Clean-Energy Innovations

Research universities are often the birthplace of clean-energy technologies. Accelerating the development of partnerships among university researchers, investors, and the business world is an essential step in moving these innovations from the academic laboratory to the consumer marketplace.

Under a three-year, $1.05 million grant received in 2010 from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), university and industry leaders in San Diego will work on fast-tracking the transfer process from lab to market. The grant is part of a $5.3 million DOE program to enhance innovative university-based ecosystems for energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.


“I chose UC San Diego because I knew I would be working with some of the greatest minds in the field. If I hadn’t received the fellowships that I did, I would not be here.” —Terrell Green, 2010 Siebel Scholar
Terrell Green

THE SIEBEL SCHOLARS PROGRAM, which recognizes the most talented students at the world’s leading graduate schools of business and computer science, awarded $2 million in 2009 to fund fellowships for five top bioengineering graduate students at UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering. This marked the first year that the Siebel Foundation included bioengineering students in its fellowship awards.

The UC San Diego Institute for Engineering in Medicine (IEM), in collaboration with the Jacobs School, will administer the fellowships. IEM brings together faculty in engineering, medicine, and pharmaceutical sciences who are collaborating on novel approaches to medicine.

The UC San Diego William J. von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement at the Jacobs School of Engineering, and the Rady School of Management, in partnership with San Diego State University, will hold a series of Regional Energy Innovation Challenges that will provide fellowships and extensive mentoring support for students and faculty working on the most promising technologies. Innovator teams of experienced advisors, faculty, science and engineering students, and management students will collaborate to develop and execute commercialization plans. A virtual network will connect these teams and sources of capital to one another and to other initiatives within the clean-energy space on campus, in the region, and worldwide.

Since its inception in 2001, the von Liebig Center has advised more than 290 projects and has allocated close to $4.0 million in proof-of-concept grants and business advisory services to more than 70 projects. The center’s activities have contributed to the licensing of six technologies and the creation of more than twenty-six start-up companies, which have attracted close to $100 million in subsequent capital from the private sector and created more than 180 new jobs. The center’s team of technology and business advisors mentors a broad range of projects in areas such as medical devices and diagnostics, software, and clean technologies.

Win-Win Industry-Academic Partnerships

Industry continues to increase its investment in research at the Jacobs School of Engineering. In fiscal year 2009–10, private research funding grew to more than 40 percent of the school’s nearly $130 million in total research expenditures, up from 23 percent just five years ago.

Faculty and students at the Jacobs School also benefit from the opportunity to work with corporate researchers and scientists on challenging problems. Industry partners improve their long-term research capability by tapping into faculty expertise, and having access to the school’s talented and hardworking students as a source of future human capital. These win-win partnerships enhance the educational experience for engineering students and increase the relevance of university research in solving real-world problems.

Engineering’s New Frontier

NanoEngineering, the sixth and newest department at the Jacobs School of Engineering, welcomed its first freshman class in 2010. The initial undergraduate class of 48 students is expected to grow to more than 200 in subsequent academic years.

Carbon nanotube arrays such as these are used in research under way in the Department of NanoEngineering, the newest department in UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering.

Founded in 2007, the Department of NanoEngineering has expanded rapidly, with seventeen faculty members and more than $30 million in extramural research. Undergraduate and graduate students learn from an interdisciplinary team of professors who are leaders in various fields of engineering, physics, and chemistry, and a variety of new subdisciplines where those fields overlap. In addition to nanoengineering courses, each student is required to select a focus area in bioengineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, or materials science.

Nanoengineering is the practice of engineering at the nanometer scale (a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter; a meter is approximately thirty-nine inches). Understanding how atoms come together to form larger structures could lead to major advances in fields such as new materials, biology and medicine, energy conversion, sensors, and environmental remediation. For example, nanodevices in medicine might provide a more targeted form of treatment by delivering drugs to specific cells in the human body.