The Japanese government has announced it wants to spend upwards to $1bn US to create a search engine to rival Google and Yahoo. They want this Japanese search engine to be ready in about 3 years. Here's the scoop:
The impetus is believed to come indirectly from the IT research department of the office of Junichiro Koizumi, the Prime Minister. He has embraced the internet as a political tool, and has emphasised Japan’s need to extend its presence in the world of information technology. The Education and Internal Affairs ministries will play a central role, along with the state-funded broadcaster NHK.
More than 20 companies, including Hitachi and Panasonic, have joined the research group, which is expected to receive an initial government budget of about 12 billion yen (£60 million).
I'm surprise that there isn't already a Japanese search engine that rivals Google and Yahoo, mainly since the Japanese are almost always the best or near the best at technology. Alexa lists Yahoo and Google as the two most popular web properties in Japan -- which is a story that repeats itself across most countries (although Google is typically #1).
By the way, I think the best way to build a great search engine would be to hire 5-10 ex-pats who work for Google, Yahoo and MSN now. Give them freedom and resources and see what they can do. The fact that 20 companies are participating makes me think the end product won't really be all that good. Basically, I think the free market system is the best motivator, not government subsidies.