Princeton E-ffiliates enters five-year partnership with ExxonMobil

June 11, 2015 10 a.m.

Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership, an initiative that forges collaborations between industry and Princeton University experts, has entered a five-year agreement with ExxonMobil to pursue transformational innovations in the fields of energy and environment. 

"Meeting the world's energy needs in a sustainable way is a formidable challenge," said Pablo Debenedetti, Princeton University's dean for research. "Developing economically viable solutions requires the collaborative efforts of industry, government and academia. We are delighted that ExxonMobil is joining E-ffiliates, broadening the vibrant collaboration between Princeton and leading industry partners in the energy and environmental sectors."

Debenedetti added that such partnerships are a distinctive activity of Princeton's Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, which administers the E-ffiliates program. 

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Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership and ExxonMobil and Princeton University have entered a five-year agreement to pursue transformational innovations in the fields of energy and environment. Pablo Debenedetti (left), dean for research at Princeton University, and Vijay Swarup, vice president of research and development for ExxonMobil Research & Engineering Co., signed documents establishing the partnership at a recent ceremony on the Princeton campus. (Photos by Frank Wojciechowski)

During a recent signing ceremony on Princeton's campus, ExxonMobil committed to investing $5 million during the next five years, making it the largest financial commitment in the E-ffiliates Partnership. The company will immediately begin working with research groups across the University, including selected graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, who will be designated ExxonMobil Fellows. 

"This investment is a part of ExxonMobil's broad commitment to partner with the best and brightest universities to research and discover next-generation energy solutions," said Vijay Swarup, vice president of research and development for ExxonMobil Research & Engineering Co. "Our goal is to find meaningful and scalable solutions to meet global energy demand."

Lynn Loo, associate director of external partnerships at the Andlinger Center, said that in addition to accelerating research, the partnership supports the University's overall educational mission by enhancing interactions between students and practitioners. ExxonMobil is the world's largest publicly traded oil and gas company.

"Our partnership with ExxonMobil is a new paradigm for conducting research on campus and exemplifies the central goal of E-ffiliates: lowering barriers for collaboration and facilitating deep and fruitful industry-academic partnerships," said Loo, Princeton's Theodora D. '78 and William H. Walton III '74 Professor in Engineering.

Loo said the agreement with ExxonMobil is the first of its kind on campus because it establishes an umbrella framework that makes it easy for any business unit of ExxonMobil to undertake research projects with any department or lab at Princeton.  Such a broad agreement could serve as a model for future interactions with companies, she said.

Further facilitating interactions, E-ffiliates will host a visitor-in-residence from ExxonMobil, who will catalyze research initiatives and collaborations across campus. 

Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership, founded in 2011, offers its corporate members an opportunity to explore research frontiers and engage faculty and students outside the companies' core expertise.  E-ffiliates is administered by the Andlinger Center in close collaboration with the Princeton Environmental Institute, the School of Architecture, and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. 

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ExxonMobil officials toured the construction site of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, a major new building that will use gardens like the one shown to tie together laboratory, teaching, office and meeting spaces.

"Having our faculty and students work closely with industry is essential to developing economically viable and environmentally responsible solutions to meet the world's energy needs," said Emily Carter, founding director of the Andlinger Center. "ExxonMobil brings a global perspective and a longstanding commitment to innovation that, coupled with Princeton's deep expertise, will help move impactful, sustainable technologies into the market."

In its first three years, member contributions have enabled E-ffiliates to fund a wide range of faculty research projects focused on greenhouse gas reduction and new forms of energy production, as well as to facilitate key policy discussions related to energy. In 2013 and 2014, for example, E-ffiliates, working with corporate partners, convened high-level federal and state energy officials to address the valuation and integration of distributed sources of energy into electricity grids. Technology-oriented projects have included the development of new types of turbines that can harness electricity from free-flowing water; innovative approaches for deploying energy storage systems on electricity grids; and technologies for producing concrete with lower greenhouse gas emissions.

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From left: Robin Hauer, assistant director for the Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership; Eric Herbolzheimer, senior scientific advisor and section head of Engineering Physics, ExxonMobil Research & Engineering; Pablo Debenedetti, dean for research; Mike Ray, director, Physics and Mathematical Sciences Laboratory, ExxonMobil Research & Engineering; Vijay Swarup, vice president of research and development for ExxonMobil Research & Engineering; Mike Matturo, director, Hydrocarbon and Emerging Energy Sciences Laboratory, ExxonMobil Research & Engineering; Lynn Loo, associate director of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment; Christian Flathman, public and government affairs advisor, ExxonMobil; Emily Carter, founding director of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment; H. Vincent Poor, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Herbolzheimer also will be a visitor-in-residence at Princeton University as part of the E-ffiliates partnership.