Enel Foundation forms tech innovation hub with California university


A new scientific and technological innovation hub has been established at the University of California, Berkeley, by the Enel Foundation and the Center for Sustainable Materials and Innovation (CSMI).

Alessandra Lanzara, head of CSMI, Professor of Physics at UC Berkeley, said the hub will “solve some of the most pressing sustainable development goals around materials design and the circular economy”.

Researchers from Enel and from both Italian and US universities will collaborate on the research and development of solutions that have the potential to accelerate the energy transition, environmental sustainability, and digital transformation of the utility sector.

Focus areas will include:

  • Sustainable materials for reducing consumption and waste utilised in solar, wind, geothermal, thermal and energy storage.
  • Resilient energy production systems and infrastructure.
  • Weather forecasting systems for energy applications.
  • Energy storage for smart mobility and vehicle-to-grid systems.
  • Smart grids.

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The Enel Foundation will use the hub to match participants, including startups and scale-ups from its Energy Accelerator Fellowship Programme with labs and incubators including the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Banatao Institute and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

For instance, researchers working as part of Enel’s World energy for University (We4U) will be selected for the programme.

For the first batch, the fellowships will be offered to postdoctoral researchers of Politecnico di Milano and Politecnico di Torino. In a second phase, partners will be identified through an open competition, awarding placement of ‘moonshot’ ideas on the selected focus areas conducted in partnership between CSMI and Enel Foundation.

“Looking to the future, our aim is to extend this initiative to other Italian universities and research institutions. Our goal is to leverage the talent and innovation of Italian researchers and enable them with the right tools to create hubs of Silicon Valley in Italy,” added Lanzara.

The establishment of the hub falls under efforts to increase the presence of Italian companies and innovation in the Bay Area following the official visit of the Italian President Sergio Mattarella to San Francisco and Silicon Valley in October 2019. The presidential visit led to the establishment of the Italian Innovation and Culture Hub in San Francisco. 

Ernesto Ciorra, Enel Group’s Chief Innovability Officer and General Manager of Enel Foundation, added “the ambitious objective of the programme is accelerating to the industrialization phase concrete projects currently in their research phase, possibly transforming researchers into entrepreneurs, as it often happens in Silicon Valley.”

Applications for the programme are planned to open in fall 2021 and the first cohort of fellows will start in 2022.