December 2009 Newsletter

CITRIS “shortens the pipeline” between world-class laboratory research in science and engineering and the creation of startups, companies, and whole industries. By engaging business, economics, law, and public policy at the outset of projects, we accelerate and amplify the impact of research that addresses California’s most pressing challenges.

Dear Friends of CITRIS,

Early in December, the world’s leaders meet in Copenhagen to try to reach consensus on how to address the daunting challenge of global warming. The five interviews in this newsletter represent a cross-section of the CITRIS approach to reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that are wreaking havoc on our climate. While pushing back technological frontiers may be CITRIS’ forte, we are also fostering communication between those engaged in the cutting-edge science that will lead us out of this debacle and the policy and business people who will be key to the adoption and promotion of those technologies. Without the right technology, any caps or policy declarations will be hollow. But without the right regulatory and business environments, the technology will never take flight.

California is at the forefront of the effort to combine high-tech innovation and public policy. Daniel Sperling, director of the UC Davis Institute for Transportation Studies, has been a driving force for adopting strong and progressive state emissions standards that are informed by good science. After years of opposing them, the US EPA under the Obama administration is now adopting similar standards nationally.

Berkeley political science professor John Zysman, cofounder of the Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy (BRIE), also focuses on the key roles of business and government policy in catalyzing the technological transformation we need. Particularly in the US, where fossil fuels are such big business, policy must be clearly set so that energy companies, new and old, can boldly embrace and nurture new technologies like wind energy, second-generation biofuels, and smart grids.

UCSC engineering professor Ali Shakouri is getting big results from small things. We talked to him from his temporary office at Harvard where he is on sabbatical looking at, among other things, the policy ramifications of his brilliant high-tech work on thermoelectric generation. “Scientists must get more involved in policy,” he pleads.  “It is our responsibility.”

Engineering professor Jeff Wright, director of CITRIS at UC Merced, is helping that campus show the way; the entire place is a living laboratory and an instructive example of what innovation and determination can accomplish. Before long, Wright assures us, the Merced campus will consume no net energy, produce no landfill waste, and produce no net carbon emissions.

Here at CITRIS HQ in Berkeley I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. Our beautiful new building, Sutardja Dai Hall, is an inspiring place to work. But in the several years since it was designed, the imperative for efficiency has intensified and we are now looking at ways to employ sub-metering and sensor networks to reduce the carbon footprint from the building’s air conditioning system.

These new networks will not only increase our efficiency and save us money, they will also allow individual employees to customize the climates in their workspaces, making the building an even more pleasant and comfortable place to work. In addition, we have Dr. Gary Baldwin as our director of special projects in energy and the environment to work with researchers in industry and academia to move forward projects that show promise in making a difference in our energy use.

In general, I have found it to be the case that those technologies that move us toward a greener, more sustainable economy are not only cheaper and cleaner, but they represent other improvements as well.

Denmark’s own ambassador to the US, Friis Petersen, featured in the final interview, demonstrates that principle when he describes his own country’s experience over the past three decades. Thirty-five years ago, Denmark imported 99 percent of its energy and fuel oil.  Today, because of well-organized shift to renewables and a big emphasis on energy conservation, the country is a net exporter. That shift, the ambassador reports, not only won Denmark energy independence, it has also been good for its economy, environment, standard of living, and standing in the world. There could be no more hopeful and appropriate country to locate this historic and potentially world-changing event than Denmark.

Thanks and keep up the good work.

Paul K. Wright
Director, CITRIS and the Banatao Institute@CITRIS Berkeley

CITRIS Holiday Gala and BCNM performance: December 11
Please mark your calendars for two exciting events at CITRIS on Friday, December 11th: the Holiday Gala, followed by an innovative media and art performance, both in Sutardja Dai Hall on the UC Berkeley campus.

2009 UC Regents’ Lecture: Jimmy Wales
Saturday, December 5, 2009: 7:30pm – 9:00pm in 150 Stanley Hall, UC Berkeley
In his talk, “Welcome to the New World,” Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia,  will describe the history and global impact of Wikipedia and share his perspectives on current and future trends on the Internet.

The Future of the Forum: Internet Communities and the Public Interest
Saturday, December 5, 2009: 9:00am – 7:00pm in Sutardja Dai Hall Auditorium, UC Berkeley
The pioneers of Social Media will gather at UC Berkeley on Saturday,
December 5th for a one day symposium.

CITRIS Seed Funding Projects
CITRIS is pleased to announce a new round of seed funding for FY 2010. It is open to all CITRIS investigators in UC Berkeley, Davis, Merced, and Santa Cruz.

The Times Square of IT: SenSys 2009

The recent event SenSys 2009 was a great success. Running from November 4-6 at UC Berkeley, the international conference drew over 250 attendees from around the world. Researchers presented research results on systems issues in the area of embedded, networked sensors.

Bay Area Drupal Camp – CITRIS supports local open source community
This semester, CITRIS hosted the Bay Area Drupal Camp, an event supporting the local open source community. Drupal is an open source content management framework, currently being used to power, and a huge number of websites on the CITRIS campuses, at other educational institutions, such as MIT, Stanford and Duke, and thousands of corporate, non-profit and governmental sites.