Near the start of 2016, we opened the SOFI Knowledge Map to contributions from the solar fuels community. The response has been great. We are producing more “how to” videos, so look for those in 2017! If you have authored a paper and are looking for a way to reference your results easily in a presentation, add the numbers from your papers to the SOFI Knowledge Map and then mention the website in your talk. People can easily access your paper’s results and bookmark it for later use! In 2017, you will be able to add a logo to your presentation to indicate your work is in the Knowledge Map. We are looking forward launching this feature in early 2017, stay tuned.
We announced in April that we were starting Phase 1 of the SOFI Demonstration project. In early November Alex Grant, a graduate student in the Notestein Lab at Northwestern, successfully produced methanol from CO2 and H2. We are working on summarizing all of the technical details, so stay tuned to the SOFI Blog for details. This success was hard won and the result of thinking critically about each step in the process and the limitations of each piece in this puzzle. Next, we are hoping to move to on-demand H2 as part of Phase 2. We welcome ideas, collaborators, and partners in this effort!
August 2016 saw SOFI’s first entrepreneurship workshop. We brought together 4 early career researchers (from the US, UK, and France), two entrepreneurs, and a selection of representative from various sectors covering policy, patent law, and consulting. This two-day intensive workshop focused on the different pathways to commercialization that are available to interested and motivated scientists. As with any good exchange of ideas, SOFI also came away with a new perspective on how to best serve the solar fuels community in achieving our goal of accelerating the commercialization of a renewable liquid fuel.
This year SOFI welcomed new member Michael Best & Friedrich LLP (Michael Best). Michael Best is an award-winning law firm with offices across the US. Their expertise in patent law is helping guide the next phase of the SOFI Knowledge Map, where we are working to bring academic technologies related to solar fuels to the attention of industry and investors. In this process, we are engaging technology transfer (TT) offices of SOFI members and non-members to create a TT network with regional hubs.
Our website expanded in 2016 to include a Press page. Here you can find links to all of the articles SOFI has either been mentioned in or contributed to since our founding in 2012. Most often we are asked about solar fuels, specifically the incredible research going on in university labs around the world; however, we still get excited about fundamental advancements in all areas of science and engineering. Recently, we were asked by Voice of America (VOA) what our thoughts were on the exciting synthetic biology breakthrough published in Science this November. In October, Leif Hammarström of Uppsala University and the Swedish Consortium for Artificial Photosynthesis, (a founding and Core SOFI Member) mentioned the importance of international consortia like SOFI in his Chem opinion this October. We were honored to be featured in a May 2016 New York Times piece on the future of solar fuels as well as receiving a mention in MIT Tech Review’s June issue.
Also in June, Managing Director Dick Co was invited to speak at the United Nations about solar fuels and the role of research and knowledge sharing in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Many nations are intrigued by solar fuels and are mobilizing their government funding to move this technology along in their own universities and research labs. As these new research thrusts produce results, SOFI has committed to providing a mechanism for sharing the essential facts and metrics with the world, democratizing data. The UN and its SDGs are committed to “leave no one behind” in the 21st century— bring all people, and all parts of the world into a cleaner, more modern future. And this vision is integrated into all the different units within the UN, e.g. UNICEF, UN Women, etc. By making facts and metrics from publications freely available to researchers around the world, SOFI believes that we can conduct research on solar fuels, and renewable energy in general, more quickly and effectively. In order to meet the SDGs by 2030, we will not only need to commit to doing the right things, we as a civilization will need to leverage what we have currently to do more of those things massively more efficiently. You can see Dick’s speech on SOFI’s YouTube Channel.
We are excited for what 2017 has in store for SOFI. The global efforts directed at creating a renewable carbon market are mobilizing and growing rapidly. SOFI members are leading the way through research and good ole business development. We look forward to hearing from you in the new year and wish you the best as we turn the page on 2016 and begin 2017.