter: @IanYorston