Largest public research institutions increase collaboration

wsu-pnnl-uw-logosRICHLAND, Wash. – The state’s three largest public research institutions have signed a memorandum of understanding that expresses their intent to increase research collaborations on complex challenges and provide additional research and training opportunities for students in the state.

The memorandum was signed recently by leaders at the University of Washington, Washington State University and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

“By working together, we can increase the impact and raise the visibility of the science and technology that our state is delivering to address pressing challenges in energy, the environment and global security,” said PNNL Director Steven Ashby.  “We are especially well positioned to provide national leadership in clean energy, materials science and advanced computing, among other areas.”

“This agreement brings focus to the collaborative efforts of the three primary public research institutions in our state and sets the stage for increasing our joint efforts to address major topics of importance,” said WSU President Kirk Schulz. “It is also an excellent opportunity in support of our goal of maintaining a preeminent research portfolio and being recognized as a top 25 public research institution. It will provide a transformative educational experience for the fortunate graduate and undergraduate students given a chance through this program to work with some of our nation’s greatest researchers.”

“Our impact in the state of Washington and the world can be even greater when our largest public research institutions partner to tackle some of the greatest challenges in clean energy, smart manufacturing, and environment and sustainability research,” said UW President Ana Mari Cauce. “We are proud of the collaborations our faculty and students have forged with researchers around the state to advance development of new materials, energy storage and the power grid at a time when these technologies are crucially needed.”

PNNL and the two universities already collaborate on several research efforts.  Recently, the three institutions were selected to host a federal-state clean energy testbed project designed to develop and demonstrate the technologies needed to create smart buildings, campuses and cities which better manage energy use.  The Transactive Campus project is building on previous collaborations between the three institutions in the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project, whose results are helping create a more efficient and effective power grid.

Another recent collaboration is the Joint Center for Deployment and Research in Earth Abundant Materials, or JCDREAM.  Established by the state legislature in 2015, JCDREAM is a three-member partnership designed to accelerate the development of next generation clean energy and transportation technologies, specifically looking at replacing reliance on precious metals with Earth-abundant materials.

And in just the last four months, the three institutions have been awarded multimillion dollar projects to bring smart manufacturing technology to energy intensive manufacturing in the Pacific Northwest and to better understand the chemistry of radioactive waste in order to enable more effective cleanup. The Department of Energy is funding both of these projects.

“By teaming together, PNNL, UW and WSU have even more opportunities to attract federal funding to the Northwest,” said Ashby.

While the intent is to grow the number and size of collaborations, PNNL already enjoys strong partnerships with both universities. UW faculty in the College of Engineering and the College of Arts & Sciences partner with PNNL scientists on clean energy research, and the two institutions train and empower researchers to tackle some of society’s biggest problems through data-driven research at the Northwest Institute for Advanced Computing.

PNNL partners with WSU on research involving radiochemistry, and developing a better understanding of the food-energy-water nexus. The institutions are also engaged in research focused on creating better catalysts, and advancing the areas of bioenergy, power engineering and smart manufacturing. These collaborations involve numerous WSU campuses, colleges and units, including WSU’s Colleges of Arts & Sciences, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, College of Agriculture, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, Elson S Floyd College of Medicine, the Center for Environmental Research, Education & Outreach, and the Water Research Center.

One outcome of the Memorandum of Understanding will be increasing the number of joint or dual appointments at the three institutions.

“Joint appointments elevate the scientific impact and productivity of researchers by increasing collaboration, facilitating research across scientific disciplines, providing greater access to specialized instrumentation and research tools, and by giving students and interns opportunities to conduct research they might not be able to do otherwise,” said Doug Ray, PNNL’s Director of Strategic Partnerships.

Another priority outlined in the memorandum will be bringing more science and engineering graduate students to PNNL.  More than 100 students from UW and WSU are currently participating in internship or other programs at PNNL’s main campus in Richland, and its marine sciences laboratory in Sequim, Wash.  Ray says that number will grow significantly as a result of the Memorandum of Understanding, as will the number of dual staff and faculty appointments.

Media Contacts:

  • University of Washington: Michelle Ma,, 206-543-2580
  • Washington State University: Robert Strenge,, 509- 335-3583
  • Pacific Northwest National Laboratory: Greg Koller,, 509-372-4864