Breakout Session 1: Bioenergy
Nick Carpita, Agustin Lopez Munguia
Rakesh Agrawal, Jon Harbor
Nick Carpita presented an overview of C3Bio – the Center for the Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels, an Energy Frontiers Research Center funded by the U.S. Dept. of Energy, Office of Science. The goal of this center is to bring biologists, chemists and chemical engineers to focus on how to optimize biomass for direct conversion to advanced ‘drop-in’ biofuels and high-value bio-based products that are the economic driver for the industry and a catalyst for rural development. Carpita mentioned how C3Bio fits into the theme of Discovery Park at Purdue, where projects bring together researchers from diverse disciplines in different colleges to work on grand challenges in a way that the successes are translated beyond the intellectual property generation to new industry through the Morgan D. Burke Center for Entrepreneurship.
Relevant to enlivening collaboration between Purdue and Mexican institutions, the idea of a cross-discipline approach to meeting a grand challenge is that multi-channels of collaboration are formed, not just isolated ones. This makes for cohesive group interactions at both ends.
To get started, the suggestion was for contingents from Purdue and Mexico to meet at each other’s institutions give talks and to breakout into sessions to formulate collaborations. This will serve to identify individuals with potential for strong collaboration. We could also think about offering short courses (equivalent to Purdue’s Maymester-type experiences), leading to student and faculty exchanges.
At first, modest funding to support faculty interchange could be made at the institutional level as a ‘planning grant’ to consolidate interests into a competitive proposal to respective international programs, such as exists in the U.S. National Science Foundation, and others. These programs are typically agreements to cooperate, where the U.S. funds the U.S. collaborators, and Mexico funds the Mexican collaborators. SAGARPA & CONACYT are very plausible funding sources for this topic.
BioFuels and Bio-materials. This theme involves biologists, geneticists, chemists, chemical engineers and materials scientists. Agustín López Manguía expressed that the challenge will be to coordinate such an interdisciplinary approach in Mexico, because it is not typical of their institutions. However, the Mexican Academy of Science and the Academy of Engineering could be approached for ideas about implementation. Also, there is a network for Bioenergy in Mexico that could bring together critical mass of researchers from other institutions in collaboration with UNAM.