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March 14, 2013

'Mind Meld': Israeli and US Academics Collaborate on Renewable Energy



Two research universities may be 6,000 miles apart, but they have had a meeting of the minds that has led to collaboration on the development of renewable energy technologies.

On March 7, VP and Dean for Research and Development Moti Herskowitz of Beersheva, Israel-based Ben-Gurion University (BGU) and VP for Research Stephen Forrest of the Ann Arbor-based University of Michigan (U-M) signed a memorandum of understanding that will launch a research partnership focused on creating and advancing next-generation energy technologies.

Each university has pledged half of the US$1 million that will jumpstart the three-year program. The partnership aims to solve major challenges in the areas of advanced vehicle fuels, solar energy; and thermoelectric materials, which convert heat to electricity. Beginning this month, collaborative faculty teams can apply for grants to start projects in one of these three areas.

"We live in a global economy," Forrest said. "Universities need to globalize their activities because we need to solve problems that are larger than one country can manage alone. When faculty at universities from across the world come together, they bring different cultures and different objectives, and when you mix them, you get a lot more than just the sum of the parts."

BGU has been at the forefront of the energy research for more than 30 years, Herskowitz said. The university previously hosted a joint workshop with U-M on renewable energy with an emphasis on solar energy, liquid fuels and thermoelectricity.

"We look forward to collaborating with the U-M researchers on the challenging issues related to renewable energy and trust that the agreed model of collaboration has the potential of generating novel scientific and technological information with potential applications," Herkowitz commented.

 The program grew out of Forrest's visits to Israel during the past five years. One of his objectives was to examine the country's well-known entrepreneurial culture. "There are an enormous number of start-ups that come out of Israel," he remarked. "We have a lot to learn to from them."

 Forrest said he expects that solar energy researchers from Israel, for example, might approach the problem with more applied perspective than some American researchers, and together these cultures could make breakthroughs.

Up to six projects will be funded during the first year. An annual technical workshop will showcase the research outcomes. Globalization of research is a priority at U-M, which also has research agreements with several Chinese institutions—most notably the Shanghai Jiao Tong University.




Edited by Brooke Neuman

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