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HOME  >  Research Grant Program  >  2021  >  Comments by Selection Committee Chair

Research Grant Program 2021

Comments by Selection Committee Chair

Hiroshi Nakanishi
Graduate Schools of Law, Kyoto University

Starting in 2021, the Toyota Foundation’s Research Grant Program began accepting applications based on the new theme of Interlinkages and Innovation for Future Societies; Reevaluating Social Issues and Forging New Solidarity in the New Normal Era.

COVID-19, which has swept the world since last year, has posed an unexpected challenge to modern society. The close social networks which allowed modern society to function and thrive were suddenly and forcibly shut down, creating division and isolation right across society. The entire world is facing this challenge and is still groping to find the right ways to address it.

However, if we reconsider the challenge, it seems that the division and isolation we are currently experiencing are not only due to COVID-19. Rather, we might say that we are being directly confronted with a serious problem that had been latent but invisible. For example, the problem of solitary deaths among elderly people, who live by themselves due to the declining birthrate and aging population and the large impact of communication using social networking services on people’s psychology and behavior both had caused the division and significant changes in the nature of human relationships before the COVID-19.

It is in response to this that the Toyota Foundation set “interlinkages” as the keyword in its research grant program and decided to support research on new social systems created or attempted in the context of COVID-19, targeting research groups led by young researchers based in Japan. In addition to setting a broad theme and welcoming research from diverse fields, we also emphasized our expectation of results that can lead to social practice in a broader sense than purely academic research.

This year, a total of nine projects were adopted from among the 130 applications. In terms of academic disciplines, there seemed to be relatively more applications from fields related to sociology, medicine, and psychology. Even so, we received highly diverse, original, and interesting applications from people belonging to various research institutions, companies, NPOs, and other organizations. We therefore made the assessment that the research grant program has achieved more than enough for its first year. Below we introduce several of the selected research projects.

D21-R-0042   Takuro Shimada (Wawon Association, Boad Member, Secretary General)
“Realizing employment for people with severe physical disabilities requiring 24-hour care: A reexamination of the disallowance of assisted work from the viewpoint of people with disabilities”

The widespread adoption of teleworking due COVID-19 has opened up the possibility of employment for people with severe physical disabilities, for whom commuting had been a hurdle. However, economic activity is not allowed under the system of visiting care for persons with severe disabilities, and the current situation is that employment opportunities for people with severe physical disabilities are restricted in terms of the social system. This research is expected to provide recommendations aimed at realizing a new form of socioeconomic activity known as assisted employment.

D21-R-0092   Mao Matsuyama (Research Associate, Mukogawa Institute of Esthetics in Everyday-Life)
“A comprehensive study of “home” environment based on the recognition relationship between humans and things: From an integrated approach of environmental aesthetics, architecture and urban planning theory, and art practice”

One of the most obvious impacts of COVID-19 is that it has greatly changed the meaning of the home environment. This research is not only about infection control, but also about creating new lifestyles and values by combining environmental aesthetics, architecture, and urban engineering, treating the home as a place where people and things can build close relationships.

D21-R-0097   Rie Sato (Representative, Mirai + Corona)
“Research on a citizen-participatory local governance process using DX to solve the disengagement of young people from politics, which has been exacerbated by the decrease in interaction and distrust of politics in the coronavirus pandemic”

Political disengagement among the younger generation has long been a serious issue in Japan, and COVID-19 has forced a delay in the framework of community development and local government focusing on the participation of local residents, which was intended to counter this. Meanwhile, the importance of introducing digital transformation is rapidly gaining recognition. This research will explore ways to stimulate political participation by young people taking advantage of the digital transformation trend, referring to precedents in Europe.

(Figures in parentheses show number in the previous year)
Number of applications Number of grants Selection rate
130 (152) 9 (12) 6.9% (7.9%)
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