University researchers are in the running to receive a share of the $10 million in grants provided by the Bosch Energy Research Network as part of its initiative to team up with North American universities to improve energy efficiency.

The BERN project is funding 20 grants, each of which will consist of a maximum of $150,000, to universities in the United States over a two-year period. The grants may be extended to three years, if necessary.

In recognition of its 125th anniversary, Robert Bosch Corporation, a German-based international corporation, has established the BERN project in North America. The BERN project is part of the $70 million InterCampus program in which Bosch has teamed up with universities in Germany, China, India and the United States to conduct research on sustainable energy.

Only applications from a limited set of schools will be considered initially because of the limited funds available and the desire of the company to team up with universities that demonstrate research excellence — like the University of Michigan — according to Aleksandar Kojic, senior manager of corporate research at Robert Bosch in North America.

According to David Lampe, executive director for research communications at the University, faculty at the University have only recently been informed of this opportunity, and thus it is too early to know which researchers will be applying.

“The University greatly values opportunities to partner with industry and we have a particularly diverse range of energy research at (the University), so the Bosch initiative is likely to be attractive to our faculty,” Lampe wrote in an e-mail interview.

Lampe added that competition will be tough, as there will be a large pool of researchers contending for a small number of grants.

Kojic confirmed that along with the University, California Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and University of California-Berkeley are able to apply now, adding that other universities may be considered in the future.

“We’re looking for transformative ideas in the general field of energy, so that can be energy storage, energy conversion, or energy efficiency,” he said.

Specifically, Kojic said research ideas concerning the conversion of solar and wind power will be considered. According to the Bosch website, lithium ion batteries and cooling systems will be considered as well.

While Bosch is not looking for short-term improvements, Kojic said they are looking for high-risk ideas that will “also carry potentially high impact globally” and can be commercially viable within 7 to 15 years.
According to Kojic, this research initiative will help the environment and have numerous benefits for the company. Along with the innovative technology that is often developed from research grants, he said the initiative will show Bosch’s concern for long-term sustainability in addition to portraying the company as a responsible player when it comes to the utilization of environmental resources.

The BERN program will also promote a beneficial relationship between the company and universities, Kojic added.

“We would really like to interact more closely with the good universities in North America to establish a closer link for our future corporation,” Kojic said. “To train future generations of scientists and engineers in areas we see relevant for us, and attract students to Bosch, thereby contributing to securing the long-term viability of the company.”

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