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Energy Biosciences Institute
Energy & Biosciences Institute
The Energy & Biosciences Institute (EBI) is a financially independent, multi-institutional partnership between the University of California (UC) Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). The intellectual, research, and technical resources represent one of the largest pools of scientific and engineering talent
Since its creation in 2007, the EBI has supported approximately 1000 researchers and produced almost 1,500 publications and 60 patents and patent applications. At its inception it was the largest academic-industrial partnership in history, initially funded through a $500 million, 10-year financial commitment from British Petroleum (BP) to “explore the application of modern biology to the energy sector.” Since that time, its resources have broadened to the point where a sponsor—through a single contractual agreement—can gain access to all the faculty and research capabilities across our partner campuses: about 7,500 principal investigators and 100,000 students and postdoctoral researchers.
After restructuring and rebranding in 2015 to incorporate an expanded energy and biotechnology portfolio, as well as a modernized strategy to progressively represent the mission and research goals, the name of the institute was formally changed to Energy & Biosciences Institute. The name change was intentionally kept simple so as not to detract from the institute's historical eminence and achievements. The aim of the EBI is not a specific disciplinary focus, but, rather, a commitment to creating value for the industrial partners in a way that is compatible with the mission and principles of the academic partners.
In March 2017, the EBI entered into a multi-million dollar partnership with Royal Dutch Shell to fund research aimed at meeting the world’s growing energy demands based on environmentally, socially, and economically responsible practices. Currently, the EBI-Shell partnership funds a diverse range of projects split among six core research areas: Computational Materials Science & Chemistry (CMS), Dense Energy Carriers (DEC), Advanced Energy Storage (AES), Economic and Life Cycle Assessment (ELCA), Biosciences (BioE), and Methane to Products (M2P).
An Institute of Collaborations
Because scientific advances often involve an array of diverse¬ research and technology specialties, the EBI maintains dynamic intellectual bridges between various scientific disciplines. In this way, we ensure that information and insights flow efficiently and new research initiatives are adopted based on a cumulative view of our research goals. Our diverse portfolio of projects spans a wide array of studies in energy science that utilize exceptional researchers from the fields of Chemistry, Biology, Engineering, and Data Science producing innovative integrations between them to develop the next generation of batteries, energy storage systems, and sustainable fuels and chemicals. With this approach, we aim to upgrade our current energy matrix to more proficiently satisfy society’s energy and power needs. The EBI does all this within a culture of true sustainability in regard to both our global environment and also current market viability. We are organized around development of relevant and applicable alternative energy strategies gauged by consistent product cycle and supply chain analysis that help us to better understand the obstacles facing implementation of game-changing technologies.
The scope of challenges and the potential for research to shape the advanced bioeconomy is large, and the academic partners have capabilities that significantly exceed the needs of a single corporate sponsor. Therefore, we wish to broaden the scope and impact by inviting additional companies to partner with the Energy & Biosciences Institute. The experience gained during the past 13 years of successful collaborations with BP and Shell attest to the value creation and outcomes for new industrial sponsors with similar interests. The EBI model is well-established and offers unparalleled access to a large and diverse pool of science and engineering excellence under one contractual roof creating step-out innovation and insights for companies.
Entrepreneurial Business Incubator
Understanding that steering innovative concepts through development and testing to bring them to market is an exciting yet often challenging process, in 2017 the EBI launched EBI2 Based in Koshland Hall on the UC Berkeley campus, EBI2 promotes research at the forefront of industry development and offers sustainability focused start-ups well-equipped, dedicated research space in which to develop their products. Each company is assigned dedicated benches in the well-equipped incubator space (laboratory) and is charged a monthly rental fee based on the amount of space required. Participating companies also gain access to other UCB resources and expertise, and benefit from frequent contact with other start-up companies forging their own solutions, as well as industry executives, investors and entrepreneurs.
Science and Research across Academic Levels
Our operational model is designed to facilitate collaborative energy research while both enabling the incubation of driven start-up enterprises and initiating outreach within a diverse range of academics. This multidisciplinary approach facilitates discovery and ultimately enables optimal decision-making by the sectors in society that are responsible for implementing trade and regulatory policies as well as business activities. In this respect, the close association within the EBI of academics from our partner institutions and also from industrial managers, engineers, and scientists offers a rare opportunity to accelerate the input and feedback processes that are associated with conversion of academic discovery into real-world applications. Our current sponsored research program is composed of 139 personnel across a diverse set of roles including scientific and support titles from each of the partner institutions. Faculty and Career Scientists represent almost 35% of the personnel composition, while another 60% is composed of students and postdoctoral research associates. Staff Scientists, Operational and Technical Staff, Specialists, Research Associates, and Administrative Staff make up the remaining supported personnel. The EBI leadership understands that close interactions between industrial partners and academic researchers serve to significantly amplify useful research outcomes.
Public and Private
Openness of the research enterprise, and the academic freedom of its faculty, graduate students, and university researchers, is paramount for the three public institutions within the EBI. Reinstated in 2019, the Executive Committee provides operational and strategic planning, and is mostly composed of field leaders pooled from our partner network. The composition certifies that different areas of interest and expertise are well-represented.
Inventions made during the course of research within the EBI are owned by the academic institutions according to U.S. patent law, and sponsors can receive an automatic non-exclusive license in return for funding the research. The EBI is not a research consortium. Sponsors can develop unique research portfolios that are firewalled from other sponsors to ensure proprietary control, and have a role on the Directorate overseeing their research portfolio, encouraging consensus in all decisions. Partners are guaranteed independent and equivalent access to EBI resources, programs, and streamlined administration facilitated by the EBI leadership team.
Areas of Study
The EBI continues to stand out as a research institute in the way we diversify our research portfolio. Our unique collaborative institutional environment not only supports a variety of research, it allows for interdisciplinary engagement across the institute. Concern continues to grow over the global sustainability and financial viability of plant based fuels and significant advancements are being made in the chemical conversion of solar energy. In response, the EBI has revised and expanded its mission to reach beyond biology-based disciplines and incorporate all aspects of advanced sustainable energy while maintaining our successful approach of translational process-level research. To this end, the EBI now supports research in multiple disciplines including data sciences, battery technology, electrochemical conversion, material sciences, photovoltaics, carbon capture and conversion, and synthetic biology. Proposal solicitations are typically conducted every year and targeted to meet the specific needs of individual sponsors in concert with the definitive mission of the EBI. Research portfolios are constructed on a process and scientific basis, with guidance from technoeconomic and supply chain analyses, which are further supported by societal impact analyses.
For more information, please see EBI's website at energybiosciencesinstitute.org