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MIT, government of Portugal sign key energy agreement

Country to become inaugural Sustaining Public Member of MIT Energy Initiative
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MIT and the government of Portugal have formed a partnership to address critical energy issues and strengthen transatlantic cooperation in energy research.

Portugal will become the inaugural Sustaining Public Member of the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), giving a designated representative of the government of Portugal a seat on the MITEI Governing Board, which provides key input on the direction and success of the Initiative's overall research portfolio. The collaboration enhances the MIT-Portugal Program, a major initiative undertaken by the Portuguese government in 2006 to strengthen the country's knowledge base at an international level.

José Socrates, Prime Minister of Portugal, presided at the March 26 signing of the MITEI agreement between MIT and his country. He emphasized the key role that the MIT-Portugal Program is playing in the modernization of Portuguese universities, including the promotion of new industry research relationships, and the new frontiers for this collaboration through Portugal's engagement in MITEI.

The MITEI agreement was signed in Lisbon during the MIT-Europe Conference by the Portuguese Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education, Jose Mariano Gago; the Director in Portugal of the MIT-Portugal Program, Paulo Ferrão; and Professor Ernest Moniz of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Moniz, Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems and Director of the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), noted that "MIT has a robust relationship with Portugal through the MIT-Portugal Program. This agreement will enhance that relationship and create new opportunities to help meet Portugal's energy and environmental needs through critical analysis and research. We are excited about working with Portugal to address global energy challenges and to develop new technologies to enable a clean, sustainable energy future. As an American of Portuguese ancestry, I cannot help but be especially pleased to have Portugal as the first MITEI public member."

The path established under this agreement will enable the government of Portugal to leverage the talent and expertise of its universities and key energy industry sectors with the expertise and capabilities of MIT researchers and faculty. More specifically, this agreement establishes a framework for the government of Portugal and MIT, through MITEI, to enhance the understanding of key energy systems and associated technology development and deployment in Portugal, including:

  • the development and demonstration of innovative technologies for sustainable energy systems and transportation systems;
  • decentralized energy;
  • urban metabolism and green mobility;
  • and advanced energy technologies and analysis.

Manuel Heitor, Secretary of State for Science, Technology and Higher Education of the Portuguese government, emphasized that "the involvement of Portugal in the MIT Energy Initiative will strengthen transatlantic cooperation in energy research, attract new talents for science and technology and foster new developments in the complex interactions between emerging energy technologies and the social and economic fabric. It will be a unique opportunity to promote Portuguese research teams and institutions at an international level, together with the energy industry."

Over the five-year term of this new agreement, Portugal will also support either 10 graduate energy fellows, or multiple Postdoctoral Fellows from Portugal, at MIT. The Portugal-MIT Postdoctoral Fellows would be assigned to research programs supported by MITEI industrial members in close cooperation with the MIT-Portugal Program. The designation of support for either graduate or postdoctoral fellows will be at the discretion of Portugal.

The partnership will also support MITEI's energy research "seed fund" to promote the development of a broad range of novel, innovative energy technologies and concepts from innovators across the Institute. The Governing Board reviews all seed fund proposals and, with MITEI's Energy Council, advises on awards.

MITEI has attracted more than $100 million from industry partners in the last year; this will fund critical energy research to enhance the environmental performance of conventional energy and to enable a sustainable energy future through transformational technologies. The MITEI program will also support more than 200 graduate energy fellows over the next five years to help develop the next generation of energy scientists, technologists and social scientists. Industry members of MITEI include Founding Members BP and EniSpA and Sustaining Members Ford, Chevron, Schlumberger, ABB, Bosch and ENEL.

MITEI was established to mobilize the capabilities of the Institute to help meet the world's pressing energy challenges and builds on MIT's outstanding capabilities and lengthy history of providing real-world solutions to difficult societal problems. The Initiative is designed to accelerate innovation in energy science, technology and policy through the integrated application of the Institute's cutting-edge capabilities in science, engineering, management, planning and policy.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 2, 2008 (download PDF).

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