Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Siebel Energy Institute funds two dozen smart energy projects

Steve Rogerson
August 11, 2015
The Siebel Energy Institute, a consortium for collaborative energy research dedicated to advancing the science of smart energy, marked its official launch this month with the announcement of 24 research grants nearing $1m. The winning research proposals, led by engineering and computer science experts from the institute's member universities, will accelerate the development of algorithms and machine learning to improve the performance of modern energy systems.
The institute is a consortium of eight research institutions – Carnegie Mellon University, École Polytechnique, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Politecnico di Torino, Princeton University, University of California at Berkeley, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and University of Tokyo. The Thomas & Stacey Siebel Foundation established the institute with a $10m grant.
The institute is supported by an industry advisory board that initially includes Pacific Gas & Electric, Honeywell, C3 Energy, and other leading energy companies and industry influencers, who have partnered with the institute to foster active collaboration with the private sector.
"We created the Siebel Energy Institute to stimulate the best minds in engineering and computer science to work collaboratively on the science of smart energy," said chairman Thomas Siebel. "Our goal is to advance innovations in data analytics and machine learning to improve the safety, cyber security, reliability, efficiency and environmental integrity of the advanced smart grid."
Specifically, smart-connected devices across today's energy system collectively generate massive amounts of information. Highly sophisticated statistical algorithms are necessary to integrate and correlate the data, create data-driven statistical models with predictive power, and extract value from this otherwise incomprehensible stream of information.
"Leading universities are beginning to dedicate research teams to this area, but we have the opportunity to accelerate innovation," said Shankar Sastry, dean of the College of Engineering at Berkeley and director of the institute. "The grants we announced today are a catalyst for research that could ultimately break new ground in energy systems analytics."
Researchers, scholars and industry experts gathered at the launch event in San Francisco to announce and celebrate the institute's inaugural grant recipients. The institute's executive committee, which includes representatives of all consortium member institutions, selected the recipients from a field of nearly 60 submissions.
The 24 teams received either $50,000 or $25,000 seed grants, which will be used to develop research proposals to advance the science of machine learning to respond to electrical outages and cyber-security attacks, manage increasingly complex load factors such as electric vehicle charging and integrating renewable energy sources onto the power grid, and optimise the power value chain. The researchers will focus on how to apply advanced analytics to improve energy efficiency, grid reliability and customer engagement.
The Siebel Energy Institute aims to grant 40 to 50 such research awards annually, in addition to providing on-going financial support to funded projects.
Using the grant awards, the research teams will develop larger research proposals and grant submissions to government entities and foundations within a leveraged funding model designed to attract $100m to $200m in funded research over the next five years.
"The mission of the Siebel Energy Institute is to dramatically accelerate primary research to advance the science of machine learning and analytics as it relates to energy, oil and gas, and power systems," said Siebel. "All research that is supported by the Siebel Energy Institute will be freely available in the public domain through the non-exclusive royalty free licence protocol used by consortium member universities."
The Siebel Energy Institute also announced its partnership with the Siebel Scholars Foundation in expanding the Siebel Scholars programme to recognise and engage outstanding leaders in the field of energy science at its consortium member universities. Annually, these eight institutions will each select a top-ranking graduate student – based upon academic excellence and leadership in energy science – to participate in the Siebel Scholars programme. Each will receive a $35,000 award for his or her final year of graduate studies.
These students will join an ever-growing, lifelong community of more than 1000 past and present Siebel Scholars that includes their peers from leading graduate schools of business, computer science and bioengineering.