Winter 2009

In Brief

Students and Scientists Team Up to Fast-track Clean Technology


Biomass in woody plants may be one step closer in the move from field to fuel tank, thanks to an innovative collaboration between scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and Berkeley MBA student members of the Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative (BERC).

The partnership, called “Cleantech to Market,” or C2M, dispatched five cross-disciplinary student teams to evaluate the commercial viability of clean technologies under development at LBNL. UC Berkeley graduate students from business, law, public policy, and engineering assessed technologies that include a novel solar-chemical storage device, a breakthrough fabrication method for photovoltaic devices, and the use of ionic liquids to pre-treat biomass for conversion to biofuel.

In addition to the five teams who evaluated new technologies, three teams focused on energy policy and analysis. Eighteen Berkeley MBA students participated in the new 10-week program, which began in September.

C2M was started by student leaders from BERC, an interdisciplinary organization founded by Berkeley MBA students, including co-chair Naveen Sikka, MBA 09, who teamed up with LBNL’s Technology Transfer Department to create the program. Haas School Associate Professor Catherine Wolfram, co-executive director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Innovation, was also instrumental in its creation.

As part of the program, students on the technology teams delivered market analysis assessing such components as revenue potential, commercialization challenges, target customer profiles, and possible venture or industry partners.

“For scientists, new business considerations are really on the back burner,“ says Blake Simmons, vice president of deconstruction for the US Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute, which developed the ionic liquid technology and whose inventions are managed by LBNL’s Technology Transfer Department. “Working with students interested in business planning right out of the gate really offers a refreshing perspective.”

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Students and Scientists


First-year MBA students Dwight Crabtree and Adam Lorimer (left and center) teamed up with Blake Simmons (right) of the US Department of Energy to commercialize a new biofuel technology.