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MIT, Kuwait foundation announce partnership to advance management of water, energy resources

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The Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences and MIT today announced the creation of a research-and-education center devoted to progress on key environmental, hydrologic and energy resource goals. The foundation will fund the center at the level of $11 million over 10 years.

The Kuwait-MIT Center for Natural Resources and the Environment will be based at the Institute. The organization, whose core staff is MIT faculty in the sciences, engineering and policy studies, will promote interdisciplinary work by those investigators, by MIT students, and by Kuwaiti investigators and students.

The center will seek solutions for a range of challenges, including several that affect many countries besides Kuwait. Examples include:

  • finding and accessing groundwater resources using technologically innovative and environmentally sustainable methods;
  • gauging the risks of earthquakes related to the extraction of large amounts of water and petroleum from under ground, and developing techniques to minimize such risks; and
  • analyzing difficult policy issues that involve natural resources like water and petroleum.

"Natural resources such as water and petroleum are critical to the world's prosperity," said Dr. Ali Abdullah Al-Shamlan, director general of the foundation. "By entering into this agreement, the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences and MIT have reached a new milestone in ensuring excellence in research focused on these resources."

The center's membership will include an initial group of five MIT faculty representing three departments. The center will also draw on the expertise of interdisciplinary MIT entities like its Earth Resources Laboratory and Ralph M. Parsons Laboratory for Water Resources and Hydrodynamics. Dale Morgan, professor of geophysics in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, will direct the center. Elfatih Eltahir, professor of civil and environmental engineering, will be associate director.

"We are delighted to be entering into this partnership with our good colleagues from Kuwait," said Morgan. "We are also grateful for their investment and personal involvement in developing means for addressing problems associated with two of society's most crucial resources, petroleum and water." He added that the new enterprise is highly relevant to an Institute-wide initiative focused on addressing the world's energy concerns that MIT President Susan Hockfield announced last week.

The partnership between MIT and the foundation will put a heavy emphasis on collaboration. At least two investigators from Kuwaiti institutions will be in residence at MIT at any given time, and MIT investigators will make periodic visits to Kuwait to further joint research projects.

A range of advances in technologies like remote sensing, along with new developments in related policy-making activity, have opened the way for major progress on dealing with natural resource issues. The combination of MIT's interdisciplinary tradition and expertise, along with Kuwait's deep commitment to careful stewardship of its resources, offers the prospect of rapid progress toward more sustainable and environmentally benign methods of resource management.

The Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences was established by His Highness the Amir of Kuwait in 1976, with the understanding that the foundation would be supported by the private sector, meaning that Kuwaiti shareholding companies each contribute shares of their annual profits. The foundation supports efforts related to modernization and scientific progress in Kuwait. To that end, it sponsors basic and applied research in such areas as natural science, engineering, economics and health; recognizes achievements that enhance the development of Kuwait and other Arab nations; grants scholarships and fellowships, and otherwise supports Kuwaiti scholars and students; and forms partnerships focused on scientific research and programs on an international basis.

The foundation also awards the Kuwait Prize, an important honor that recognizes outstanding achievement in the sciences and related realms by individuals of Arab extraction. MIT's Eltahir is among past recipients of this distinguished prize.

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