A new $15 million gift by Lynda and Stewart Resnick in support of the Resnick Sustainability Institute at Caltech will help scientists and engineers advance research aimed at helping humanity sustainably meet its needs for energy, food, clean water, and a healthy environment. This brings total funding of the Resnick Sustainability Institute to nearly $60 million, beginning with a foundational $21 million gift from the Resnicks in 2009.
Since its founding, the Resnick Sustainability Institute's researchers have pursued wide-ranging investigations in energy science and technology. Support from the Resnick Sustainability Institute has enabled advances in distributed wind-energy systems, batteries and fuel cells, smart grid systems, record-breaking solar photovoltaics, pioneering technologies for deriving fuels from sunlight, and chemical catalysts that convert waste materials to biofuels.
"Securing a sustainable source of energy for future generations is the most fundamental issue facing mankind," says Stewart Resnick, Caltech senior trustee and the chairman and co-owner, along with his wife, Lynda, of Roll Global, a private holding company with interests in fresh fruit and tree nuts, premium beverages, and floral delivery. "It is at the heart of all of the other long-term sustainability challenges such as feeding the world's population and providing people with access to clean water and health care. We see funding Caltech's efforts as an investment in our future, not just as philanthropy." Caltech, he adds, is uniquely qualified to address the problems that challenge our world: "The intimacy of its campus allows many diverse scientific disciplines to easily and regularly come together for a kind of innovative thinking that is hard to achieve elsewhere."
Inspired by the success of the first generation of research at the Resnick Sustainability Institute, $3 million of the Resnicks' new gift establishes the Resnick Institute Innovation Fund, which will support new ideas in clean-energy and sustainability science that have the potential for rapid impact. The fund will initially focus on two programs. The first is the Resnick Sustainability Institute's newly launched Resonate Awards program, which will honor creative breakthroughs in energy and sustainability science made by early-career scholars worldwide. The second, a postdoctoral scholar program offering distinguished fellowships, will help bring particularly outstanding young leaders in energy and sustainability research to Caltech to create a corps of top innovators who will have the freedom to focus exclusively on research.
In keeping with the Resnick Sustainability Institute's innovative programming, a major portion of the gift—$12 million—establishes the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Matching Program. This program will provide a one-to-one match for contributions that create new, endowed funds within the Resnick Sustainability Institute, and thus will represent a potential $24 million in long-term funding. Through the Resnick match, a new donation that would have supported one graduate or postdoctoral fellowship, for example, will now provide for two. Because each endowed fund will be managed to work in perpetuity, each will support energy and sustainability research, education, and outreach over decades.
"The toughest issues in sustainability are not short-term, two- or three-year problems," says Harry A. Atwater, Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science and director of the Resnick Sustainability Institute. "They require a 50-year view and need to be approached with creativity and a transformative perspective. Lynda and Stewart Resnick's generosity and vision are critical to the future."
"The Resnick Sustainability Institute has helped to transform the landscape for energy research and education at Caltech," says Edward Stolper, interim president, and provost. "Creating a central hub to connect all our faculty who work on energy has accelerated the pace of discovery." Stolper continues, "We are grateful to Stewart and Lynda for their longstanding and generous support of Caltech. The Resnicks' new gift continues their tradition of strong support for faculty research and provides for new outreach programs so that the results of energy research can be shared with audiences worldwide."