Solutions Research Laboratory of Tokyo Institute of Technology works with major companies involved in the energy sector--including Tokyo Gas Company, JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corporation, Mitsubishi Corporation, and the NTT Group--to perform empirical studies and develop fundamental technologies that enable next-generation energy power generation. In that regard, Solutions Research Laboratory and the entities it works with aim to develop "smart communities" that fully incorporate renewable energy sources and energy-conservation practices that are central to achieving a low-carbon society. In September 2009, Integrated Research Institute (IRI) launched AES Center (Center Director: Institute Professor Takao Kashiwagi) to take on such tasks, and to such ends AES Center also maintains Tokyo Tech institutional programs (via the Collaboration Research Unit) that facilitate joint research with corporations.
Each of the companies involved has decided to draw on these programs to set up the first Collaboration Research Unit within AES Center. Expanded and more organized joint research activities began in April 2010, and the overall direction of research themes has been decided for each of the companies. Now, those companies and world-class researchers from Tokyo Tech will hold discussions to narrow down these themes to more specific areas of research. We will then work together on respective research over the course of several years. Institute Professor Kashiwagi, AES Center Director, plans to actively gain the involvement of companies from the US and other countries outside of Japan, and in the process make AES Center a global hub for next-generation energy research.
In the 21st century, a major challenge facing society is how best to reduce carbon emissions. To that end, the AES Project is being promoted by Integrated Research Institute (IRI) as part of the institute's solutions-oriented research efforts that aim to address such issues. The project is based on nuclear energy and works with groundbreaking energy conservation and new energy technologies in an attempt to establish Advanced Energy Systems for Sustainability (AES) that help mitigate global warming and help achieve a stable energy supplies. It goes beyond the conventional university research framework to embody a research platform that enables involvement of numerous and varied entities affiliated with industry, government, and NPOs, as well as consumers and other individuals. AES Center intends to draw on overall project findings to come up with a low-carbon society grand design that acts as a clear guide toward establishing a basis for implementation of next-generation energy sources. Refer to the "Research Category" page for specific details regarding specific research projects.
IRI, part of Tokyo Tech, was established by the university under the Center of Excellence (Super COE) Program based on concepts proposed by the program. The Super COE Program is supported through Special Coordination Funds for Promoting Science and Technology (special coordination fund support spanned five years, from 2005-009) from Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport, Science and Technology (MEXT). IRI promotes solution-oriented research, a new research typology for Tokyo Tech that involves finding solutions to problems, and to that end aims to play an important role within the university through implementation of multiple solution-oriented research projects such as the AES Project. Through its initiatives, IRI strives to enable reform of Tokyo Tech systems of research, and to develop new centers of research open to society at large. Beginning April 2010, IRI continues operations independently, under a new framework, using funds from Tokyo Tech and external sources. IRI is beginning anew, establishing integrated IRI bodies that include five research units and a committee to promote research. AES Center, established as part of IRI, promotes collaboration with each of the research divisions.
University-based solution-oriented research involves identifying challenges facing society and industry that need to be addressed in the near future, and then engaging in systematic studies involving wide-ranging collaboration between the university and the outside world. This definition of university-based solution-oriented research was pioneered by IRI in its implementation of such studies, drawing on its experience in planning, conceiving and running multiple solution-based research projects. In this regard, the overriding advantage of IRI is its ability to view research and seeds of new technologies from the perspective of challenges that need to be addressed. Along those lines, unlike university research conducted using the traditional discipline-based approach, IRI conducts studies that involve an extensive exploration of research topics from the perspective of seeds that may give rise to new technologies.
Moreover, solution-oriented research involves properly ascertaining challenges to be addressed and then taking a close look at what it will take to adapt research outcomes to applications in society and industry. In addressing the many complex challenges faced by society and industry, close collaboration is required from the issue identification and research planning stages involving researchers in different fields and involving corporate and municipal bodies, government, citizens, and others. The university aims to play a central role in enabling such collaboration.
Tokyo Tech engages around 200 researchers in the environment and energy-related fields, and of all the research institutions in Japan, boasts the highest number of papers published in the solar energy and fuel cell fields over the last ten years. Moreover, in November 2009, Tokyo Tech established the Inter-Departmental Organization for Environment and Energy to better foster inter-departmental collaboration of researchers dispersed throughout the university. When a joint business-university energy-related research project is launched involving a company and Tokyo Tech researchers, AES Center collaborates with the Organization to help get the respective project started, thereby providing participants with a research platform from which they can actively proceed with research tasks. IRI expects AES Center to act as a new model that drives collaboration between industry and academia.