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ExxonMobil joins MIT Energy Initiative as founding member

Company to invest $25 million over the next five years to support faculty and student energy research.
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T.J. Wojnar, president of the ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company
T.J. Wojnar, president of the ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company
Photo: Justin Knight

The MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) welcomed ExxonMobil as a founding member during a signing ceremony on Friday, Oct. 31. The collaboration will be aimed at improving and expanding renewable energy sources and finding more efficient ways to produce and use the conventional energy sources we depend on today.

At the ceremony, MIT President L. Rafael Reif emphasized the important and valued relationship MIT has with industry.

“Partnerships with industry are critical to our ability to create positive change,” Reif said at the ceremony, evoking MIT’s “mind and hand” motto that stresses the Institute’s endeavor to apply scientific and technical knowledge to real-world problems. He said that we learn from industry “customer needs, problems in the field, and opportunities for new technologies. … We transform what we learn into new solutions, ready to move from the lab to the market.”

While the MIT and ExxonMobil relationship dates back to as early as 1919, Reif and others acknowledged that this agreement represented a new chapter — one that increases the scope, breadth, and depth of their collaboration.

T.J. Wojnar, president of the ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company, said that with this agreement ExxonMobil is looking to better understand potential breakthroughs outside of their core expertise and push the envelope in exploring innovations.

“Experience has taught us that it can take decades for innovations to move from the spark of an idea to implementation,” Wojnar said. “As an international energy company, we need to be watching for those sparks and understand their implications, whether they will impact the market today, tomorrow, or decades from now.”

Wojnar said that this new agreement connects the bright minds at both ExxonMobil and MIT. In doing so, he said we are “laying the groundwork for new innovations that can deliver efficient, scalable, and responsible ways to bring affordable energy to global markets.”

MIT Vice President for Research Maria Zuber emphasized that the agreement would also open and expand young minds to new ideas through an ExxonMobil Energy Fellowship program. The new agreement allows 50 graduate students over five years to pursue research of their choosing — research, according to Zuber, “that furthers their education and training, and that furthers our common knowledge of the energy system as it exists today and the innovations that will make up our energy system of tomorrow.”

Zuber expressed confidence that these students, as well as the large numbers of other MIT students who have received ExxonMobil internships, scholarships, and fellowships over the years, are helping to make our energy systems more energy efficient and environmentally responsible.

MITEI Director Bob Armstrong hosted the signing ceremony and expressed his enthusiasm to begin working with ExxonMobil.

“ExxonMobil is filled with dedicated employees and creative thinkers who are pushing the limits when it comes to confronting our energy challenges,” Armstrong said. “When combining these minds with the cutting-edge innovators at MIT, I have no doubt that great achievements will result — achievements that will surely change the face of our energy future.”

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