From Denmark to California on Renewable Energy


Students from Danish and Californian universities have been keeping themselves busy over the summer. They all just spent three weeks in California attending lectures, visiting companies, working on renewable energy projects and discussing future solutions for the road towards clean energy. I went with them for the opening ‘the Road to 100% Clean Energy Workshop’ and on a few of the visits and tried to figure out what they got out of the summer program and what they might take back home with them.

This year’s Denmark-California Summer Workshop, the fourth of its kind,  brought together students from 5 different universities (the Technical University of Denmark, Aalborg University, and University of California in Santa Cruz, Merced, and Davis) and countries such as India, Malaysia, the US, and Denmark. They all came from different backgrounds and with different ideas for how to tackle the challenges of renewable energy systems. The final presentations held at UC Davis reflected this diversity as one group discussed how to build a decentralized residential energy system in a village in rural Tanzania; another how to sustainably preserve the Wharf in Santa Cruz; and the last one focusing on the construction of a new campus building at UC Davis.

Despite this diversity, most of the students came from a technical background. And though all of the final projects – and most of the presentations throughout the program – was about sustainability, the key point was about economic sustainability. There seem to be no doubt that renewable energy is the future, but if you can’t come up with a business model that makes renewable energy economically attractive, there’s no point.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the three final projects presented some very interesting solutions. But for next year’s DK-CA Summer Workshop in Denmark, it might be interesting to include students from across the pond, in business, natural sciences, and so on.

The workshop has been no walkover and the three weeks have been more than packed events. The students had barely time to work on their projects, let alone enjoy the beautiful surroundings of especially UC Santa Cruz. Instead they went through a tightly packed schedule of lectures, presentations and group work at UC Santa Cruz and UC Davis, as well as a long list of company visits including Tesla MotorsMakani Power, Rio Vista Wind Farm, SolyndraNASA Ames, and many more – all of which obviously impressed and inspired both students, professors, and a certain Innovation Center Denmark intern.

The Denmark-California Summer Workshop has been about getting a little taste of everything that has to do with renewable energy. Students and professors discussed theoretical and practical solutions to international and local scale, and got to meet some of the leading renewable energy players firsthand.

Next year, the summer school will be in Denmark. We will make sure to give you updates on the progress and registration when we get a little closer.


Danish Professor of Biology gives talk at UC Davis

On Wednesday May 23rd Dr Karsten Kristiansen of the Department of Biology at the University of Copenhagen will be presenting a talk titled: “Transdifferentiation of white into brown adipose tissue requires cyclooxygenases” at a special seminar at UC Davis.

Cyclooxygenases (COXs) are the rate-limiting enzymes in prostaglandin synthesis and important in inflammatory responses. The COXs have also been implicated in the control of adipogenesis, and a variety of prostaglandins is produced in adipose tissues. However, their specific roles in adipose tissues are not yet elucidated. Here we demonstrate a concomitant induction of COX2 and UCP1 in inguinal white adipose tissue upon cold exposure. Our findings that cold-induced UCP1 expression in inguinal white, but not interscapular brown adipose tissue, was attenuated in COX2 KO mice and in wild type mice treated with a COX-inhibitor, suggest a role of COX2 in regulation of UCP1 expression during transdifferentiation. The importance of COX-activity and prostaglandins in mediating UCP1 induction is underscored by our finding that UCP1 expression can be induced by forced expression of the COXs and injection of a stable PGE2-analog. Finally, we show that inhibition of COXs attenuated diet-induced UCP1 expression and increased energy-efficiency in obesity-resistant mice providing further support for a role of COXs in the control of energy balance and obesity development.

Karsten Kristiansen is Professor of Molecular Biology and head of the Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen. The seminar will take place on Wednesday May 25, 2011 from 3:00-4:00pm at the WHNRC Conference Room #121 at UC Davis

Apply Now: Summer School on Renewable Energy in California

Summer is approaching and so is our annual summer school on renewable energy. Right now, we are looking for the next batch of energy-conscious students to spend 3 weeks in California this August.

Danish-Californian collaboration
The Denmark-California Summer Program on Renewable Energy is a unique educational initiative developed by leading universities in Denmark and California. Students and researchers from the UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis, UC Merced, Technical University of Denmark and Aalborg University will meet in California for a 3-week renewable energy summer school program. Participants learn about the economics, politics, science and technology behind RE implementation from leading experts, while exploring communities and relevant energy sites where similar technology is in place or currently being implemented.

A multi disciplinary approach
The program is intended for students of all disciplines, chosen on the basis of their academic qualifications, creativity and commitment to RE. Each year, selected students from engineering, business, environmental studies, political science, geography, economics and other fields are grouped together across disciplines and national ties to form project-based teams that throughout the program investigate the opportunities and challenges facing RE implementation

Join us this summer!
The Summer Program is 4-weeks long – including a first week of online course. The
 3-week program in California consists of classroom lectures, seminars and field trips to relevant energy sites and facilities all around Northern California. In addition to lectures and visits, participants will develop a problem-oriented research project, which represents a fundamental part of the overall learning experience. Upon conclusion of the program, a final written report and a presentation are completed by student teams, including analyses of the identified problem, possible solutions and suggested recommendations.

Read more about the summer school and apply here. The application deadline is May 16th, 2011.

For further information please contact Lars Beer Nielsen, Research and Development Attaché at Innovation Center Denmark.

Danske forskere på clean tech entreprenørskabsakademi

I sidste uge stod UC Davis bag et 5-dags, intensivt entreprenørskabsakademi, Green Technology Entrepreneurship Academy (GTEA). To danskere fra DTU deltog sammen med forskere fra bl.a. Stanford, UC Berkeley og MIT på. Denne gang var fokus på Green Technology og akademiet fandt sted den 6.-10. juli i Incline Village ved Lake Tahoe i Nevada.

Akademiet giver de studerende en introduktion til, hvad det vil sige, at patentere ideer, lave en forretningsplan og finde økonomisk støtte til at kommercialisere sin forskningsidé. Under akademiet har deltagerne mulighed for at møde både virksomhedsfolk, venturekapitalister, eksperter, advokater og rådgivere, der alle kan hjælpe forskerne med at bringe deres forskning ud på markedet.

Dansk CO2-Varmepumpe

Danmark var repræsenteret ved dette års GTEA  med to deltagere fra DTU. Kristian Fredslund og Morten Eghøj fra DTU MEK (Institut for Mekanisk Teknologi) var taget til Nevada med deres CO2-Varmepumpe, og fik på GTEA en god og målrettet feedback på deres forretningsplan.

Begge danskere var rigtig glade for, at de havde deltaget i akademiet, og Kristian nævnte efterfølgende to forhold, der havde hjulpet DTU forskerne med deres entprenørskabsdrømme:

  • ”På det generelle plan har akademiet sat fokus på forskellen mellem forskning, der kan publiceres, og forskning, der kan kommercialiseres. Dette overblik giver os mulighed for at fokusere vores forskning inden for det område, der åbner op for muligheden for at starte en virksomhed”.
  • ”På det konkrete plan har akademiet sat fokus på sammenhængen mellem risici og en virksomheds værdi. Fjerner man risici for at et produkt ikke bliver en succes, er det det samme som at tilføre værdi til sit produkt (Risk reduced = value added). Før en forretningsplan fremlægges, er det derfor vigtigt, at have styr på, hvor de eventuelle huller i ens proces er, og forsøge at finde løsninger på disse.  

A players hire A players. B players hire C players and C players put you out of business

Torsdag tog akademiet fat på emner som ”Building the Team” og ”Building the Organization”.  Her blev der sat fokus på de ansatte i en start-op virksomhed. ”Den største omkostning i en start-up virksomhed er menneskerne, så ansæt personer, der er klogere end dig selv”, forklarer professor Andrew Hargadon.

”Ideelt set ville du ikke blive ansat i din egen virksomhed”: fortsætter professoren og forklarer, at du var nødvendig, da du startede din virksomhed, på grund af din blanding af ekspertise og kreativitet. Når du derimod udvider din virksomhed, har du en viden om, hvem du har brug for, og derfor kan du finde en bedre egnet person end dig selv (grundlæggeren). Selv om det for nogle kan være vanskeligt, er det altså vigtigt, at ansætte klogere personer end dig selv.

Tilpas dit produkt

Udover de ansatte er det også vigtigt, at man er villig til at udvikle sit produkt. Under akademiet i Tahoe blev dette forklaret med et billede: ”Man går ikke op til en hæk, tegner en linje og klipper. Man klipper lidt, tager tre skridt tilbage, ser på hækken og klipper da lidt igen”.

Budskabet er her, at man skal være villig til at tilpasse sin forretningsplan. Markedet og forbrugerne udvikler sig også over tid. Konklusionen er derfor, at det er ikke den forretningsplan, man starter en virksomhed på, der er succesfuld efter tre til fem år.

Stemningen blandt de deltagende på dette års GTEA er at akademiet har været succesfuldt. Særligt mentor-sessionerne har fået meget positiv omtale i forbindelse med dette akademi, som ved fødevarer akademiet i februar.

UC Davis Center for Entreprenørskab

UC Davis Center for Entreprenørskab står, udover Green Tech Entreprenørskabsakademiet (GTEA), også bag Food and Health Entrepreneurship Academy (FHEA). Begge akademier er tilgængelige for danske studerende og er klart anbefalesværdige. Se også vores blog fra dette års Food and Health Entrepreneurship Akademy.

Entreprenører på UC Davis

Klokken 8.00 mandag morgen bød Center for entrepreneurshipUC Davis på god, solid, amerikansk morgenmad. På trods af at deltagerne alle var mødt op for at deltage i et Entreprenørskabsakademi for forskere med interesse for sunde fødevarer, bød værterne både på danish, muffins og cream cheese bagels. Det er jo USA.

Under morgenmaden starter de mange amerikanske networkere med at arbejde sig igennem rummet. Der udveksles visitkort og alle får muligheden for at hilse på hinanden. Kort efter indledes akademiet, og de otte danske forskere og studerende, der deltager, får et første indblik i, hvad dette akademi handler om: entreprenørskab, markedsføring, hvordan man laver en business plan, hvad der udgør en kommercialiserbar idé, og hvad det rigtige elevator pitch indeholder.

Første taler var Andrew Hardagon, professor i Management på UC Davis og generel tovholder på akademiet. Hargadon forklarer at målet med konferencen er at give forskerne værktøjer, der kan hjælpe dem med at afkorte den periode, der normalt går, fra de får en god idé, til deres produkt kommer ud på markedet.

Akademiet er opbygget omkring de deltagende forskeres egne idéer. Lektierne efter første dag er at arbejde videre med de ideer, forskerne har medbragt. Oplægsholdernes position på konferencen er derfor primært at belyse emner, der er vigtige at overveje, hvis man overvejer at bringe et produkt på markedet og/eller starte sin egen virksomhed. Groupmeeting

Akademiets fokus på forskernes egne idéer gør, at alle forskere sidder på det yderste af stolene. Opmærksomheden er i top. Efter første dag deles deltagerne op i grupper. Nu skal der sparres og afslutningsvis skal en af ideerne vælges ud og på baggrund af denne, skal der udarbejdes en businessplan. Planen skal præsenteres i konkurrence med de øvrige deltagere foran et dommerpanel med kompetente folk fra bl.a. Pepsico, Unilever og Danmarks Tekniske Universitet.

Udbyttet af konferencen var stort. Største delen af talerne var meget inspirerende og den aktive deltagelse gjorde konferencen meget lærerig.

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