Rice first-time partner at CERAWeek

For the first time, Rice University was a partner at CERAWeek, the premier international gathering of energy industry leaders, experts, government officials and policymakers, leaders from the technology, financial and industrial communities as well as energy technology innovators. This year marked the 36th anniversary of the gathering, which was held at the Hilton Americas-Houston March 6-10. The conference is ranked among the top five “corporate leader” conferences in the world, comprising more than 400 speakers and 3,000 participants from over 50 countries.

“We decided that now was the right time for Rice to be a partner, and many in the energy industry were delighted and felt it long overdue,” said Charles McConnell, executive director of Rice’s Energy and Environment Initiative. “Our partnership was categorized as an ‘industry’ partner, but it recognized the unique contributions that Rice brings to the marketplace for CERA as an academic institution — right here in Houston, where the conference calls home.”

McConnell, who led Rice’s effort at the event, said the school’s involvement was unique as only two other universities were represented, because the selection criteria and attendees are very particular about the content and partners selected.  “Rice’s participation level was clearly second to none,” he said.

Rice’s participation in the conference included four key areas of strategic focus for the university:

Rice energy and environment research and technology areas were promoted in a forum that provided broad decision-making access to the energy marketplace. Rice’s participation also aimed to create opportunities to expand Rice’s brand in the Houston community and the energy and business community to establish the networks for research investment and partnerships; to promote a platform for Rice faculty to provide thought leadership in panels, discussion forums and interviews in a unique setting of energy executives; and, to promote to the business community Rice’s leadership in transformative new technologies that will impact the energy community in terms of environmental performance and productivity.

Rice speakers and panelists throughout the conference included McConnell, who also offered opening remarks March 6 to the Future Energy Leaders program; Linda Capuano, a fellow in energy technology at the Baker Institute for Public Policy; Pedro Alvarez, the George R. Brown Professor of Materials Science and NanoEngineering; Aydin Babakhani, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering; Antonio Merlo, dean of the School of Social Sciences and the George A. Peterkin Professor of Economics; Peter Hartley, the George and Cynthia Mitchell Chair in Sustainable Development; Matteo Pasquali, the A.J. Hartsook Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, chair of the Department of Chemistry and professor of materials science and nanoengineering and of chemistry; and Fred Higgs, the John and Ann Doerr Professor in Mechanical Engineering and faculty director of the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership.

Also, several Rice faculty and graduate students participated in additional events as part of the CERAWeek Future Energy Leaders and Women Leaders in Energy programs.

McConnell said Rice gained a lot from participating in CERAWeek and the experience will strengthen a Rice return next year and a broader campuswide participation.

“Overall, Rice made strong contacts with business leaders across multiple disciplines in engineering, science, economics and public policy,” McConnell said. “The exposure at CERAWeek created a unique set of new opportunities.”

McConnell highlighted Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s remarks at the keynote luncheon March 7. The mayor stated how gratifying it was to have one of Houston’s most precious resources (Rice) prominently participating in CERAWeek to promote and ensure transformative and progressive thought leadership in energy.

To learn more about CERAWeek, visit https://ceraweek.com.

About David Ruth

David Ruth is director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.