The UC Berkeley Energy & Biosciences Institute, or EBI, renewed its partnership with Shell on Feb. 28 to continue developing cleaner energy solutions.
According to EBI program manager Shelley Brozenick, the EBI is an interactive research environment powered by campus, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
In 2017, the EBI signed a partnership with Shell as part of its goal to provide industrial sponsors access to research facilities across the biosciences and energy fields, according to Brozenick. She said the purpose behind this five-year, multimillion dollar partnership is to continue funding research aimed at sustainably meeting the world’s growing energy demands.
“All parties agree that the renewal is happening at a most relevant and meaningful time given the current geopolitical instability, rising fuel prices, and consumer demand for alternatives to fossil fuels,” Brozenick said in the email.
Brozenick added the EBI is entirely self-funded and supported through industrial sponsorship.
EBI incubator program manager Yi Liu said the EBI has three pillars in research, entrepreneurship and education, noting that Shell is involved in the EBI’s research sector.
“We share a common focus on developing technically feasible, economically viable, and socially acceptable energy solutions using modern science to drive technological innovation,” Brozenick said in the email.
According to Liu, the EBI and Shell have conducted research on advanced energy generation, storage and transformation incorporating research in material sciences, electrochemistry and computational analysis.
Brozenick said the latest research could leverage capabilities for many sectors including biotechnology and food processing, as well as develop approaches for sustainable energy and chemical production.
“Over the last four years we released four requests for proposals (RFP) and supported 26 individual projects across our partnership campuses, including University of California Santa Barbara and University of California, San Diego,” Brozenick said in the email.
While campus chemical engineering professor and EBI investigator Nitash Balsara said the goals of the phase of this partnership have not been finalized yet, he said one of its focuses is finding sustainable alternatives to petrochemicals used to make everyday materials such as plastic.
Balsara noted that petrochemicals are scarce and emit carbon dioxide. He said plants and fermentation offer a more sustainable alternative for the petrochemical industry, and he is “committed” to seeing its effectiveness.
“As we transition from fossil fuels to cleaner technologies, it is important for universities to partner with industrial (partners) with the same goals,” Balsara said. “Otherwise, we, in academia, risk working on problems that will not have an impact on society.”
Collaborative research is “paramount,” according to Brozenick, in tackling climate change and global energy problems.
Brozenick added the EBI is “well positioned” to offer the resources necessary for industrial partners and researchers to advance clean energy solutions.
“As concerns continue to grow over the global sustainability and financial feasibility of fossil-based fuels, the EBI remains focused and eager to explore all aspects of advanced, clean, sustainable energy,” Brozenick said in the email.
Dhoha Bareche, Maya Banuelos and Tiffany Lieu contributed to this report.