The Canon Foundation in Europe was established on 22nd December, 1987 by Canon Europe N.V., Canon’s European Headquarters for Europe, Africa and the Middle East, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Canon in Europe.
This milestone was celebrated not only with one-off festivities. A permanent contribution to society was founded with the aim of strengthening mutual understanding between Europe and Japan.
The Board of Directors was appointed by the Board of Management of Canon Europe N.V., as is written in the statutes of the Foundation. This Board of Directors brought together an Advisory Board in order to obtain advice on policies and future strategies. The Advisory Board members were sought and found in different European countries and from a number of academic disciplines in order to facilitate the Board of Directors with ideas and expertise from a wide cultural and scientific arena. Also, in this way, the Advisory Board could form a Selection Committee from its members to assess the variety of incoming applications, as there was and is no restriction in field of study.
The spiritual father of the Foundation, Mr. Richard Burke from Ireland (1932-2016†), was President of the secretariat. As Chairman of the Advisory Board he combined heading the office with strategic advice to the Board of Directors for more than 10 years. Mr. Burke resigned in 1998 from both Boards and as President.
In 1999 this structure was revised. Instead of a President the Foundation appointed an Honorary Chairman of the Board in Mr. Andreas van Agt, former Prime Minister of the Netherlands and EU ambassador to Japan.
The Bureau was headed by a Director, Mrs. Corrie Siahaya-Van Nierop and the Advisory Board’s name changed to Executive Committee. The first chairman of this Executive Committee was Dr. Heinrich Pfeiffer. At the same time a rotation system was adopted so that every three years a new chairman was to be chosen from the committee members.
Established in 2017, the Japan-Africa Exchange Program offers grants to scholars from Kyoto University who want to do research in Africa related to African Studies, and for scholars from Kyoto University’s partner institutes in Africa who want to do research in Kyoto.
During 1988 and 1989, the best approach was sought on how to translate the objective of the Foundation into a successful format. After listing and studying several options, the activity of a Visiting Research Fellowship Programme was chosen as the best means to achieve the aim of strengthening mutual understanding between Europe and Japan. The first application and selection round took place in 1989 with the first Visiting Research Fellows going into the field in 1990.
The candidates for these Fellowships were between the ages of 30-45 and aimed to be ‘high-flyers in mid-career’ who would have the opportunity to get away from administrative burdens and/or teaching requirements. Instead, the Fellowship gave freedom for research, choice of research topic and host institution. In order to give younger, promising researchers the same opportunity, the lower age limit of 30 was abolished in 2000. The maximum age then became 40.
Three years from the start, in 1993, an additional programme was launched with the Visiting Professorships. In this programme the host institution nominated the visiting professor who lectured overseas (again Japanese came to Europe and Europeans went to Japan). Students had the chance to be taught by experts from the field from a different culture; staff had the opportunity to collaborate on research topics of mutual interest.
This programme was changed to the Awardee Programme in 1999 when the emphasis moved towards research collaboration and lecturing to a wider audience. The last Awardee was selected for the year 2005. From 1993 - 2005, 21 Visiting Professorships and Awards have been granted.
From 1991-99, the Canon Foundation Prize was awarded annually to the author of the most promising piece of research published in ‘Japan Forum’ the bi-annual journal of the British Association of Japanese Studies (BAJS). This programme was set up on the initiative of one of the Visiting Research Fellows, in order to promote Japanese Studies in general.
Until 2004, the journal itself was sent to all Canon Foundation Fellows in the Humanities as a complimentary copy from the Bureau.
The Foundation financially supported conferences or seminars initiated by Research Fellows several times. However, due to financial restrictions and the large number of applications for Research Fellowships every year, it was decided to concentrate on this programme and stop supporting ad-hoc activities.
The Canon Foundation Award Programme came to an end in 2005. Replacing this, was the Canon Foundation Invited Lecture which ran from 2007-2012 where a lecturer who was an outstanding person in academia, government or a professional organisation was invited to deliver a lecture on a theme which was topical and of relevance to the international community. The lecturer was nominated by the Executive Committee members of the Canon Foundation in Europe. The first Invited Lecture, on Global Citizenship, was held in 2007 to commemorate the Canon Foundation in Europe's 20th anniversary. The last Invited Lecture, on the EU-Japan Partnership in the new age of Globalization was held in 2012 and given by His Excellency Professor Hisashi Owada, Judge and former President of the International Court of Justice which commemorated the Foundation’s 25th anniversary of granting research fellowships.