Berkeley-Tsinghua Joint Research Center receives $5 million donation

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The Berkeley-Tsinghua Joint Research Center on Energy and Climate Change received a $5 million donation from Jim and Marilyn Simons on Wednesday.

The center is a partnership between UC Berkeley,  Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Beijing’s Tsinghua University, conducting research in energy policy. With $2 million of the gift, the center will create Berkeley Lab’s first endowed chair, the Nat Simons Chair in China Energy Policy, and has appointed staff researcher Jiang Lin as its first chairholder.

“It’s a huge deal because this is the first ever (endowed chair) at the Lab,” said Ivy Clift, president of the Berkeley Lab Foundation. “It provides funding and creates solidity around this program (Joint Research Center) that was not there before. Our China energy policy work has been going on here for decades and we hope it will go on for many more.”

According to Clift, the Simons family has a “long and warm relationship” with the campus and Berkeley Lab. Clift also said Nat Simons, Jim and Marilyn’s son, has long been “extremely passionate about China energy policy research.”

Clift said Jim and Marilyn Simons had originally intended for all of the funds to go toward the Joint Research Center but decided to pledge the $2 million minimum requirement to fund an endowed chair position.

UC President Janet Napolitano will match this donation with an additional $500,000 through the Presidential Match for Endowed Chairs program.

The Joint Research Center was formed in 2015 to help carry out carbon emission reduction strategies discussed between President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping of China.

During their meeting held prior to the 2015 climate conference in Paris, both presidents pledged to take steps toward alleviating the effects of climate change. The United States committed to a direct carbon reduction effort, and China promised to increase the proportion of renewable energy sources used.

“This is a culmination of many productive meetings with Tsinghua and we are delighted that this program is moving forward according to our original vision,” said Paul Wright, director of the Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute.

The outstanding $2.5 million from the donation will be used as a challenge grant to encourage other donors to contribute to a new China Energy Policy fund.

Clift said Jim, who is a UC Berkeley alumnus, and his wife Marilyn were also enthusiastic about the challenge grant in the hope that it would inspire other donors to contribute to the fund.

Additionally, the Joint Research Center will create the Chern-Simons Fellows Program to support up-and-coming Chinese energy policy makers.

“It’s not a (traditional) fellowship — it’s more of an educational program to support emerging energy policy leaders from China,” Clift said. “It’s a way to support their coming over here to learn.”

Contact Justin Sidhu at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @dc_justinsidhu.