EBI, Shell sign $25 million partnership to fund new energy tech research

March 15, 2017
Attendees at the signing ceremony at EBI. From left to right: Melanie Loots, Isaac Cann, Liesl Schindler, John Coates, Ajay Mehta, Paul Alivisatos, Yuri Sebregts. (UC Berkeley photos by Peg Skorpinski)

UC Berkeley’s Energy Biosciences Institute has entered into a five-year research agreement with Shell International Exploration and Production to fund research that meets the growing demand for energy in ways that are economically, environmentally and socially responsible.

The agreement is to spend up to $25 million over five years on fundamental research in the areas of global energy transition and new energy technology. The agreement will make EBI a global leader in energy technology research to make next-generation fuels a competitive, sustainable alternative to fossil fuels.

“The Shell agreement brings the first of EBI’s new sponsors into the institute and adds a new dimension to the research focus incorporating research in material sciences, electrochemistry, and computational analysis,” said John Coates, director of the EBI and a Berkeley professor of microbiology.

EBI and Shell are now accepting proposals to initially pursue fundamental research in the areas of solar energy transformation, advanced energy storage and novel synthesis routes to create new products, and to leverage new capabilities in computational material science and biosciences and bioengineering.

The collaboration will also focus on creating new energy technology that will enable fuels derived from sustainable sources to be readily available alongside conventional fossil fuels in the market. EBI’s research focus to date has been on enabling feedstock availability — a goal shared with Shell, which currently holds 50 percent equity in Raízen, the world´s largest producer of one of the lowest-CO2 biofuels available today.

Alivisatos and Sebregts
Alivisatos, left, and Sebregts at the signing ceremony

“Shell is pleased to enter into a multi-year research collaboration agreement with the Energy Biosciences Institute,” said Shell chief technology officer Yuri Sebregts. “The overarching objective is to harness the power of renewable energy sources to develop the fuels of the future, create robust options for energy storage, build capabilities in computational material science and chemistry, and probe the potential of the bioscience pathways across the energy system. This agreement is an important step in Shell’s long-range research program aimed at developing more and cleaner energy to support the ongoing energy transition.”

Sebregts visited Berkeley last week to kick off of the collaboration with a ceremonial signing of the agreement. Other attendees included Coates; Isaac Cann, EBI deputy director and a professor of microbiology and animal sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Paul Alivisatos, Berkeley vice chancellor for research; and Melanie Loots, executive associate vice chancellor for research, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Shell group that joined Yuri included Liesl Schindler, global manager for external technical collaborations, and Ajay Mehta, general manager for long- range research and new energy technologies.

“In the current climate of uncertainty from federal and state funding sources, this agreement brings a sense of excitement, optimism and enthusiasm for the future,” said Cann, EBI’s deputy director.