Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the University of Michigan at Ann Harbor are partnering up in order to develop renewable energy technologies. Executives from both universities have each pledged $1 million dollars to finance collaborative research over the next three years with the aim of exploring advanced vehicle fuels, solar energy, and thermoelectric materials as part of a memorandum of understanding. This was not the first time that the two universities collaborated for Ben-Gurion University had hosted a joint workshop on renewable energy with the University of Michigan in the past.

According to BGU Vice President Moti Hershkowitz, Ben-Gurion University has been at the forefront of energy research over the past thirty years. For example, researchers at Ben-Gurion University developed a radically new design for a solar cell whose efficiency rivals many of the present solar energy models. Since Ben-Gurion University is located in the Negev desert, the climate surrounding the university is considered ideal for solar power as well as renewable energy research.

University of Michigan at Ann Harbor Vice President Stephen Forest asserted, “We live in a global economy. Universities need to globalize their activities because we need to solve problems that are larger than one country can manage alone. When faculty at universities from across the world come together, they bring different cultures and different objectives, and when you mix them, you get a lot more than just the sum of the parts.”

Forest, due to his many visits to Israel over the past five years, claims that he has come to admire Israel’s entrepreneurial culture. He stated, “There are an enormous number of start-ups coming out of Israel. We have a lot to learn from them.” Forest believes that Israeli researchers would approach the renewable energy with a more applied perspective, which if combined with an American perspective could make major breakthroughs in the field of renewable energy.

Hershkowitz similarly proclaimed, “We look forward to collaborating with the U-M researchers on the challenging issues related to renewable energy and trust that the agreed model of collaboration has the potential of generating novel scientific and technological information with potential applications.” Up to six different projects will be funded during the first year of the program and there will be an annual showcase to highlight the outcomes, the universities announced. Beginning this month, faculty members at both universities will be able to apply for grants.

By Rachel Avraham