MIT and Italian energy company Eni today announced a major energy research partnership. The centerpiece of this collaboration will be a program focusing on the development of advanced solar technologies, from novel photovoltaic materials to the design of solar power plants.
Eni will also become a Founding Member of the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), supporting a portfolio of diverse energy research projects at the Institute.
Total funding for the partnership will be $50 million over five years. Of those funds, $25 million will establish the Eni-MITEI Solar Frontiers Research Program. The remainder will support Eni's founding membership in MITEI.
MIT President Susan Hockfield voiced strong support for the collaboration, noting that "Eni's commitment to meeting the world's energy needs through new technologies is inspiring, and we're honored by Eni's confidence in MIT as a partner. We look forward to working with Eni on the science, technology and analysis critical to advancing energy security and environmental stewardship."
Hockfield also praised the agreement as "an opportunity to vault forward in developing advanced solar technologies. For a global oil and gas company like Eni to invest in renewable energy options speaks volumes about the urgent need for large-scale carbon-free energy options like solar."
Paolo Scaroni, Eni's CEO, commented: "This partnership is part of a broader initiative originated in late 2006 with the long-term objective of building up a leadership role for Eni in the field of innovation and advanced technologies. The commitment to develop innovative frontiers in renewables--particularly of solar energy--is an important part of this initiative."
The Eni-MITEI Solar Frontiers Research Program will include six areas of focus:
- Nano-structured thin film photovoltaics
- Luminescent solar concentrators
- Self-assembling photovoltaic materials
- Water splitting
- Materials for solar energy capture and storage
- Maximizing the return on investment for solar thermal plants
As a Founding Member of MITEI, Eni will also support a range of other research projects at the Institute, spanning the energy spectrum from traditional oil and gas to methane hydrates to global change to transportation options. This portfolio will include a large research project in multiscale reservoir science for enhanced oil recovery.
Eni will also support MITEI's Energy Research Seed Fund program to fund novel energy research concepts generated from a biannual campuswide solicitation. In addition, Eni will support 10 "Eni-MIT Energy Fellows" at the Institute for each year of its five-year commitment.
Leonardo Maugeri, group senior vice president for strategies and development at Eni, welcomed the new collaboration as "a great opportunity to team Eni's expertise with MIT's first-class ability in fostering new research and education in science and technology in order to jointly develop innovative, powerful tools, technologies and solutions to address global energy needs and challenges."
Professor Ernest J. Moniz, director of MITEI, also applauded the collaboration. "This is an exciting partnership, notable for its boldness in addressing a multiplicity of key challenges at the energy-environment frontier. We deeply appreciate Eni's confidence in MIT faculty and students to carry out this research and educational agenda in close cooperation with Eni's researchers."
As part of its Founding Member research portfolio, Eni will also be supporting research in evaluation methodologies for the commercial potential of energy startups and novel energy technologies. Moniz noted that "to meet the world's energy needs we will likely need partnerships between entrepreneurial energy technology innovation companies and companies with global distribution networks, such as Eni. This investment, while a relatively small part of the Eni-MITEI research portfolio, could pay big dividends in the future by strengthening a key link in the energy innovation chain."
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 16, 2008 (download PDF).