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Stanford launches new energy alliance with industry partners

By David Schwartz
Published: March 13th, 2018

Stanford University is launching a new alliance designed to accelerate innovation in the world’s energy infrastructure to make it more sustainable, affordable and secure – and to extend modern energy services to developing economies.

The Stanford Strategic Energy Alliance will see industry alliance members and Stanford professors work together on a wide range of energy-related topics, from science and engineering to policy and business. The alliance will also bring in some industry funding for early-stage research, with founding members ExxonMobil and Bank of America already committing $20 million and $7.5 million respectively. The program will be managed by the university’s Precourt Institute for Energy, which is in advanced discussions to bring more leading companies into the alliance.

“Throughout human history, fundamental changes in the way we use energy have unleashed the next level of society’s growth. Born of necessity and opportunity, now is one of those moments,” said Sally Benson, co-director of the Precourt Institute. “Stanford innovators value the support and expertise of companies like ExxonMobil and Bank of America as we all try to help create this next era in energy.”

The new alliance will pick up where Stanford’s Global Climate & Energy Project is leaving off when it shuts down after a 15-year run. Having funded 100 major research projects, GCEP explored many approaches to low-carbon energy. Its researchers invented technologies to advance solar power, batteries, hydrogen production, biofuels and electricity-free cooling.

The new alliance looks to extend its work to include not only technology innovation but also energy policy, business and finance. For example, one major area of research will be to create new financial vehicles that reduce the costs and financial risks of building sustainable energy projects, especially in the developing world.

“Improving how we produce and consume energy is one of the most pressing problems we face today,” said Ann Arvin, vice provost and dean of research at Stanford. “I expect this new program will hasten further advances. It will attract even more faculty and students to answer the call, and they will find answers that might otherwise be missed.”

The alliance’s industry collaborators will help Stanford faculty identify new energy solutions as well as encourage students to engage in energy-related research and become part of the global energy workforce, according to Arvin.

“One of the under-appreciated benefits of academic-industrial collaboration is that students learn both the importance and difficulties of solving problems at scale for practical, meaningful impact,” Arvin said. “That’s an experience that may not be obtained in a purely academic setting,” she noted. 

As with all research at Stanford, results of the Strategic Energy Alliance’s work will be published and the university will retain ownership of any resulting intellectual property.

Source:  Stanford News

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