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San Diego CleanTech Innovators Get Boost Through Public-Private Grant Program

San Diego, CA, June 14, 2010 -- Three local university research teams will receive grants and business mentoring to help further develop and commercialize clean technology research projects through a partnership between the city of San Diego, local universities and private companies.

Designed to support commercialization of clean technology innovations developed at universities, the San Diego Clean Tech Innovation and Commercialization Program will award researchers from UC San Diego and San Diego State University $50,000 each for proof-of-concept studies and prototype development. The teams also will receive mentoring assistance from business advisors at UC San Diego’s von Liebig Center to help commercialize their technologies.

“San Diego has a great track record for creating new industry sectors through partnership between our universities and the private sector, and we have a tremendous opportunity with cleantech to repeat the success of our biotechnology, communications and defense industries,” said San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders. “This grant program is part of that effort to bridge the divide between concept and commercialization so that we can strengthen this growing industry.”

Teams from UC San Diego and San Diego State University presented proposals to external expert panels of more than 18 reviewers, who selected the projects based on their commercial potential, environmental impact and intended use of the grant funds.  The panel presentations were held recently at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

The three projects, selected from among 13 proposals, include software that reduces energy consumption, advanced climate and meteorology solutions for predicting extreme temperature events, and catalysts for alternative fuel development:

* SleepServer is a software-only approach for reducing the energy consumption of computers in enterprise environments. Project PI Yuvraj Agarwal, a UC San Diego Research Scientist, will use the Clean Tech grant to refine his team's existing SleepServer code so that it will work across a variety of operating systems, allow it to scale to thousands of host computers, make it more robust with better security and fault tolerance, and provide a turn-key user interface. This project builds on Agarwal's computer science Ph.D. dissertation research, which he performed under the guidance of Rajesh Gupta, Professor and Chair, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.   

Yuvraj Agarwal Clean Tech
UC San Diego Research Scientist Yuvraj Agarwal (Ph.D.’09 computer science UCSD) is leading a team of researchers who will use a recent Clean Tech Innovation and Commercialization grant to further develop SleepServer, his software-only approach for reducing the energy consumption of computers in enterprise environments.

* Principal investigator Alexander Gershunov, postdoctoral scholar Kristen Guirguis and business development director Stephen Bennett from UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography received an award for their concept to commercialize research from the Scripps Partnership for Hazards and Environmental Applied Research (SPHEAR). SPHEAR recently created new methods to predict severe cold weather with a lead-time up to 40 days, which could be used to develop decision-support software that links weather and climate research to develop custom risk assessments for supply chain management and energy consumption.

* San Diego State University chemistry professor Douglas Grotjahn will develop and test low-cost catalysts to generate oxygen from water. These catalysts can be incorporated into a system to produce hydrogen from sunlight and water that can then be used in a fuel cell or as fuel.

The Clean Tech Innovation and Commercialization Program is a partnership between the city of San Diego, UC San Diego’s von Liebig Center, San Diego State University, Clean Tech San Diego, and UC San Diego’s Sustainable Solutions Institute. The program is designed to accelerate the commercialization of clean technologies out of university labs as part of the city’s goal to promote the growth of the local clean tech industry.

Lead sponsors for the 2010 Clean Tech Program are the Sempra Energy Foundation and the Kaplan Family Trust. Other sponsors include the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and Knobbe Martens Olson & Bear LLP.

“One of the Sempra Energy Foundation’s goals is to encourage the development of new technologies for renewable energy and energy efficiency for our region,” said Debra Reed, chairwoman of the Sempra Energy Foundation and executive vice president of Sempra Energy in San Diego. “We believe strengthening our partnerships with local government and universities can help nurture San Diego’s growing clean tech cluster and create more ‘green’ jobs for our region.”

Rosibel Ochoa, director of the von Liebig Center, a program of the Jacobs School of Engineering, called the program a model for interdisciplinary cooperation.

“The San Diego Clean Tech Innovation and Commercialization Program is an extraordinary opportunity to support innovation in San Diego and showcase how a coalition of universities, the private sector, local organizations and government can work together and help position the region as a leader in clean technology development,” Ochoa said.

Grant recipient Grotjahn said he believes San Diego has all the necessary elements to build a strong cleantech industry, and programs like this one will help spur the growth of new companies focused on innovative technologies.

"It's exciting to be a part of such a groundbreaking project at SDSU," Grotjahn said. "With the natural and intellectual resources we have available to us at SDSU and in this region, there is nowhere better suited for this type of initiative."

Clean technology is a growing sector of a range of products, services and processes that harness renewable materials and energy sources, reducing the depletion of natural resources and reducing or eliminating pollution and waste to create sustainable and secure energy sources. Clean technology encompasses advancements in solar power, wind power, hybrid vehicles, fuel cell technology, tidal and wave power, bio-diesel, green building materials and water treatment systems.

Much of this  industry’s growth will come from breakthrough research and discoveries made in university labs, said Frieder Seible, dean of the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

“One of our goals at UC San Diego is to foster innovation in clean and renewable energy,” Seible said. “From fuel cell research to the development of future solar energy, Jacobs School researchers are helping pave the way for future technologies that will benefit the environment and society as we strive to meet our growing energy needs.”

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