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08/12/2021

Carbon neutrality and innovation

Under METI’s wing, Japanese aviation retools for carbon neutrality push

Aircraft component and material industries office Chief Akira Miyakoshi (right) and Deputy Director Sakura Murahashi both of the Aerospace and Defense Industry Division, pose at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
Aircraft component and material industries office Chief Akira Miyakoshi (right) and Deputy Director Sakura Murahashi both of the Aerospace and Defense Industry Division, pose at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the aviation industry into an unprecedented crisis. At the same time, decarbonization moves, which had been gaining momentum before the pandemic, are accelerating across the globe, pressuring Japanese manufacturers to take action. This article looks into the strategies of the Japanese government and the policy measures it plans to take under the situation.

In explaining the government’s measures to support the small and medium-sized parts manufacturers that support the aircraft industry, Akira Miyakoshi, who heads the aircraft component and material industries office of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s Aerospace and Defense Industry Division, said, “Now’s an important time in which manufacturers must brush up on their technology to help develop next-generation aircraft, but the situation remains tough for them to take off successfully.”

“It’s essential for us to take measures to maintain and strengthen supply chains, while supporting parts manufacturers, which total more than 600 across Japan,” he added, emphasizing the government’s plans to provide solid support to the aircraft industry.

The support has two purposes: to help parts manufacturers stay in business and to support their future growth. The key ways in which the government helps them stay afloat are through financing and employment assistance. METI’s regional bureaus are working with labor bureaus, the Industrial Employment Stabilization Center and local governments to encourage secondment and transfer of employees with diverse skills to other companies or industries. The program has so far resulted in the secondment and transfer of 354 employees in the Chubu region and 123 employees in the Kanto region.

A mid- to long-term support program encourages active application of advanced technologies developed for the aircraft industry in other areas, using a subsidy program to support drastic business reconstruction such as entering new business fields. The program is aimed at strengthening parts manufacturers by helping them expand their business portfolio.

METI is also helping small and medium-sized parts manufactures develop sales channels overseas, anticipating a recovery in aircraft demand. The specific goal is to encourage collaboration with other Asian countries where demand for aircraft is growing and the aircraft industry continues to expand.

About five years ago, METI began an attempt to build a supply chain covering the entire Asia region. For starters, the ministry is working to establish collaborative relations with the Malaysian government, aiming to sign a memorandum of cooperation between the two countries on civil aircraft industry cooperation by the end of the fiscal year.

Officials of Malaysian and Thai governments (left to right) and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry pose at the Asia Aircraft Supply Chain Forum organized by METI in 2018.
Officials of Malaysian and Thai governments (left to right) and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry pose at the Asia Aircraft Supply Chain Forum organized by METI in 2018.

Through these efforts, the ministry aims to help maintain and strengthen supply chains. In addition, it plans to support Japanese companies’ efforts to achieve carbon neutrality, or net-zero emissions of global warming gases.

Around the globe, efforts to achieve emissions-cutting goals in the aviation industry are underway. In recent years, airlines have announced road maps to decarbonization while aircraft makers have touted concept planes for the future. These moves continue to gain momentum even amid the pandemic.

“Japanese companies are no exception. They are accelerating technological development efforts for the future,” according to METI’s Sakura Murahashi, deputy director of the Aerospace and Defense Industry Division of METI’s Manufacturing Industries Bureau.

“It’’s important for them to find opportunities to collaborate with original equipment manufacturers overseas as early as possible to ensure that the technologies that give the Japanese industry an edge will be used in the next-generation aircraft models,” she said.

“We aim to support such efforts by Japanese companies through cooperation deals with governments and companies in Europe and the United States and technological development assistance measures,” Murahashi said, indicating the government’s intention to support Japanese companies’ efforts.

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