University of New Mexico President Robert G. Frank is leading a delegation invited to a workshop led by Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Department (NEDO). The workshop is designed to further a unique public-private partnership the University has established with Japan. 

The group is meeting with government organizations, universities and companies to build on the connections that have already created joint ventures such as microgrid energy projects in Albuquerque and Los Alamos. The delegation also hopes to discuss and develop new commitments on energy technologies and business opportunities such as an incubation project at Innovate ABQ.

“UNM has a long standing relationship with Japanese government and industry leaders that has resulted in some large investments in innovative technology here in New Mexico, “ Frank said.

“This trip is an opportunity to strengthen that relationship and build upon it for the future.”

Joining the president for a week of meetings in Japan this January are Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart-Stebbins and a number of representatives from UNM including Executive Vice President David Harris, Engineering Dean Catalin Roman; Chemical and Nuclear Engineering Professor Plamen Atanassov; Director of the Center for Emerging Energy Technology (CEET) Andrea Mammoli; STC.UNM Chief Economic Officer Lisa Kuuttila and STC.UNM Economic Development Manager Eri Hoshi.

The trip comes on the heels of a visit to UNM in December by University Consortium for International Intellectual Property Coordination (UCIP), a consortium of the technology transfer offices for 11 Japanese universities. UCIP is a co-host for the international workshop the New Mexico delegation is taking part in to discuss exchange programs as well as research collaboration. The group will also visit with the Ministry of Economic Trade and Industry (METI) and the chairman of New Energy and Industrial Technology Department (NEDO).

The partnership was initiated in 2006 when a Japanese delegation headed by Toshihiro Nikai, former Minister of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, or METI, visited New Mexico for the first time.  The delegation met with STC.UNM, UNM, Sandia & Los Alamos Labs and visited Mesa del Sol.  That visit led to a state-sponsored trade mission to Japan and a symposium that explored the possibilities for research, development and demonstration partnerships between New Mexico and Japan.

The UNM delegation met with METI's Hiroshi Watanabe (third from right) as part of the trip to Japan. In 2009, METI and the state of New Mexico signed a Memorandum on Cooperation in the Fields of Research, Development & Demonstration.

In 2009, METI and the state of New Mexico signed a Memorandum on Cooperation in the Fields of Research, Development & Demonstration.  This document provided the framework under which the microgrid projects at Mesa del Sol and Los Alamos County were conceived and developed.  It promotes cooperative partnerships in a broad range of scientific areas and advanced technology endeavors in New Mexico and Japan that, as the memorandum states, “neither could develop alone.” 

A year and a half ago, the New Mexico-Japan microgrid projects were unveiled to the public at the Mesa del Sol Aperture Center in Albuquerque and at the smart house and microgrid in Los Alamos.  This innovative concept is a research effort designed to change the way power grid systems deliver energy to residential and commercial consumers.

Along with New Mexico, NEDO’s worldwide smart grid demonstration projects are located in Hawaii, China, Indonesia, Turkey, Spain and France.  But the site here is the first to complete its project objectives. UNM’s CEET is continuing to refine the microgrid technology at Mesa del Sol through its ongoing research in production forecasting and simulation models.

In addition to furthering the technology investments, the delegation hopes the trip will lay the groundwork for establishing a U.S. – Japan endowed energy chair at UNM’s School of Engineering.

Also, NEDO is hosting a workshop for the UNM delegation to generate interest in Innovate ABQ, the public/private partnership among the university, government, education and business communities to create an innovation district to bolster New Mexico’s entrepreneurial efforts.

 “We believe even greater collaborations that produce innovative technologies for the global community can happen through our new economic development initiative,” Frank said.