Mitsubishi Research Institute, Inc.

Energy & Environment

The goal is to realize a society where everyone can enjoy clean and sustainable energy.

Sub-themes

At the Innovation Network for Co-Creating the Future, we believe that the following 5 changes will have a significant impact in resolving societal problems in the area of Energy and Environment.

Innovation in diverse energy supply

Social problem

  • Insufficient measures for energy security, economic efficiency, environment + safety (3Es + S)

    In terms of energy supply, we should strive to achieve the three "E"s (energy security, economic efficiency, environment) and one "S" (safety) (= 3Es + S). Japan currently faces various energy supply problems such as a low energy self-sufficiency rate, a dependence on oil and gas imports from the Middle East, and increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Issues to be tackled

  • Promoting comprehensive measures for 3Es + S

Examples of innovation

  • Development of innovative energy production and conversion technology
    - High-efficiency thermal power generation, artificial photosynthesis, utilization of unused heat, utilization of new energy resources (algae, methane hydrate, etc.), carbon neutral natural gas, nuclear fusion by D-T reaction, solar power generation on satellites, power generation by nuclear fusion with Helium-3 from the moon
  • Development of innovative energy accumulation and storage technology
    - Pumped-storage hydroelectricity, technologies for the accumulation/storage of energy (Storage battery, hydrogen etc.)
    - Superconducting transmission
  • Advanced operation of energy infrastructure
    - Utilization of demand-side assets (virtual power plant (VPP), demand response (DR) measures, etc.)
    - Enhancement of transmission and distribution operations, enhancement of asset management (utilization of drones, image diagnosis, etc.)
    - P2P electricity transaction between consumers and electricity suppliers
  • Reduction of coal usage in steel and cement
    - Development of manufacturing process with energy sources other than coal
    - Development of substitute materials that have smaller emissions during their life cycle
    - Reduction of usage of virgin materials for production by using recycled materials

Innovation in energy efficiency

Social problem

  • Lagged energy-saving actions both in industrial and household sectors

    While Japanese energy consumption efficiency ranks high globally, its business sector has been slow in utilizing IoT and building insulation. The household sector also has much to improve for balancing comfort and energy-saving. Growing power consumption in a digitizing society is another issue needing to be addressed.

Issues to be tackled

  • Creating solutions to encourage energy-saving in business and household sectors

Examples of innovation

  • Development of technology to reduce energy consumption while maintaining user comfort
    - Energy management service utilizing IoT (Disaggregation technology, HEMS/BEMS/FEMS etc.)
    - Careful control over air conditioning and lighting (individual air conditioning, automatic lighting control, garments that keep wearers cool so that no air conditioning is required, etc.)
    - Energy harvesting, greenhouse and architectural material with artificial photosynthesis, carbon absorption and utilization technologies
  • Development of new in-home services based on ICT
    - Smart home (Construction of a comfort system utilizing latest ICT, voice technology, etc.)
  • Encouragement of business activities and lifestyles that wisely save energy
    - Changes in social systems such as introducing daylight savings
    - Consider climatic factors when conducting location selection of business facilities (e.g. installation of data centers in cooler regions)
    - Combination of passive solar and improved heat insulation performance
    - Improve efficiency in business and working style by utilizing ICT such as tele-communication

Innovation for heat energy efficiency

Social problem

  • Vast amount of discarded energy

    - Large amounts of primary energy are discarded as heat around the world. Reduction, recovery and reutilization of the unused thermal energy remains an issue to be addressed.

    - Domestically, thermal/heat utilization technology is gradually being adopted by the large-scale business establishment, but among the small business and household sectors, thermal energy is not effectively utilized.

Issues to be tackled

  • To develop new technologies that utilize renewable sources of energy such as solar and thermal energy

Examples of innovation

  • Development of new technologies for better utilization of thermal energy
    - Thermal energy storage device
    - Thermal medium transport
    - Less expensive and efficient heat pumps
    - Electrolyte that functions at the low temperatures of discarded heat

Innovation in material life cycles

Social problem

  • Resource depletion and insufficient recycling

    While precious and rare metals from “urban mines” (materials to be recycled) will be key components for next-generation automobiles and ICT-related equipment, recycling them from “urban mines” remains slow and insufficient. In addition, waste reduction is now a worldwide problem. Furthermore, economical and sustainable ways of developing forest resources and utilizing biomass resources remain possibilities worth exploring.

Issues to be tackled

  • Promotion of “Recycling-oriented society”

Examples of innovation

  • Horizontal recycling/Enhancements to recycling
    - Recycling based on sensor/robot technology
    - Low cost recycling and refining of nonferrous and rare metals
  • Streamline waste collection process
    - Efficient waste collection systems with barcodes and IC chips attached to all electronic appliances
    - Smart trash bin, garbage collection with autonomous driving and robots
  • Enhancement of use of biomass resources
    - Develop efficient forest management technology
    - Biodegradable materials (cellulose nanofiber, etc.)
    - Materials with high fire resistance and strength
    - Develop technologies to utilize sewage sludge, garbage, livestock feces, etc.

Innovations to against the pollution of the atmosphere, ocean and soil and conservation of ecosystems

Social problem

  • Pollution of air, sea and soil, and global environmental disruption

    - Air pollution is caused mainly by factories, automobile emissions, contaminants of coal and charcoal burnt at household heaters and cooking stoves. This type of pollution is the fourth largest cause of death in the world. Ocean pollution is caused by variety of factors, including discarded waste, oil spills from nautical accidents. Ocean pollution is also caused by chronic factors, including waste water from factories and households, inflow of pesticides and plastics. All of these are becoming serious problems.

    - Various organisms live on this planet and each of them plays an indispensable role in the natural systems including forests, ground soil, rivers, oceans, and atmosphere. Urgent attention is needed to prevent loss of biodiversity caused by deforestation, invasive alien species, etc.

Issues to be tackled

  • Countermeasures against the pollution of the atmosphere, ocean and soil and conservation of ecosystems

Examples of innovation

  • Countermeasures against pollution of atmosphere, ocean and soil
    - (1) Utilizing electricity from renewable energy sources, (2) Developing Greener automobiles, (3) inexpensive cooking and heating devices that replace those using charcoal and coal, (4) kitchen stoves and housing structures that properly ventilate smoke
    - Bioremediation technologies with microorganisms
  • Countermeasures for plastic wastes
    - Development and utilization of substitutes for plastics (biodegradable materials, etc.)
    - Systems to monitor, collect and reuse plastics and microplastics in the ocean
  • Conservation of ecosystems
    - Business models to conserve and utilize rare species (for tourism, pharmaceutical products, etc.)

Past Winners

  • 2017 Part1 “Energy & Environment” Challenger Award
    Extending life-span of carpet tiles involving handicapped workers

    Japan Carpet tiles Reset Association (JCRA)

    While carpet tiles are usually replaced and disposed of after only a few years in Japan, JCRA invented a new washing process that extends the life-span of carpet tiles, resulting in the reduction of replacement costs and waste. Its simplified process enables people with intellectual disabilities to participate in the task.
    The applicants developed the idea based on their unique knowledge and expertise gained through years in the cleaning business. The idea is also unique in that it may contribute to an increase in job opportunities for the intellectually handicapped.
    More [In Japanese]

Application Details

You can find out about the benefits for competition participants, the screening process and the schedule.

Other-themes

The following themes will also be considered for this program:

Business proposals may also be submitted for multifaceted social issues that involve several focus areas.

Note: business proposals focusing only on infrastructure technologies (e.g. AI and blockchains) will not be accepted.