UBC – Fraunhofer partnership advancing clean energy research

UBC’s $4.9-million research partnership with Germany’s Fraunhofer Society—Europe’s largest applied research institution—aims to advance clean energy research in the areas of biomass, electrolysis, solar, fuel cells and wind.

The University of British Columbia established a formal agreement with Germany’s Fraunhofer Society in 2013, building upon a relationship forged years earlier by Dr. Walter Mérida, one of the university’s leading clean energy researchers.

Dr. Mérida, now head of UBC’s Clean Energy Research Centre (CERC), travelled to Germany in 2009 to spend a one-year sabbatical leave at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems. Dr. Mérida selected Germany due to the state’s reputation for technology deployment in the area of clean energy.

The relationships he built formed the basis of an agreement signed by the two institutions to advance research in the areas of biomass-to-energy conversion, fuel cell and hydrogen technologies, wind-turbine manufacturing, electrolysis, and solar-cell technology.

The Fraunhofer Society is the largest applied research entity in Europe, with more 60 institutes and over 20,000 employees across Germany.

UBC was the first Canadian partner chosen for Fraunhofer’s ICON program. While Fraunhofer research is typically funded by industry, under the ICON program the German institution contributed $3.26 million to the project, with UBC providing the remainder.

The research collaboration led to the development of a research platform for testing automotive fuel cell power plants—the first of its kind in the world. The platform enabled further collaborations with Canadian and multi-national partners, including Mercedes-Benz and Ballard Power Systems.

Building on the success of this partnership, Dr. Mérida and his colleagues at CERC are actively pursuing opportunities to expand the collaboration.

UBC is the only university in Canada with active initiatives with the Max Planck Society, the Fraunhofer Society, and the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

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