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Chemical giant Dow funds 23 sustainability projects
Designed by faculty and students, most of the funded innovations address such global needs as clean drinking water and resource-efficient cookstoves — though one will help grantees market their products

| 08 May 2008

Twenty-three projects aimed at helping people live more sustainably have been granted a total of $2 million through a new program at Berkeley funded by the Dow Chemical Co. Foundation.

Winning projects include cost- effective water-purification and hygiene technologies, sustainable packaging, renewable fuels, and new courses and seminars on sustainability. Projects were submitted by students and faculty in a range of fields and disciplines, including engineering, business, chemistry, public health, and energy resources. The 23 funding winners received grants ranging between $4,000 and $135,000 each.

A stove created at Berkeley to help refugee women survive the dinner hour

The new Sustainable Products and Solutions Program was created in late 2007 to administer and grow a $10 million, five-year gift from the foundation to provide students and faculty across campus with educational and research opportunities focused on sustainability. Based at the Center for Responsible Business at the Haas School of Business, the program was created in partnership with the College of Chemistry.

Three funded projects focus on distributing efficient cookstoves in China, Senegal, and Darfur. The so-called Darfur stove, developed at Berkeley, not only offers environmental benefits but saves lives by decreasing the time women and children spend gathering wood in potentially unsafe areas where they could be at risk of attack (see article).

Another winning project will create a new fellowship for MBA students to help members from the other winning teams develop viable business plans to bring their products to market. A new course in spring 2009 will be structured around the fellowship program, to be taught by associate business professor Catherine Wolfram and adjunct business professor Andrew Isaacs, both of the Haas School.

“We had a lot of great projects, and we had to set aside a lot of other good ones,” says Tony Kingsbury, executive-in-residence at the Sustainable Projects and Solutions Program. “Our intent is to do something like this annually, and to get other foundations engaged as well.”

Proposals were required to be interdisciplinary, to account for all aspects of the life cycle of a product or solution, and to help solve global sustainability challenges. Students from more than a dozen schools and departments on campus submitted project plans that cumulatively sought three times the available funds; a steering committee of faculty across campus made the funding choices.

The Dow Chemical Co. is not involved in the program’s decision-making and has no rights to its research. All research funded by the program will be the property of UC Berkeley.

The winning proposals are online at www.haas.berkeley.edu/responsiblebusiness/SPSProgramProjects.htm.