King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) Selects Three Universities for Center-In-Development Grants

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Support links KAUST to King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, National Taiwan University and Utrecht University to build research capacity through KAUST's Global Research Partnership (GRP).

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology's (KAUST) Global Research Partnership (GRP) today announced the selection of King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Saudi Arabia, National Taiwan University, and Utrecht University in the Netherlands for Center-In-Development (CID) grants.

The grants will be funded by KAUST, a new graduate-level university being established in Saudi Arabia, and are intended to enable each grantee university to generate new research and the capacity for an interdisciplinary center of excellence in specific areas of scientific and technological inquiry that are most relevant to KAUST's research priorities and its development.

"KAUST is committed to being a catalyst of world-class research," said KAUST President-designate Choon Fong Shih. "These grants provide a foundation of support for programs that will be generators of new breakthroughs that benefit Saudi Arabia and the world in many meaningful ways."

"We have high expectations for these grantees," KAUST Interim Vice President Dr. Mohamed Samaha added. "They are first-class universities, and we look forward to years of growing together with them in the scientific community. Their work adds diversity and depth to KAUST's research portfolio. And as they represent institutions from three different continents, they also reflect KAUST's recognition that world-class science is a global endeavor that must cross international and cultural boundaries to thrive."

"We believe these are world-class research centers at an early stage of development," said Dr. Frank Press, former president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and advisor to the selection committee, KAUST interim vice president for research. "They reflect KAUST's mission of research contribution to the environment and to economic development. As such, they are directly connected to KAUST's interests in soil, water and coastal resources, solar energy, and petrochemicals and polymers."

The grants will support three Centers-in-Development:

  •     King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals' (KFUPM) Transformative Research in Petrochemicals and Polymers, led by Principal Investigator Sulaiman Al-Khattaf, will focus on the development of advanced catalysts and on the kinetics of key processes in producing intermediate petrochemicals as well as on polyolefin additives and processing polymeric membranes for fuel cells. Efforts will be targeted at addressing the current and future needs of the petrochemical industry in the Kingdom. KFUPM interdisciplinary teams along with international collaborators will bring their own contributions to the success of the research and work plan. KAUST students will have an opportunity to participate in this practical applied research beginning in 2009. This award will provide new avenues for R&D at KFUPM and for the training of students who may move to KAUST following graduation.
  •     National Taiwan University's (NTU) Solar Energy Research Center (SERC), led by Principal Investigator Bin-Juine Huang, will serve as the platform for integrating major solar energy research efforts underway at NTU, addressing both applied research and technology development. The SERC will focus on system integration, product-oriented research and development, and innovation in system optimization for design of solar-assisted air conditioning, heating, desalination, and LED lighting applications in buildings. NTU will provide exchange opportunities for both faculty and students from KAUST and will assist KAUST with the establishment of a SERC on the KAUST campus. Students from KAUST will be welcome at NTU for training in practical design of solutions to actual industry problems. They will also assist with the adaptation of existing energy-saving, solar-assisted building heating and cooling devices, as well as LED lighting for operation in Saudi Arabia's challenging climate.
  •     Utrecht University's Center for Soil, Water and Coastal Resources (SOWACOR), led by Principal Investigator Philippe Van Cappellen, will apply the research and development capabilities of 14 European and international organizations and institutions in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, and France to the sustainable use of soil, water, and coastal resources. Real-world validation and application of advanced physical and biological approaches for water treatment and soil remediation, including the removal of toxic metals and organic contaminants, will provide important assistance to KAUST in its priority initial areas for research focus. SOWACOR will act as a clearinghouse for ideas, people, and know-how between the participating institutes in Europe and KAUST, and help to prioritize research, education, training, joint fieldwork, and outreach in support of KAUST's mission. In addition to short courses, training, and collaborative research projects involving KAUST faculty and students, SOWACOR will assist with the design, instrumentation, and operation of a KAUST environmental observatory in Saudi Arabia.

Each KAUST GRP Center-in-Development proposal was reviewed in detail and scored by between five and seven supplementary reviewers drawn from the community of academic and industrial researchers around the world. A total of 65 international experts contributed reviews to the Center and CID competitions.

The GRP Technical Advisory Committee and advisors evaluating and recommending proposals for funding included:

  •     Omar Abdul-Hamid, Ph.D., manager, Saudi Aramco Research and Development Center
  •     Roland Chin, Ph.D., professor of computer science and vice president of Academic Affairs, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
  •     Ahmed Ghoniem, Ph.D., Ronald C. Crane (1972) Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  •     Steve Koonin, Ph.D., chief scientist, British Petroleum, and former provost, California Institute of Technology.
  •     Michael Thomashow, Ph.D., university distinguished professor and director, MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory, Michigan State University
  •     David Tirrell, Ph.D., division chair, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology
  •     Fawwaz Ulaby, Ph.D., provost-designate, KAUST, and Arthur Thurnau Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Michigan

Dr. Frank Press, former president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and Dr. Jack Breese, a former director at Microsoft Research, served as advisors to the panel.

The selection of the CIDs was based on criteria including scientific merit, organizational and management plan, the potential to collaborate in a team environment, and the direct relevance and benefits of the proposed research to KAUST's early development and research priorities--including energy and environment, materials science and engineering, biosciences, and applied mathematics and computational science.

About the Global Research Partnership (GRP) and KAUST
The GRP is designed to serve KAUST's developmental and long-term sustainability needs by establishing strong links with the existing global research enterprise. KAUST launched the GRP in August 2007 as a part of its strategy to build the University's research capacity. The GRP process begins with a broad solicitation of proposals and relies on a competitive, independent peer review to select and fund research carried out at the proposing institution on the basis of quality and relevance to KAUST's mission.

Under the GRP, there are three main programs: Investigators, which are grants for individual scientists leading small groups of researchers; Centers and Centers-in-Development, which involve multiple investigators leading complementary lines of research; and Fellows, for post-doctoral researchers.

In March 2008, KAUST awarded the first round of its GRP Investigator grants to twelve highly accomplished scientists and engineers from around the world. KAUST expects to announce its grants to Fellows in May 2008.

Also in May, KAUST will host its first gathering of Investigators, Centers, Centers-in-Development and Fellows at the first GRP Technical Symposium in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The event will welcome new researchers and scholars to Saudi Arabia in a special forum to establish relationships and collaborations among them and other members of the KAUST network.

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is being built in Saudi Arabia as an international, graduate-level research university dedicated to inspiring a new age of scientific achievement in the Kingdom, across the region and around the globe. As an independent, merit-based institution, KAUST will enable top researchers from around the globe to work together to solve challenging scientific and technological problems. The KAUST global research and education network will support diverse talents both on its campus and at other premier universities and research institutions through collaborative research agreements, grants, and student scholarship programs. The core campus, located on more than 36 million square meters on the Red Sea at Thuwal, is set to open in September 2009. For more information about KAUST, visit http://www.kaust.edu.sa.

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