Colorado State University today announced an innovative model to rapidly move the university’s clean energy research into the global marketplace, creating new companies and jobs that enhance the state’s economy while improving lives throughout the world.
"Through its leadership as a green university, CSU transforms lives – creating companies, generating jobs, improving health and living conditions for people worldwide and stimulating economic prosperity," said CSU President Larry Edward Penley. "CSU is home to the world’s finest faculty and student brain trust in the environmental sciences, in the development of alternative energy technology and biofuels and in the management of state forest lands.
"In the long run, all these achievements are insufficient if we can’t get our research to market rapidly and in ways that are sustainable from a business perspective," Penley said. "Universities must go beyond the creation of ideas and realize the potential that they have to bring about market-based, enterprise solutions to one of our greatest challenges – global climate change."
The university’s new enterprise, Cenergy, unveiled at the state Capitol with the help of Gov. Bill Ritter and U.S. Sens. Wayne Allard and Ken Salazar, along with representatives from the offices of U.S. Reps. Mark Udall and Ed Perlmutter, will greatly enhance the ability of university scientists and business partners to speed clean and renewable energy research to the marketplace. Cenergy, the business arm of the university’s new Clean Energy Supercluster, will directly enhance Colorado’s leadership in building a new energy economy as well as improving quality of life for people around the globe.
"Colorado State University, under the leadership of President Penley, has demonstrated, once again, its commitment to the realization of a new energy economy," Salazar said. "Through the innovative Cenergy concept, CSU’s world-renowned renewable energy research will find its way more quickly to market, giving life to new, innovative ideas that will help to create more jobs, grow our economy, lessen our dependence on foreign oil and protect our natural environment."
"Today’s announcement proves once again that Colorado is establishing itself as a national and international center of innovation in the New Energy Economy," Ritter said. "Other states have abundant supplies of renewable and traditional energy resources like we do. But what truly sets us apart are our intellectual resources. Companies like ConocoPhillips and Vestas Blades are coming to Colorado because of our research institutions and because we are producing a new generation of green-collar workers. CSU is leading the way, and this new supercluster will help us produce and consume energy differently than we do today."
"I am very excited about the announcement of the work that will be done at CSU’s Clean Energy Supercluster," Allard said. "Colorado already leads the way in green research and technology, and this tradition continues with the Supercluster concept. By bringing together the work being done in academics and the free enterprise of the marketplace you have created a perfect marriage in moving research from concept to product."
More than 100 faculty members in all eight colleges at Colorado State participate in developing alternative energy solutions and policies in the areas of biofuels, solar energy, wind power and clean-burning engines, helping Colorado’s efforts to lead the nation in creating clean and renewable energy technology and training the "green-collar" workforce. The university’s efforts support Gov. Ritter’s Colorado Climate Action Plan that aims to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 20 percent by 2020, and shares a commitment with other states and nations to make even deeper emissions cuts by 2050.
Colorado State’s leadership in research into alternative energy solutions dates to the 1960s. Now, faculty members in all CSU colleges – from Liberal Arts to Engineering – are developing market-driven solutions to solve some of the world’s most challenging environmental problems.
Emerging technologies at CSU have led to the creation of several successful startups: Envirofit International, which commercializes sustainable technologies in the developing world; Solix Biofuels, which is producing biodiesel from algae; and AVA Solar Inc., which is producing solar panels at $1 per watt. More technologies are in the pipeline.
At Colorado State, expertise in the new energy economy ranges from engineers and chemists creating new alternative energy solutions such as biofuels to political scientists understanding the decision-making processes involved in energy and climate change policies. Researchers across campus collaborate in what the university calls the academic Clean Energy Supercluster.
But the entrepreneurial successes come with the support of partners. Such economic development organizations as the Northern Colorado Clean Energy Cluster, an advocacy organization for clean and renewable businesses; the Northern Colorado Economic Development Corp.; and the city of Fort Collins play critical roles in making northern Colorado a leader in the development of clean energy solutions. The university also participates in the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory, a nationally unique partnership with the University of Colorado at Boulder, the Colorado School of Mines and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. CSU is also a participant in the first project of the Collaboratory, the Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels.
Many research universities have "technology transfer" programs that guide scientists through the process of patenting and other complexities encountered in delivering discoveries to the global market. However, due to the historical structures of universities, few such programs have achieved significant success.
Colorado State’s innovative Superclusters are alliances of academic researchers, economists and business experts organized to address great global challenges, encourage collaboration and bridge the vastly different worlds of business and academia. Each Supercluster combines an academic component and a business component, which allows the public to reap benefits from the university’s unsurpassed research and greater acceleration of this research-to-market model.
The Colorado State University Board of Governors has strongly supported Penley’s innovative redesign of academic technology transfer that ultimately benefits the public.
"We are streamlining the process so that scientists work hand-in-hand with industry experts to commercialize the technology more rapidly and businesses interested in licenses can more easily navigate the university," said Bill Farland, CSU’s vice president for Research. "Colorado State’s Supercluster model is unique in its multidisciplinary structure, enabling groundbreaking research to move to market more quickly by mimicking the best business practices."
Cenergy will have a chief scientific officer – Professor Bryan Willson in mechanical engineering – overseeing research activities. A chief operating officer will focus on forging business alliances and developing new opportunities for the results of that research. The Supercluster’s technology transfer specialist will seek opportunities for patents, licenses and startups. The team also will seek private equity investors for new business opportunities.
"Envirofit International is a perfect example of the kind of business that Cenergy will produce in the long run," said Willson, who is also director of the Supercluster and the Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory at Colorado State.
"CSU has the academic and research prowess to solve some of the most difficult, challenging environmental problems on the planet through multidisciplinary solutions and cooperation – everyone from agricultural scientists to political scientists," said Willson, who is a co-founder of Envirofit and Solix Biofuels. "These are problems that affect billions of people around the globe – problems that aid agencies don’t have time or money to address."
"That’s why universities have an obligation to go beyond greening their campuses," Penley said.
"Our universities have a fundamental educational responsibility to prepare a skilled workforce for the anticipated demand for green-industry jobs over the next several decades," Penley said. "In short, we in higher education need to get beyond changing out light bulbs in our campus buildings, and focus instead on what it will take to engineer a better light bulb – and to educate the knowledge leaders who will invent an eco-friendly replacement for the light bulb."
For more information about Cenergy and the Clean Energy Supercluster or the university’s additional Superclusters in infectious disease and cancer research, go online to www.Superclusters.Colostate.edu.