IREE grants build partnerships with researchers in universities, private industry and national laboratories to better fund research opportunities, bring greater expertise to projects and speed the process of bringing successful products and processes to market. The results are new knowledge, solutions, businesses and jobs.
Below are just a few examples of partners with University of Minnesota renewable energy research.
Minnesota Corn Growers
Agriculture provides great promise for providing new renewable biofuels. And increased biofuel production could provide added income for farmers while benefiting local economies. For both those reasons, IREE and the Minnesota Corn Growers Association established a partnership two years ago to plan and fund research into renewable energy strategies. “World-class researchers in a world-class institution—I’d like to think we help each other,” says Tim Gerlach, Corn Growers executive director. “I guess that’s the definition of a partnership. “
Eolos Wind Energy Research Consortium
IREE helped the University land a Department of Energy grant to form the Eolos Wind Energy Research Consortium. This group of universities, national labs and industrial partners (including local firms WindLogics, 3M and Barr Engineering) are tackling cutting-edge issues in wind farm and turbine design. “IREE does that matchmaking,” says Jeff Marr, associate director of Eolos. “They bring industry leaders together with University researchers and create a chance to talk, to meet and to brainstorm about how we can work together.”
Center for Sustainable Polymers
IREE recently teamed with the University’s new Center for Sustainable Polymers to develop environmentally friendly, advanced polymers to replace plastics, rubber and adhesives derived from fossil fuel. The center just won a three-year National Science Foundation grant. IREE’s support was absolutely critical for the successful grant application,” says center director and chemistry professor Marc Hillmyer. “The IREE resources provided the seed, fertilizer and water to grow the center from nothing to a full-functioning center of excellence for research in sustainable polymers.”
3M Solar Partnership
IREE funding and networking established a partnership with 3M to test the use of a new light-selective mirrored film to improve the efficiency of solar photovoltaic and solar thermal power generation. “When they developed this film they were thinking, ‘Who can help us develop products that can use it effectively?’” says Jane Davidson, professor of mechanical engineering. IREE provided a grant to get started. “IREE funding is really what’s allowing us here at the University to work with 3M.”
IREE’s collaboration with the Metropolitan Council has been fertile, figuratively and literally. University researchers raised algae in wastewater to remove nutrients and provide a potential source of biofuels. The “super bus” project aims to boost mileage of Metro Transit buses by more efficiently supplying power to accessories such as air conditioning. “Part of what we do is anticipate challenges and assemble the right people in analyses that provide management with options, regardless of boundaries between organizations,” says Jason Willett, financial management director for Metropolitan Council Environmental Services.