BGU, U Michigan officials
BGU, U Michigan officials Israel news photo: Scott Soderberg, Michigan Photography

Israeli and American scientists at Ben Gurion University and the University of Michigan are collaborating on research to develop renewable energy technology.

A memorandum of understanding to establish the research partnership between the two institutions was signed late last week, according to officials at both institutions.

Each university has pledged half a million dollars to jumpstart the three-year program that is aimed at solving major challenges in the realm of advanced vehicle fuels, solar energy and thermoelectric materials, which convert heat to electricity.

BGU has been at the forefront of energy research for more than 30 years, noted BGU Vice President and Dean for Research and Development Moti Herskowitz. The university previously has hosted a joint workshop with U. Michigan on renewable energy with an emphasis on solar energy, liquid fuels and thermoelectricity.

“We look forward to collaborating with U. Michigan 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,” Herskowitz said.

The collaboration grew out of Forrest’s visits to Israel over the past five years. One of his objectives was to examine the country’s well-known entrepreneurial culture. “There are an enormous number of startups that come out of Israel,” Forrest said. “We have a lot to learn from them.”

Beginning this month, collaborative faculty teams can apply for grants to start projects in one of the three areas, according to University of Michigan Vice President for Research Stephen Forrest. Up to six projects are to be funded during the first year of the project. 

“We live in a global economy,” Forrest said. “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,” he added.

Funding at U. Michigan is being provided by the Office of the Vice President for Research and the U.M. Energy Institute.