Author: Heike Brueckner

UConn-NREL Partnership for Clean Energy Research

October 3, 2013 - Front entrance sign at NREL's STM campus. (Photo by Dennis Schroeder / NREL)

UConn and U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced a new research partnership in October 2022. Hosted at UConn Tech Park, the collaboration will address global energy challenges including energy efficiency and resiliency, renewable energy technologies, and smart grid innovation, helping shape the response to these critical challenges of the 21st century.

Emmanouil Anagnostou, interim Executive Director of UConn Tech Park, and Junbo Zhao, Eversource Energy Center Grid Modernization Lead at IPB have started joint positions as Research Scientists at NREL under the partnership. They will be affiliated with the Grid Automation and Controls Group at NREL.

Among the many goals of the partnership, UConn and NREL will work together to develop solutions to clean energy challenges in the Northeast and increase funding opportunities not otherwise available to either individual institution. The program also enables undergraduate and graduate students to work jointly with NREL scientists and UConn faculty.

 “I am proud that UConn is playing an important role in this crucial sector, and I am excited to see the creativity and determination our faculty and students bring to this work.” UConn President Radenka Maric says.

“NREL sees the partnership with UConn as a critical part of achieving clean energy at scale that brings together talent from both institutions to further our collective goals,” says Dr. Ellen Morris, director of University Partnerships at NREL.

Saving Energy and Reducing Costs at Small and Medium-sized Manufacturers

UConn Tech Park welcomes our newest center, UConn’s Southern New England Industrial Assessment Center (SNE-IAC). SNE-IAC makes significant contributions toward a clean environment, helping New England manufacturers improve energy efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint while training a new generation of students in methods that improve industrial energy efficiency. 
Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, SNE-IAC provides energy audit services at no cost to eligible manufacturers located within a 150-mile radius in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and the Greater New York area. The service helps companies identify and address problem areas, resulting in reductions in carbon emissions, energy costs, and annual energy consumption by an anticipated 10%. The team also provides outreach and education opportunities to nonparticipating manufacturers in the region. Manufacturers can sign up for an audit on the center’s website.  

photo of student auditorsDirectors Dr. Liang Zhang, Dr. Amy Thompson, and Dr. Ravi Gorthala lead center activities and partner with UConn Tech Park, CT utility companies Eversource and United Illuminating, and other industrial partners in outreach efforts and to provide recommendations and implementation guidance to clients. They employ seven students who are gaining valuable hands-on experience in conducting audit assessments in a variety of different manufacturing environments.

The IAC team is enthusiastic about the program’s potential to reduce manufacturers’ annual energy consumption that can ultimately improve their overall energy efficiency and sustainability.

Since its inception in 2022, IAC has made excellent progress and is on track to achieve its goal of 10 audits in the first year, increasing to a target of 20 audits per year within the next five years. Nine audits have been completed, with an additional six audit requests in the queue. Three student assessors now have the level of experience required to be eligible for an IAC Certificate from the U.S. DoE, a credential that demonstrates their energy and industrial expertise.

photo of Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholm, at the IPB in May 2022As one of the nation’s newer IACs, it was a great honor for the UConn team to welcome the US Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholm, at the IPB in May 2022, along with Connecticut Congressman Joe Courtney and UConn President Dr. Radenka Maric. During her visit to the lab, Secretary Granholm met with faculty and students before attending a press conference, where one of the center’s students had the privilege of introducing her.

IAC’s industrial advisory board is made up of strategic industrial partners including Connecticut state agencies, utility companies, and manufacturing organizations and includes Connecticut’s Chief Manufacturing Officer, Paul Lavoie.

Supporting Startups Striving for a Sustainable Future

The Innovation Partnership Building hosted a four-day kickoff meeting this month with the first cohort of the Future Climate Venture Studio: six selected companies creating solutions across a range of critical areas of climate and sustainability including energy, agriculture, manufacturing, and financial services solutions.

The companies selected to the first cohort are:
Applied Bioplastics (Austin, TX) –
Clean Crop Technologies, Inc. (Holyoke, MA) –
Cool Amps Corp., (New Haven, CT) –
GreenPortfolio (New York, NY) –
INOVUES (Houston, TX) –
Urban Stalk (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada) –

Future Climate Venture Studio, launched in September 2022, is taking an entrepreneurial approach to tackling the climate change crisis. Its mission is to identify, support, and collaborate with the startups addressing the most critical dimensions of the climate challenge, including decarbonization, alternative energy, planetary resilience, social impact, and more.

The program and its partners will provide the selected companies with access to industry and UConn faculty experts, capital investment from R/GA Ventures, technology facilities at the Innovation Partnership Building at UConn, as well as guidance from the Studio’s Investor-in-Residence, Cody Simms from MCJ Collective, a media platform and investment fund powering innovative climate solutions.

The studio is led by the University of Connecticut, a national and global leader in interdisciplinary climate research, in partnership with R/GA Ventures, a leading venture studio operator and early-stage investor; and CTNext, a state agency dedicated to public-private partnership to catalyze Connecticut’s innovation ecosystem.

The event marks the latest in a series of investments and initiatives for UConn as it establishes itself as a leader in climate change and clean energy research and innovation. Working with other institutions and industrial leaders, the University has expanded its influence and worked lockstep with state leaders toward the goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2040.

 “The selected companies align perfectly with UConn’s mission to contribute valuable research toward clean energy production and reducing dependence on carbon-based fuels,” says Pamir Alpay, UConn’s interim Vice President for Research, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship. “Our faculty and students are committed to the solutions that will steer us toward a cleaner energy future.”

“The transition to a green economy is an increasingly crucial focus to produce positive change for our world and markets. Therefore, sustainability is a core value at CTNext and a major factor in where we invest as an organization to generate a stronger innovation ecosystem in Connecticut. In supporting this first cohort, we’re excited to showcase how our regional resources and relationships can drive greater impact both on a local and national level,” says Onyeka Obiocha, Executive Director at CTNEXT.

Additional partners include CT Innovations, the state of Connecticut’s venture capital arm; Connecticut Green Bank, the nation’s first green bank; the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA); technology leader Oracle Corporation; and investor partners such as Cimbria Capital, Nexus Venture Partners, and others.


Welcome Digital Media and Design, Master of Fine Arts Students

In a unique science-meets-art program at University of Connecticut, two digital media and design master of fine arts (DMD MFA) students join Tech Park each school year and apply digital talents to promote the IPB’s innovative research and advanced scientific concepts. Students hone their skills and develop a multifaceted approach to their craft while expanding their portfolios. Concurrently, Tech Park benefits from a fresh angle on ways to increase visibility of its far-reaching research projects and its impact on Connecticut businesses and state economy.


photo of Evgeniia Rein

Evgeniia Rein is a game designer keenly interested in interactive media with a focus on serious games. She has worked on more than 15 game concepts and prototypes, including video games, board games, and tabletop role-playing games. In her work, Rein aims to combine the artistic and technological sides of digital media in a unique play-based way. She believes that cooperating with the scientists and engineers will provide the crucial technological knowledge and will significantly enhance her future projects.

Danial Ezzati is a passionate game designer from Iran, in his second year of the DMD MFA program. He is interested in creating interactive experiences, virtual reality, and gamification, and is enthusiastic about collaborating at the IPB to develop creative approaches to scientific virtual simulation, scientific concept cinematic animation, concept art, logos, and intro animation projects that are responsive and accessible.