Two of the most important challenges now facing industrialized nations are
coping with population aging and reducing carbon emissions. Japan, as the nation
with the best expertise for addressing these two issues, is being counted upon to
develop and commercialize the technologies needed to provide solutions.
However, these challenges present an antinomy—a step forward in resolving one
entails a step backward with the other—and hence they cannot be conquered
through conventional technological development focused on individual issues.
Diverse sets of technologies must be systematized, their impact on society must be
evaluated, and social institutions also have to be changed where necessary. At the
same time, new individual technologies need to be created to facilitate assessment
using new types of indicators.
The challenges posed by population aging include managing and improving
health on a daily basis, enhancing medical and nursing care systems, upgrading
the housing environment, encouraging social involvement, ensuring mobility, and
providing assistance for everyday purchases. However, attempting to work them
out simply by augmenting existing technologies and systems is not a viable
solution, since it will lead to increased social costs and energy consumption. In the
process of R&D for innovating solutions, the effectiveness and impact of each
research achievement must not only be weighed in terms of the primary
goal—improving the health and lifestyle of seniors—but also be evaluated
comprehensively across many social dimensions, including energy, information,
logistics, and economy.
As for efforts to build a low-carbon society, the focus should be not on lowering
energy consumption through efficiency enhancements to existing equipment and
devices, but on R&D to create new elemental and system technologies premised
on the popularization of future energy supply/consumption systems—such as wind and solar power generation, smart grids, cogeneration, heat pumps, electric
vehicles, and home fuel cells. Also, it is vital to assess the directly energyconsuming
elements of information systems, physical distribution, and so
on, and to constantly think about total energy consumption of the overall system,
including the effects of popularization over time.
In our department, we integrate such existing disciplines as environmental science,
informatics, and physics to pursue our research mission, which is to implement
R&D and system design for the various elemental technologies necessary for
realizing a low-carbon society and supporting its aging population, evaluate the
products of research through field testing, and share our solutions with society.