U. initiative, ExxonMobil to enter 5-year agreement to develop energy innovations| Sep 17, 2015
Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership, an initiative that forges collaborations between industry and University experts, and ExxonMobil entered into a five-year agreement to pursue transformational innovations in the fields of energy and environment, the University’s Office of Engineering Communications announced this summer.
ExxonMobil’s commitment to invest $5 million during the next five years is the largest financial commitment in the E-ffiliates Partnership.
Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership, founded in 2011, offers its corporate members an opportunity to explore research frontiers and engage faculty and students outside the company's core expertise. E-ffiliates is administered by the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment in close collaboration with the Princeton Environmental Institute, the School of Architecture and the Wilson School.
“If you combine technologically and economically feasible with scientifically feasible, it means that you have to have interactions with the practitioners, which means with industry,” Pablo Debenedetti, the University's dean for research, explained. “Interactions with the energy industry are a way of enriching the research that you do and enriching the teaching that you do.”
ExxonMobil's recent investment continues the company's collaboration with the best and brightest universities to research and discover energy solutions for the next generation, Vice President of Research and Development for ExxonMobil Research & Engineering Co. Dr. Vijay Swarup, said in a press release. He added that the firm seeks meaningful and scalable solutions to meet global energy demand.
Swarup declined to comment beyond the release.
Mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Emily Carter, founding director of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, explained that of the $1 million ExxonMobil will give each year to the University, half will support the Princeton E-filliates Partnership, while the other half will help ExxonMobil researchers learn about ongoing research at the University and sponsor research projects.
Carter said there will be no restrictions on whether the research will be concentrated in the graduate or undergraduate school. She explained that the ways of executing research projects will typically depend on who is in faculty members' research groups.
“We have a lot of enthusiasm from the faculty to work jointly with ExxonMobil since [company employees] are privy to understanding the many different problems that exist in the energy sector that we believe that our expertise can really help with,” Carter said.
She listed bio-derived fuels and solar energy conversion as examples of the many areas of research that interest both ExxonMobil and University faculty.
According to Carter, many factors provide a strong framework for the current partnership, including ExxonMobil’s large research and development center in New Jersey and the relationships that have existed between the company and the University for many decades.
Carter explained that the two other large companies in the E-ffiliates program, Southern Company and PSE&G, belong to utilities, which is a completely different sector.
“I think there will be a more active and engaged partnership with ExxonMobil just because they have a much larger research and development effort,” Carter said.
So far, the company has articulated its interest, and will come to the University to interact with faculty in October, she added. Carter said she observed a high amount of faculty interest.
Carter said that after initial education about opportunities for specific research projects and areas of interest at the University, she expects that research projects will begin.
Lynn Loo, the associate director of external partnerships at the Andlinger Center from 2011-15, explained that she and Carter first visited ExxonMobil to talk about a potential partnership almost four years ago.
She explained that many faculty members had been consultants for ExxonMobil or worked on individual projects with the company, but that there had not been a collective way of looking at the partnership between the University and ExxonMobil.
“The Andlinger Center’s focus is on energy, so it makes sense to partner with big companies, including energy companies like ExxonMobil,” Loo said.
Loo explained that ExxonMobil has entered the E-ffiliates partnership at the highest level as a charter member, which means the company can station a visitor in residence on campus.
According to Loo, the visitor-in-residence for the partnership will be Dr. Eric Herbolzheimer of ExxonMobil, who will serve as the liaison between University researchers and ExxonMobil. Herbolzheimer did not respond to a request for comment.