UC Berkeley to compete for energy research grant

As part of an international research initiative, UC Berkeley will be one of five universities eligible to apply for about $10 million in grants set aside for energy research in the United States.

Along with the California Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and the University of Michigan, UC Berkeley will compete for a series of two-year, roughly $150,000 grants, about 20 of which will be funded by the Bosch Energy Research Network project over the next eight years.

The project is divided into four branches in China, India, Germany and the United States. Universities in each nation are competing for a share of about $70 million in funds — among U.S. universities, about $10 million.

The project was founded in May by Robert Bosch GmbH — a Germany-based international corporation specializing in automotive technology and consumer goods. The grants recognize the achievements of German inventor and company founder Robert Bosch and his company’s 125th anniversary.

Among the technologies the company is hoping will be researched throughout the project are micro grids, cooling systems and lithium batteries.

“As a technology company and innovation driver, Bosch is also pursuing … significantly cutting energy consumption and environmental impact in the U.S. by using alternative energy technologies,” said Peter Marks, chairman, president and chief executive officer of the company’s American branch — Robert Bosch LLC — in a statement.

The initiative is part of Bosch’s wide-reaching InterCampus Program, which aims to provide about $70 million in research funding for sustainable energy conversion and storage over the next 10 years to campuses in the U.S., Germany, China and India.

Grants such as these — of which the campus receives nearly $700 million per year — are integral to maintaining the campus’s quality of research, according to associate vice chancellor for research Robert Price.

Grant proposals will be accepted until July 1, when the Palo Alto-based Bosch Research and Technology Center North America — the company branch managing the program — will begin reviewing them for final notification on Sept. 19, according to Brigitte Mardigras, program coordinator for the project.

“The main goal of the group is to discover transformative energy technology (and) ideas that will help the environment,” she said. “We’re hoping that these projects can be brought to the market within seven to 15 years.”

Applicants are asked to provide both technical descriptions of their research and curriculum vitae as part of their proposals. Mardigras added that proposals displaying exceptional market viability or scalability could apply for a one-year extension, netting an additional $150,000 in funds.

In addition to funding research lab initiatives, the project will fund about 200 undergraduate internships across a wide range of disciplines open to students at 13 U.S. universities, including UC Berkeley and Stanford.

Price said that although the Bosch grants are not as large as those offered by entities such as the U.S. Department of Energy’s $25 million, five-year grant which the campus currently shares with Stanford, they are important as proof of principal and build credibility for fledgling projects.

“One of the reasons for these kinds of grants is that more and more industries are getting out of the business of basic research,” he said. “They might want to get something going in (a) field that could ultimately develop technology they’re interested in.”