The Japanese government announced on March 20 that it would establish a venture capital fund, totaling nearly $1 billion USD, to support space startups in the country.

Prime Minister Shinzō Abe said the funding pool of 100 billion yen (around $940 billion USD) would be available to startups over the course of five years. Funding will be provided by Development Bank of Japan, Industrial Innovation Organization and other organizations.

The space development program also includes an “S-Matching” program that matches individual investors and companies looking to invest in startups. There are 46 potential matching companies, including Japan Airlines Corporation, Nikon and satellite operator Sky Perfect JSAT. Additional components of the program include talent-finding projects, technical cooperation between startups and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and changes to Japanese law to support space and satellite development.

While the U.S. and Europe have experienced widespread space startup development, Japan has lagged behind. An exception to this is lunar discovery startup iSpace, which announced it had raised $90 million USD in December. That company plans to use its funding on two missions: one in the fourth quarter of 2019 to place a lander into lunar orbit, and one at the end of 2020 to attempt to deploy small rovers on the lunar surface.