Stanford’s Arun Majumdar and Yi Cui talk about energy innovation

As more countries and organizations around the world commit to achieving sustainability goals in the face of the increasingly damaging impacts of climate change, Stanford and the academy as a whole must play an active role. in the transition to clean energy, according to Arun Majumdar, dean of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability.

Yi Cui, director of the Precourt Institute for Energy, and Arun Majumdar, dean of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, chat by the fire during Stanford Energy Innovation Day. (Image credit: Steve Castillo)

“Academia needs to step up this mix and help and enable this global ecosystem [that] wants to go in the right direction,” he said during a fireside chat with Yi Cui, director of the Precourt Institute for Energy, Tuesday morning at McCaw Hall at the Stanford Alumni Center.

Majumdar noted that while universities can provide education, ideas and talent, they cannot act alone. “Partnership is absolutely essential.”

The conference was part of Stanford’s Energy Innovation Day, which brings together research professors, startups, venture capitalists, angel investors, corporations and others to discuss deploying energy solutions to speed and scale. Topics included innovation and entrepreneurship, AI digitization and integration, batteries, charging infrastructure, grid transformation, energy storage, transportation and zeroing out. carbon.

The event included a startup showcase, presentations and a networking reception. It kicks off the Stanford World Energy Forum, a three-day gathering of world leaders engaged in strategic dialogue on the future of energy.

Energy Innovation at Stanford

The fireside chat opened with a discussion of the difference between innovation for energy and innovation for information technology. Majumdar noted that there are infrastructure issues associated with the former. For example, fiber optic infrastructure for communications has only been developed in recent decades, but energy infrastructure, such as the power grid, has been around for over a century and is therefore more difficult to change.

“This grid has spread all over the world,” he said, adding that enterprise markets are built around this architecture. “In many ways, [innovating for] the energy space is different because that infrastructure already exists.

When the discussion turned to business, Cui recounted the challenges he faced when starting a business years ago. “It turned out that it took 14 years to produce something that was scalable to bring to market,” he said. “It’s a long journey. Technology is difficult. Scaling is difficult.”

Majumdar agreed and noted the importance of combining evolutionary ideas with research. To help solve this problem, the Doerr School of Sustainability has created the Sustainability Accelerator, which is a launching pad for leveraging Stanford’s knowledge and expertise and co-developing potentially scalable sustainability technologies and policy solutions. with external partners all over the world.

“If you can align the research that we do…with something that we know can scale more easily, [then] I think work becomes [done] faster,” he said.

Continuing on the topic of collaboration, Majumdar highlighted the importance of Stanford’s Precourt Institute for Energy and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, which are now part of the Doerr School of Sustainability.

“What the institutes have done is create a connective tissue across campus, bring faculty and students from different parts together to solve certain problems and get out of their comfort zone,” he said. . “It was a very important step, and we’ve been the beneficiaries of it for 15, 20 years now.”

Cui noted that energy research and innovation is happening across the country and around the world, and asked how Stanford would interact with potential partners beyond Silicon Valley.

“Our goal and vision is to form a global network of partners to educate us [about] what are the real issues on the ground,” Majumdar said. “That’s not what people see in Silicon Valley, [but] what the real problems are – the water crisis in India, the droughts in Africa. Our job is to find out and listen to, first, what the real issues are [and] second, to co-create solutions.

Majumdar said that as the world transitions to clean energy, it will be essential to learn from the mistakes of the past.

“This is a massive global transition of economies around the world that we’ve never seen before, and in this transition we want to make sure we don’t make the mistakes we made in the 20th century,” did he declare. , adding that we live with the unintended consequences of the past. “So it’s about people, ultimately also. Making sure this transition engages everyone is [just] as important as technology.

World Energy Forum

The 2022 Stanford World Energy Forum will continue Wednesday and Thursday with several discussions on topics including sustainable transportation, hydrogen, corporate climate commitments and government energy investments, as well as tables rounds with Stanford faculty.

The Vail Global Energy Forum, a vision of Founder Jay Precourt, was launched in 2011 with the goal of advancing public understanding of global energy through balanced, fact-based dialogue. Each year, more than 300 speakers gathered in Colorado, where in subsequent years the forum focused on North America as a rising energy power. The World Energy Forum moved to its permanent home at Stanford University in the fall of 2018, where it explores the rapidly changing global energy ecosystem and addresses the implications of those changes.

Further information is available on the World Energy Forum website.

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