The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) and Onna Village in Okinawa Prefecture have launched the Ecological Smart Resort Project as a regional revitalization plan for the Village.
The project is part of the Japanese government's “Special Provisions for Taxation on Corporations that Donated to the Regional Revitalization Project,” which allows companies to support OIST through the Corporate Version of Hometown Tax, a taxation system for supporting regional revitalization. OIST aims to raise 50–100 million yen in donations by the end of fiscal year 2022.
What is the Ecological Smart Resort Project?
The project aims to promote the development of all the areas of Onna Village by protecting its beautiful ocean as a valuable resource for tourism and aquaculture and improving the visibility of the Village through marine science research conducted at OIST. The project consists of two parts: “Marine Environment Monitoring and Conservation Project” and “Onna Village Brand Enhancement Project with Marine Environment Research Results.”
Marine Environment Monitoring and Conservation Project
The project mainly aims to conduct three research projects using DNA analysis technology, provide scientific knowledge on the issues of drifting pumice, and establish a visitor center at the OIST Marine Science Station, which is OIST’s waterfront research facility.
OIST research projects using DNA analysis technology include monitoring of coral reefs and assessments of the habitat of the fish and other organisms living in the areas by using an environmental DNA analysis method developed in collaboration with The University of Tokyo. By providing scientific knowledge and technology for coral reef conservation efforts, the project will promote the sustainable development of the cultures and industries dependent on the coral reefs and ecosystems.
Coral reefs are home to about one quarter of all marine lives, making them a significant part of biodiversity. Protecting coral reefs will contribute to efforts to preserve biodiversity not only in Onna Village, but also in Okinawa and around the world.
In addition, DNA findings, which were advanced through OIST’s joint research with the Onna Village Fishery Cooperative and the Okinawa Prefectural Fisheries Research and Extension Center, will be used to develop technologies to increase the production of Okinawa mozuku, a local seaweed and a major aquafarming product in Onna Village and other areas of Okinawa.
Also related to local conservation, drifting pumice is still causing serious damage to the fisheries, tourism, and shipping industries in the main island of Okinawa. OIST will conduct simulations of pumice drift from the physics and marine ecology perspectives, aiming to provide advice to Onna Village and Okinawa on pumice response projects. OIST will also conduct research on the impacts of the pumice on the ecosystem.
Onna Village Brand Enhancement Project with Marine Environment Research Results
This project aims to promote Onna Village as the center of the world’s marine environmental research by actively disseminating information on the progress and results of OIST’s marine environmental research through special lectures and workshops. It also aims to contribute to the development of Onna Village’s long-term economy and sustainability by making it widely known that Onna Village, a resort destination, is actively working on conservation and improvement of the natural environment that coexists with the resorts.
What is the Corporate Version of Hometown Tax?
The Corporate Version of Hometown Tax is a system that provides a tax credit from corporate taxes when a company donates to a local government’s regional revitalization project approved by the central government.
With the revision of the system in fiscal year 2020, up to 90% of the donation amount will be deducted, effectively compressing the corporate expense to about 10%. (e.g., 100,000 yen of donation will lead to about 90,000 yen of deduction of corporate-related tax, effectively supporting a reginal revitalization project with 10,000 yen.)
Since November 2020, Onna Village has been accepting donations through the Corporate Version of the Hometown Tax and has been conducting projects to promote creation of businesses which take advantage of the unique characteristics of Onna Village.
In Okinawa, no other universities have had a project using this tax system so far, making OIST the first.
About Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST)
As a pioneering graduate university, OIST’s mission is to conduct research that is at the forefront of scientific knowledge, to nurture the researchers who will lead the next generation of scientific research, and to serve as a center for promoting innovation in Okinawa. Since its establishment in 2011, OIST has always focused on the self-sustaining development of Okinawa as one of its central themes and has been actively working to contribute to the economic development of Okinawa. In particular, OIST has been working closely with Onna Village, where the campus is located, to contribute to the local community through education of the next generation and marine research.
About Onna Village
Located on the west coast in the center of the main island of Okinawa, it has a coastline of white sandy beaches and blue sea with coral reefs and is known as a pioneer in establishing Okinawa’s resort brand. In 2019, Onna Village and Okinawa were each selected as an “SDGs Future City” and a “Municipal SDGs Model Project” for outstanding efforts achieving the SDGs and being engaged in various activities to create a community that is friendly to the natural environment and a sustainable tourist resort destination, with a focus on corals.