The University of British Columbia today forged a formal partnership with Germany’s Fraunhofer, Europe’s largest research institution for applied research, to focus on renewable-energy technologies.

UBC President Stephen Toope and Fraunhofer Senior Vice President Research Planning Ulrich Buller signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in Berlin during the Canada-Germany meeting of the U-15, a group representing the 15 leading research-intensive universities in Canada.

The UBC-Fraunhofer MOU establishes a framework for joint projects in areas that include biomass and electrochemical energy conversion, fuel cell and hydrogen technologies and energy efficient building technologies. As well, the MOU seeks to foster scholarly and student exchanges while increasing links with industry and commercialization opportunities.

“This partnership will allow both institutions to accelerate solutions for sustainability challenges facing the world,” said Prof. Toope. “Sharing our strengths will advance leading edge technologies and social innovations that will benefit current and future generations.”

Fraunhofer has selected UBC as the first Canadian partner in a strategic program called ICON, which supports the cooperation of its institutes with premium international research partners.

As a globally recognized leader in sustainability, UBC has committed to aggressive targets to reach zero greenhouse gas emission by 2050 and will soon launch a pilot project to harness biomass for heat and electrical energy generation.

This winter, UBC unveiled North America’s “greenest building” for the new Centre for Interactive Research in Sustainability. UBC is advancing the ‘living laboratory’ concept, where researchers, students, operational staff and partners develop sustainability innovations on campus to be shared with society. As well, UBC’s interdisciplinary Clean Energy Research Centre (CERC) aims to improve existing energy technologies such as fuel cell and clean-energy combustion systems, and develop new sustainable sources of energy including hydrogen and biofuels.

UBC principal investigators developing the Fraunhofer partnership are CERC Assoc. Director Walter Mérida, associate professor in the department of mechanical engineering and Canada Research Chair and CERC Director David Wilkinson,  professor in the department of chemical and biological engineering.

“The partnership with Fraunhofer is a testament to the calibre of sustainability research and innovation at UBC,” said John Hepburn, UBC Vice President Research and International. “Our institutions will be able pool our efforts and thus increase the number of important discoveries that will benefit Canada, Germany and the world.”

Fraunhofer has developed world-class expertise in renewable energy technologies. With more than 60 institutes, Fraunhofer employs more than 20,000 employees and has an annual budget that exceeds $1.8 billion Euros – two thirds earned through industrial and publicly funded projects. As a link between academic research and business practice, Fraunhofer contributes considerably to technology transfer between universities and industry.